Have you found running an average 5k or marathon just doesn’t thrill you the way it once did? Are you yearning for something challenging but just a bit different? Here’s an idea: lace up for one of these unconventional contests instead. Check out some pix from previous races on Pinterest.
1. Midnight Run in Central Park, New York, NY
Rather than huddling with the masses at Times Square, a four-mile trek through Central Park is a great way to kick off the New Year. Festivities begin at 10 pm at Rumsey Playfield, with music and dancing to warm you up. Then, at the stroke of midnight, the race begins. A magnificent fireworks display will light your way as you test your mettle against the other runners in the frosty, evening air.
2. Empire State Building, New York, NY
Another one for New Yorkers. Regular marathons are challenging enough, but do you have what it takes to tackle the 1,576 stairs in this landmark building? For over 40 years, intrepid runners have been doing just that with some racers hurtling up 86 floors in just 10 minutes. Join members of the FDNY, PDNY, celebrities, and other elite runners in February.
3. Disney Marathon, Orlando, FL
Walt Disney World kicks off its Marathon Weekend in mid-July. The whole family can take part in these fun-filled races with encouragement provided by Mickey, Minnie, and the gang. Every child 13 and under who participates in the runDisney Kids Races, which include dashes and a one-mile race, earns a medallion. There is even a Diaper Dash for those not yet steady on their feet. Adults can choose from a full, a half, 10k and 5k races or try Goofy’s Race and a half, two days and 39 miles (the full and the half). Those that keep pace will earn medals for each marathon plus the coveted Goofy medal.
4. Death Valley Marathon, Death Valley National Park (CA, NV)
The lowest point in America gets pretty toasty in the summer, but early February is a great time to run through this iconic basin in the northern Mojave Desert. The course is below sea level along a paved surface from Furnace Creek Ranch. Surrounding views of mountain ranges with names like the Cottonwoods, the Funerals, Panamints and the Grapevines make this a scenic and interesting departure from standard races. Full, half and 10k courses are available.
5. The Hood to Coast, Portland, OR
“The Mother of All Relays” attracts thousands of runners each year. Relay crews of 12 chart the course starting from the slopes of Mt. Hood at Timberline Lodge through Portland. One of the longest races in the world at 200 miles and 36 legs, each runner tackles 3 legs of varying length, overnight. The course spans concrete, well-worn paths, through the woods and changing elevations. This annual event takes place the Friday and Saturday before the Labor Day weekend.
6. The Bay to Breakers, San Francisco, CA
Run the Bay to Breakers in your usual running garb, in a costume, or if you prefer, nothing at all (except an official race bib). The tradition known as the Buff to Breakers has been a feature of this race over for 35 years, with nude racers running alongside others dressed as a turtle, Batman or Lucha Libres. And of course, some people wear tanks and shorts. Where else but San Francisco? The route begins at the northeast edge of the city near the Embarcadero (the Bay) and heads west through the city to finish up at the Great Highway along the coast (the Breakers). Until 2010, it was the world’s longest footrace and takes place in early May.
7. Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon, Las Vegas, NV
Offering both a full and half marathon as well as a 10k run, this event in early November has something for everyone, plus each course features live music along the Vegas strip, which is closed just once a year for the races. Then you can celebrate at the tables. You’ve earned it!
8. Zombie Run, Perry, GA
Are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse? Perry, GA hosts an event that is part race/part horror show. Participants can choose their side, either a fleeing human or member of the marauding undead. “Humans” are given a number of health flags worn in a belt that members of the horde will attempt to steal. Don’t all your flags, or you will turn! Naturally, this race kicks off around Halloween.
9. The Red Dress Race, United States (various locations)
Years ago, a young woman showed up to a Hash House Harriers event in San Diego wearing a red dress and heels. Participants were certain she couldn’t possibly be there to join them, so she decided to prove them wrong. She managed to complete the run and was invited the next year to the inaugural Red Dress Run. Now the group holds these events throughout the country with a sea of runners in red racing for charity.
10. Man vs. Horse, Prescott, AZ
Inspired by the Annual Man vs. Horse competition in Wales, U.S. runners compete against equines and their riders in this annual race held the first Saturday in October. This challenging loop over Mingus Mountain and through Prescott National Forest is a gorgeous and unusual event that is sure to be something to tell your friends about -- especially if you can beat the horses.