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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bona fide 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 129F) that very few can take on.
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.
Run at on New Year’s Day for over 30 years, the Annual Frosty 5K also includes two smaller races – a half-mile fun run for children, and a 2K Wellness Walk. Each year the festive event attracts over 1,000 different runners.
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.
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.
The Peachtree Road Race takes place every Fourth of July. The world’s largest 10km race, the event attracts around 60,000 runners and walkers each year.
Founded in 1985, this 13.1km 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Vermont. The race, of course, takes in the unique four covered bridges along the way, two of which the runners pass through.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.