24 Must-Do November/December Races Across The U.S.

Oregon Turkeython, Photo: Casey Jeffrey

Stay fit and trot off the extra helpings of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie this season in one of these holiday-themed races.

MID-ATLANTIC

Lights on the Bay 5K
Nov. 21; Annapolis, Md.
annapolisstriders.org

Run your way into the holiday season with this nighttime race along the Chesapeake Bay. More than 60 dazzling light displays—flashing snowflakes, dancing reindeer and illuminated sailboats—as well as views of the Bay Bridge will serve as a sparkling background while runners race around Sandy Point State Park. At the finish line, toast your efforts with hot chocolate and other delicious holiday treats. Cheers!

Rehoboth Beach Marathon
Dec. 6; Rehoboth Beach, Del.
rbmarathon.com

Stretch your marathon season out a little longer with this late-season 26.2-miler. A low-key race, it features a smaller field compared to major marathons (last year’s race saw less than 2,000 finishers in both the marathon and the coinciding half marathon). The flat and swift course starts and ends on the famed Rehoboth boardwalk and takes you to the nearby town of Lewes, through Cape Henlopen State Park and along the Junction and Breakwater Trail. An ideal course to aim for a new PR, it’s also a certified Boston Qualifier for those with even loftier goals.

Run with Santa 5K
Dec. 7; Reston, Va.
potomacriverrunning.com

Think you’re speedier than Santa? Find out at this 5K, where you can keep pace with the jolly guy or just don your own Santa suit, Rudolph nose or elf tights, and jingle all the way to the finish line. Get creative because prizes go to the best costumes. There will also be awards for top teams (must be comprised of a minimum of four people with at least one female) and cash prizes for the top three individuals, plus age-group awards.

MIDWEST

Naperville Noon Lions Turkey Trot
Nov. 27; Naperville, Ill.
napervilleturkeytrot.com

This turkey trot has grown into one of the largest Thanksgiving Day races in the area, and with good reason. The event, which starts and finishes at Naperville Central High School, features a scenic neighborhood course with just enough hills to make it interesting. All participants receive long-sleeve performance T-shirts and can enjoy a pancake breakfast after the race. The event routinely sells out at 7,500 participants, so don’t wait until the last minute to register (it’s usually closed before race day). Race proceeds benefit the Lion’s Club.

Ugly Sweater Run
Nov. 29; Chicago
theuglysweaterrun.com

This may be the weekend of turkey trots, but this 5K race that starts and finishes at Soldier Field and runs along the Lakefront celebrates another holiday tradition—the ugly Christmas sweater. So grab one from the back of your closet and put it to some use! The event features holiday music, hot chocolate on the course and post-race festivities that include Sam Adams beer and Angry Orchard Hard Cider. Awards for the best and worst sweater will follow the race, and every runner receives a custom vintage knit hat.

Santa Hustle
Dec. 6; Chicago
santahustle.com/Chicago

This may not be a race for a PR when candy and cookies are handed out on the course. Or maybe that’s obvious from the majority of participants racing in Santa hats, beards and technical red hoodies. Now that there’s no pressure to set any records, racers can enjoy the holiday atmosphere at this 6th annual Christmas-themed 5K, which draws thousands of runners and walkers to the lakefront to celebrate the holiday season and find out just how itchy it is to run in a fake beard. The race starts and finishes at Solider Field, and is also a donation drop-off point for Toys for Tots.

MOUNTAIN WEST

Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & 1/2 Marathon
Nov. 14–16; Las Vegas
runrocknroll.competitor.com/las-vegas

Can you think of anything more fun than running your legs off, then partying your buns off on the Vegas Strip? If not, head to this annual Rock ‘n’ Roll event in Sin City, benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. The weekend has turned into an all-out bash with a festive pre- and post-race scene, health and fitness expo, and live music. There are distances suited for runners of all levels, including a “half of half” marathon (or roughly a 10K) and a 5K. It’s also been confirmed that rapper Snoop Dogg will be performing at the start-line festival stage and Meb Keflezighi will be leading a 1:45 pace group.

Black Friday 5K
Nov. 28; Centennial, Colo.
runningguru.com/EventInformation.asp?eID=BlackFriday

A nice alternative to the traditional turkey trot, this 5K—part of the chip-timed South Suburban Parks and Recreation District Race Series—will burn off that last leg of turkey, or even a little post-shopping stress. The flat, out-and-back, crusher-trail course runs along the scenic High Line Canal and deKoevend Park, ending with a short downhill sprint to the finish. The dog- and family-friendly event also features a special entry rate for kids 15 and under, music, fitness challenges, children’s activities and some tasty post-race carbs from the Great Harvest Bread Co.

Winter Sun 10K
Dec. 6; Moab, Utah
moabhalfmarathon.com/wintersun

Some desert sunshine is provided at Moab’s popular winter 10K race. “We don’t anticipate any changes for the event this year, other than we’re hoping not to have 8 inches of snow on the ground,” race director Ranna Bieschke says with a laugh about last year’s unexpected weather. Part of a town triple crown running series, the Winter Sun’s point-to-point, mostly flat and downhill 10K course takes in majestic mountain views from the Moab Golf Club, finishing with a spectator-friendly lap around the track at Grand County High School.

NORTHEAST

Hot Coco 5K
Nov. 22; Cheshire, Conn.
jbsports.com/?page_id=5112

With an average low temperature of 36 degrees at this time of year in Cheshire, this annual race is aptly named. All participants receive a welcoming cup of delicious hot chocolate at the finish line. A portion of the flat and fast course runs along the Farmington Canal, a historic waterway that dates back to 1821. Many of the runners in this race will have received a complimentary entry thanks for their efforts in raising at least $100 for the Abilities Without Boundaries nonprofit organization.

Philadelphia Marathon
Nov. 23; Philadelphia
philadelphiamarathon.com

A perfect running tour of the famed City of Brotherly Love, this marathon begins in front of the storied Philadelphia Museum of Art steps, where the iconic movie scene of Rocky running up those same steps was shot. The course takes participants through some of the city’s most well-known neighborhoods, including Fairmont Park. Throughout the second half of the race, it also sends runners along the idyllic Schuylkill River and into the hip city of Manayunk. Those not interested in the full marathon can participate in the half or a shorter 8K held the day before.

GMAA Turkey Trot
Nov. 27; Burlington, Vt.
gmaa.net/schedule.php?raceid=TT2014

This turkey trot will celebrate an impressive 38 consecutive years of racing in November. Unlike many Thanksgiving races that take place on the roads, this festive race is run on the University of Vermont’s women’s cross-country course with soft turf and welcoming cinder track. The entry fee is a meager $5 or food donation that goes directly to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. In keeping with the race’s simplicity, results are not recorded and prizes go out to the top three male and female runners.

NORTHWEST

Oregon Turkeython
Nov. 27; Portland, Ore.
turkeython.com

On a day when everyone overeats, give yourself the gift of at least assuaging the food guilt by participating in a turkeython on Thanksgiving Day. This year, the Oregon Turkeython, which offers a 10K, 5K and 10K Relay, will feature an entirely new course start at Bridgeport Village. Once you’re done burning pre-turkey and stuffing calories, enter your kids in the free kids dash event.

Seattle Turkey Trot
Nov. 27; Seattle
seattleturkeytrot.org

This turkey trot is known as an informal 5K (the event organizers aren’t even sure that the course is exactly 3.1 miles) that began in 2007 when a few local runners simply wanted to burn some calories together before the massive eating began. The event grew from there, and these days it’s organized by the Ballard Food Bank. All proceeds from the race go toward feeding those in need in the Seattle area.

12K’s of Christmas
Dec. 21; Kirkland, Wash.
promotionevents.com

This year’s 12K features a new course that includes the Cross Kirkland Corridor Trail, providing participants sweeping views of Kirkland with a flatter course than last year. The event, which also features a 5K, culminates at the finish line with a Christmas-themed festival that includes a kids dash, music, free food, a costume contest, vendor booths and a rumored visit from Santa Claus himself. For the adults, the race will also host a Grape Choice Winter Warmer Wine Garden, serving hot mulled and spiced wine as well as other seasonal grownup beverages.

PACIFIC WEST

Malibu International Marathon
Nov. 16; Malibu, Ca.
malibumarathon.com/indexen.htm

It’s hard to think of better running conditions than a relatively flat course with light, salty sea winds and temperatures in the 60s. Barring the rare SoCal rainstorm, these are the most likely conditions at this beach race. Better yet, both the marathon and half marathon courses are run along the historic Pacific Coast Highway, so participants will experience views of Malibu’s famous beaches, mansions and even some sea life. Ice your legs in the cool ocean water for a post-race recovery, and who knows, you may just spy Malibu celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston or Bruce Jenner walking in the waves with you.

Father Joe’s Turkey Trot
Nov. 27; San Diego
thanksgivingrun.org

In San Diego on Thanksgiving Day, it’s difficult to tell which is a more popular tradition—eating pumpkin pie or participating in this 13th annual 5K turkey trot held in Balboa Park near downtown. Every year, more than 10,000 runners file into the park to feel the burn in their legs before they feel the heartburn later in the day. In the process, they help feed homeless families and veterans, as all proceeds from the race are donated to the nonprofit Father Joe’s Villages. Even better, Father Joe’s will be selling apple, pumpkin, pecan, strawberry-rhubarb and blueberry cream pies for $15 each at the event. Bonne chance and bon appetit!

Death Valley Trail Marathon and Half Marathon
Dec. 6; Death Valley, Calif.
envirosports.com

A trail race that begins in Beatty, Nev., runs through Titus Canyon and finishes in Death Valley, this marathon’s course meanders along a gravel jeep road in relatively mild temperatures. Prep your quads before you run this race, though, as the marathon begins at 3,460 feet of elevation and ends at 250 feet (the last 14 miles are downhill). The half marathon is approximately 6.5 miles up and then 6.5 miles down.

SOUTH

Mud Challenger
Nov.15; Houston
mudchallenger.com

This race is all about friends, fun, beer and, of course, mud. Setting this mud run apart from the rest, obstacles and even the race distance are kept secret until race day. While the event ranges from 3 to 6 miles, the terrain and obstacles dictate whether the race is shorter or longer. Obstacles include everything from an ice tank gauntlet to a quicksand pit, a lake jump and a cargo net trap. Afterward, finishers are rewarded with a post-race party. Cold beer, gourmet food trucks, live bands and plenty of revelry always manage to keep the party going all day long.

Run Live Oak
Nov. 22; Abbeville, La.
runliveoak.com

Offering 5K and 10K trail runs, this race invites runners to explore the Live Oak Plantation in Abbeville. Showcasing the natural beauty of the area, it provides a unique alternative to pavement-pounding road races. Run on mostly grass and gravel terrain, the course is non-technical and accessible to runners of every experience level. Additionally, proceeds from the event go to Hearts of Hope, a nonprofit agency that assists children and adults who have been victims of sexual abuse and sexual assault.

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & 1/2
Dec. 6–7; San Antonio
runrocknroll.competitor.com/san-antonio

If you’re gunning for a PR, this Rock ‘n’ Roll event offers a flat and fast course. Whether you’re an out-of-towner or a local, this race provides a fascinating tour of all San Antonio has to offer. Taking runners past important landmarks, including the River Walk, the King William District, San Fernando Cathedral, the Alamo and a number of other historic missions, it’s an ideal way to see the city. Furthermore, a new Saturday 10K course has been added as part of the Remix Challenge, in which participants who complete two days of running during the Rock ‘n’ Roll race weekend will receive a third Remix Challenge medal.

SOUTHEAST

Atlanta Half Marathon and Thanksgiving Day 5K
Nov. 27; Atlanta
atlantahalfmarathon.org

Earn your turkey and pumpkin pie at this race, which has become a holiday tradition. The event, hosted by the Atlanta Track Club, is one of the largest half marathons in the U.S. Start the 13.1-mile race just outside Turner Field in downtown Atlanta and take in views of Centennial Olympic Park, Atlantic Station, Piedmont Park, Oakland Cemetery and the iconic Olympic Rings along the course. The festive race also includes a 5K, Mashed Potato Mile and Gravy Gallop, ensuring that runners of all levels (and ages) can participate.

Hill Country Trail Race 15K and 5K
Nov. 22; Palmetto, Ga.
hillcountrytrailrace.com

This trail race is a great excuse for a visit to the quaint Serenbe community, situated about 30 miles southwest of Atlanta. The 15K and 5K courses travel the private trails of the 900-acre community, which was designed according to environmentally sustainable principles. The beginner-to-advanced trail takes you through woods and past a waterfall before crossing open pastures into the town center. Post-race, stick around for a stroll through Serenbe’s quaint shops or visit The Hil restaurant for a feast of delicious farm-fresh cuisine. Doors open early at 10 a.m. for hungry race participants.

St. Augustine Half Marathon
Nov. 16; St. Augustine, Fla.
staugustinemarathon.com

In an effort to appeal to the entire family, this event offers a free kids’ race, 5K, 10K and half marathon that travels through the historic environs of St. Augustine’s Old City. Begin the 13.1 miles near the Castillo de San Marcos, then make your way across the Bridge of Lions and around Anastasia State Park before heading back to the center and finishing at Francis Field. Participants receive a T-shirt and commemorative finisher’s medal along with post-race food and refreshments. Spend the rest of the day exploring the city’s storied streets.

Stay On Topic

10 Quirky Events For The Unusual Running Experience

Competitor Staff / August 27, 2014

Road races are fine, but there are plenty of opportunities to really spice up your experience. Some of the quirkiest footraces out there involve nature, odd distances, stairs, animals and a whole lot of looney runners. Here are the best of the best: