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© Hood To Coast Relay
© Hood To Coast Relay

The Best Race to Run in Every U.S. State

Picture of Luke Bradshaw
Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor
Updated: 19 September 2017

Among the charity events, fun runs, marathons and ultras, there are some incredible races to run in the United States. Culture Trip picks out the definitive list — how many have you done?

Alabama: Lake Martin 100

Perfect as a first ultra given it’s layout, with a 25-mile loop to be done four times. The setting is stunning, with small hills surrounding one of the country’s most beautiful lakes.

For more info, head here.

Alaska: Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon

Run on the longest day of the year, the race takes you through he foothills of the Chugach Mountains, Chester Creek Trail and into the town at Delaney Park. The race can also be used as a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.

For more info, head here.

Arizona: Flagstaff Marathon

The very challenging Flagstaff Marathon is run through the amazing Coconino National Forest, with plenty of climbing and elevation. Runners can choose to do the full marathon, half marathon, 10K or junior event.

For more info, head here.

Arkansas: Fort Smith Marathon

A fantastic combination of climbs, descents, trails and town running, this USA Track & Field-certified course is a great way of seeing a historic frontier town. For those not ready to take on the full distance, relay options are available.

For more info, head here.

California: Badwater Ultramarathon

A bonafide monster. Billed as “the world’s toughest foot race”, Badwater is a brutal combination of distance (134.8 miles) , elevation (8,360 feet) and terrifying heat (up to 129 °F) that very few can take on.

For more info, head here.

Colorado: Golden Leaf Half Marathon

A foot race in the Rocky Mountains — what more could you want? A very scenic route from Snowmass Village to Aspen, this race takes some of Colorado’s most amazing trails.

For more info, head here.

© Golden Leaf Half Marathon

Connecticut: Frosty 5K

Run at on New Year’s Day for over 30 years, the Annual Frosty 5K also includes two smaller races — a half0mile fun run for children, and a 2K Wellness Walk. Each year the festive event attracts over 1,000 different runners.

For more info, head here.

Delaware: Coastal Delaware Marathon

Another Boston Marathon qualifier, this is a flat, fast course with a complimentary race beer waiting at the finish line. Runners get to go through Cape Henlopen State Park, and even the soft gravel underfoot provides some relative relief.

For more info, head here.

Florida: 26.2 with Donna

Run your race and battle breast cancer in one with a course that takes runners through northeast Florida and its beachside communities. The race was started in 2008 by journalist and philanthropist Donna Deegan, hence the name.

For more info, head here.

Georgia: Minster Oktoberfest

Minster’s Oktoberfest celebrates the local German heritage, with 80,000 people arriving for the festival. As well as the race itself there is plenty of German food, drink, music and floats, not to mention a beer tray relay.

For more info, head here.

Hawaii: Great Aloha Run

Founded in 1985, this 13.1 km course starts at the Aloha Tower to Aloha Stadium, which explains the name, and is the island’s second largest race. Each year 5,000 members of the United States Armed Forces run in formation as the “Sounds of Freedom” division.

For more info, head here.

Idaho: Mesa Falls Marathon

Starting in the Targhee National Forest, the point-to-point course takes you near the beautiful Warm River, before finishing in Ashton. Close to Yellowstone National Park, there is plenty of amazing wildlife to keep you company along the way.

For more info, head here.

© Mesa Falls Marathon

Illinois: Shamrock Shuffle 8K

Run close to St. Patrick’s Day, this has become a Chicago tradition, with a course that meanders through the city before ending up at Grant Park. As well as the main event, there is an untimed two-mile walk.

For more info, head here.

Indiana: Sunburst Races

Another fast and flat course that makes it a good option for setting personal bests, the Sunburst takes competitors through Notre Dame’s campus and attracts around 10,000 runners per year. All the money raised goes to the Child Life Endowment at Memorial Children’s Hospital.

For more info, head here.

Iowa: Marathon to Marathon

June 2017 will be the 22nd and final Marathon to Marathon, having established itself as a classic after more than two decades. The course style is perfect for older runners and beginners, and it’ll be sad to see the race go given its small town friendly feel.

For more info, head here.

Kansas: Honey Badger 100 Mile Ultra Road Race

A tough race to honor a tough animal. Competitors must supply their own crew, vehicle, food, water and ice. Roughly 93 miles of the race are run on roads in Kingman County. This is not for beginners.

For more info, head here.

© John Knepper

Kentucky: The Bourbon Chase

Taking in the local country, picturesque small towns and the state’s iconic distilleries, this relay race covers 200 miles in total along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

For more info, head here.

Louisiana: Crescent City Classic

Nearly 40 years old, this is one of the oldest 10k races in the country and the first to be televised nationally. Run through downtown New Orleans, this is offers a brilliant combination of elite competition and people walking the entire route in fancy dress with drinks in hand.

For more info, head here.

Maine: Mount Desert Island Marathon

With Acadia National Park providing a picturesque backdrop, this race allows competitors to take in villages, lakes, forest and the ocean as they run. There are plenty of winding hills, without anything being too steep, and the time of year — the fall — ensures the colors are beautiful. Plenty to keep you occupied before and after.

For more info, head here.

© Kevin R. Morris

Maryland: JFK 50 Mile

First held in 1963 as part of President John F. Kennedy’s drive to get the country fit, it was named after him following his death later that year. Although open to the public, historically this is a military race after Kennedy challenged his troops to the complete it. To this day, the Kennedy Cup is still awarded to the top performing military team.

For more info, head here.

Massachusetts: Boston Marathon

Fantastic organization in a brilliant city, the Boston Marathon is right up there with the best in the world. The city loves the event and every year the support is utterly fantastic, with parties at Fenway Park and free dinner at City Hall. Believe the hype, the Boston Marathon should be on your bucket list.

For more info, head here.

Michigan: Run Woodstock

Meditation, music and miles and miles. You can run everything from the Flower Power 5 Mile to the Hal­lu­ci­na­tion 100 Mile and everything in between. Quite unlike any other race event, you can come for the running, the yoga or the tie dye. The event organizers describe it as a “celebration of freedom and fitness”.

For more info, head here.

Minnesota: Superior Spring Trail Races

Very technical, rugged and difficult, with 50km or 25km options. The race is run on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota, through the Sawtooth Mountain Range and alongside Lake Superior. Runners face mountains, forests, streams, waterfalls and plenty of wildlife.

For more info, head here.

© Superior Spring Trail Races

Mississippi: Mississippi Blues Marathon

Well organized — with a great bag of swag for entrants — this is a very challenging course with plenty of rolling hills. Be prepared to feel very welcome, with all the locals wishing “good morning” along the way. A brilliant option for people trying to reach their 50.

For more info, head here.

Missouri: MO’ Cowbell Marathon

Part road, part trail, this is actually quite fast, mainly due to how manageable the trail aspect is. This is a fantastic race for runners who like a bit more solitude and can focus on their times, especially the half marathon that doesn’t include the Katy Trail part of the race.

For more info, head here.

Montana: Bridger Ridge Run

Not quite a marathon at just a fraction under 20 miles, but one of the most grueling races around. The Bridger Ridge Run is known for unpredictable weather, unstable terrain and utterly brutal climbs and descents. Entrants are extremely lucky given only 250 can run the race each year.

For more info, head here.

Nebraska: Omaha Marathon

A relatively small race, entrants get to run alongside the Missouri River and Carter Lake for most of the race; that said there is still some of the course downtown. The course has changed over time and in its current guise features less hills than it used to.

For more info, head here.

Nevada: Tahoe Rim Trail Endurance Runs

Run through the beautiful Sierra Nevada, entrants can choose between a 55km, 50 miler or 100 miler — the 100 mile race is the same course as the 50, just run twice. This is a very tough race, with plenty of elevation. Also worth noting that all the 100 mile entrants have to do eight hours of volunteer trail work.

For more info, head here.

New Hampshire: Loon Mountain Race

You’ll require plenty of calf stretches before the Loon Mountain Race given the insane amount of climbing involved. Runners can expect to climb over 2,000 feet in around six miles, and if you can make it to the finish (tackling Upper Walking Boss) the reward is the spectacular views. Warning: some sections are as steep as 40 percent.

For more info, head here.

New Jersey: New Jersey Marathon

Despite having plenty of twists and turns the course remains fast and flat, unsurprising given its proximity to the ocean. Race directors pay close attention to runners’ feedback and alter the race accordingly. Also, the start of the race is indoors meaning less chance of getting cold and cramping up later on in the day.

For more info, head here.

© New Jersey Marathon

New Mexico: Shiprock Marathon

A marathon that’s mostly downhill — what more could you want? Given the desert terrain there are also stages in the race where runners can see the entire field on the course. All proceeds go to the Navajo people and there is even a Navajo blessing at the beginning of the event.

For more info, head here.

New York: Fifth Avenue Mile

It would be easy to pick the New York Marathon as the state’s race, but with the aim of a bit more inclusivity, the Fifth Avenue Mile offers runners of all ages and abilities the chance to run down a gorgeous 20-block stretch. There is a junior race, as well as an over-60s event.

For more info, head here.

North Carolina: Umstead 100

Entrants have 30 hours to complete this 100-mile endurance race, run through William B. Umstead State Park. There is also a 50 mile option, but the 100 offers runners an excellent option for those who want to transition from 50 mile races to longer, more demanding races.

For more info, head here.

North Dakota: Fargo Marathon

With a distance to suit everybody, this event is 12 years old. The full marathon starts and finishes inside the Fargodome, with a huge Jumbotron and plenty of fans cheering on, while the course is lined with bands and DJs throughout the route.

For more info, head here.

© Fargo Marathon

Ohio: The Cheddar Challenge

Run across the back acres of Young’s Dairy. The race is a fraction over three miles, and runners get to go through an animal barn and there is even Young’s Jersey Dairy Ice Cream waiting for you at the end. The Cheddar Challenge is a truly unique race.

For more info, head here.

Oklahoma: Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

Raising money for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, the race was born out of an idea between two local businessmen while out on a morning run together. First run in 2001, it now attracts approximately 25,000 entrants from all over the world.

For more info, head here.

Oregon: Hood To Coast Relay

One of the longest relay races in the world, usually hitting the 200 mile mark (it changes slightly every year), with the course consisting of 36 legs and each team member running three in rotation. Each year 1,050 12-person teams are chosen by lottery on a course that takes in the the Springwater Corridor and Willamette River trails.

For more info, head here.

© Hood To Coast Relay

Pennsylvania: Gettysburg North-South Marathon

In honor of the battle of Gettysburg, this race actually pits the North against the South, with runners representing each side and takes them through the battlefield itself. The course includes beautiful rolling hills with a couple of trips through the East Cavalry Field Section of the battlefield.

For more info, head here.

Rhode Island: Providence Rhode Races

Runners go through Providence almost all the way to Pawtucket, where they make the turn and then head back to where they came from. As a result, the beginning and end of the race sees runners alongside the Providence Harbor.

For more info, head here.

© Providence Rhode Races

South Carolina: Kiawah Island Marathon

Run on the stunning Kiawah Island, located 25 miles southwest of Charleston, this is about as stunning as a race can get. There are plenty of turns, but when each one offers a new view more spectacular than the last, it more than makes up for it.

For more info, head here.

South Dakota: Run Crazy Horse Half Marathon

Taking in South Dakota’s Black Hills, runners get to see the Crazy Horse Memorial, a more than 500-foot monument dedicated to the Oglala Lakota warrior carved from a mountain. The course is point to point, following a mostly gentle downhill slope, and is open to, walkers, runners, cyclists, hikers and even horseback riders.

For more info, head here.

Tennessee: The Barkley Marathons

Quirky, different, insane — call it what you want, it’s one of the most unique (and toughest) races in the world. Where else are race points marked by pages in a book? Or makes you run underneath a prison? Or selects a competitor they know will be the first to give up? The Netflix documentary is a must-see.

For more info, head here.

Texas: Seabrook Lucky Trail Marathon

Held on the Seabrook nature trails, surrounded by fresh and salt marsh and the coastline of the Galveston Bay, there is an abundance of wildlife to see, particularly birds. This event has become well known for its enthusiastic volunteers, brilliant bag of swag and awesome post-race party.

For more info, head here.

Utah: Moab Trail Marathon

Not for the faint hearted, this is run across very difficult terrain — think deep, soft sand, rocks, water and various other obstacles along the way. Large parts of the course are on very narrow trails, with huge drops immediately to the side. A true test of endurance, don’t attempt this one if you’re scared of heights.

For more info, head here.

Vermont: Covered Bridges Half Marathon

The Covered Bridges Half Marathon was set up by a group of community members to create a half marathon along some of the best running routes around Woodstock, Vt. The race, of course, takes in the unique four covered bridges along the way, two of which the runners pass through.

For more info, head here.

©2014 Nancy Nutile-McMenemy www.photosbynanci.com

Virginia: Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K

Made up of 30,000 entrants, there is something for everyone. Crazy costumes, music and serious running. As well as a whole heap of entertainment, there is a huge number of spectators cheering throughout the route. A brilliant race for casual runners just starting to up their distance.

For more info, head here.

Washington: Chuckanut 50k

After race director Krissy Moehl inherited the role almost by accident, she’s grown this beautiful ultra into a brilliant part of the local community, turning it from small race to a local event to celebrate. It has 30km of climbing sandwiched between two smooth 10km stages.

For more info, head here.

West Virginia: Freedom’s Run

Promoting health living, this event includes marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, and junior fun run. The marathon is a point to point course and the last fifth of the race, thankfully, is predominantly downhill.

For more info, head here.

 

Wisconsin: Fox Cities Half Marathon

Starting off at the Barlow Planetarium at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, the course goes through six Fox Cities communities before finishing at scenic Riverside Park near downtown Neenah. Another Boston Marathon qualifier (if running the full marathon) and USATF certified course.

For more info, head here.

Wyoming: Jackson Hole Marathon

Incredibly scenic, the Jackson Hole Marathon is organized by a small group with the intention of showcasing Wyoming’s fantastic natural beauty. Run on paved roadways and pathways, the race is at serious altitude, so perhaps get there a few days early to acclimate yourself. Popular with seasoned runners, the views are spectacular.

For more info, head here.