Running 26.2 miles—or even half that—isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. For those with a need for speed, or others who just prefer a shorter distance, America has a ton of races ranging from 5K to 10 miles or more that offer unique or amazing experiences. Some on this list are iconic road races that draw an elite field; others are must-do running-culture experiences. Many, however, offer both.
Great Alhoa Run
Feb. 20, Honolulu
More than 24,000 people ran the 32nd edition of this 8-mile race in 2016. The point-to-point course starts downtown and winds along the Nimitz and Kamehameha highways to a big finish in Aloha Stadium. Plenty of bands, deejays and school cheerleaders along the way bring the Hawaiian Islands’ aloha spirit to this popular race.
Gasparilla Distance Classic
Feb. 25–26, Tampa, Fla.
The15K is the star distance at this race that’s been going since the late ’70s on the Gulf Coast. Participants can also choose from a 5K, 8K and half marathon to shake out the winter cobwebs in Tampa’s warm Florida air.
Shamrock Run Portland
March 19, Portland, Ore.
Run since 1979, the Shamrock Run has grown to more than 30,000 runners who run through Portland’s downtown and along its waterfront. 5K, 8K and 15K distances are offered, with the race adding a half marathon as well in recent years.
Marine Corps 17.75K
March 25, Dumfries, Va.
Offering guaranteed access to the famed Marine Corps Marathon in the fall, this spring race draws a crowd and offers a unique distance (commemorating the year the Corps was founded). It works out to about 11 miles, for those calculating. Located near Quantico, the course takes place over rolling hills and among a forested backdrop.
April 1–2, Carlsbad, Calif.
“The world’s fastest 5K” returns for its 32nd year, and it’s the ideal place for a PR. This legendary race by the Pacific Ocean is unique in that the elite field is run separately, and draws an enormous crowd. If a 5K doesn’t get you excited, consider the All-Day 20K—running in four heats of 5K races within a few hours.
Shamrock Shuffle 8K
April 2, Chicago
With its large Irish population, Chicago loves St. Patrick’s Day. Although the date of this race falls two weeks after that green-beer holiday, there will be lots of green and some crazy costumes can be seen along this 8K course that weaves through downtown and starts and finishes at Grant Park.
April 15, Boston
For those who want to race in Boston—and do it fast—the BAA 5K is a great race that takes place during marathon weekend. Runners pass the Boston Marathon finish line, along with Newbury street and the Public Garden. It starts and finishes in historic Boston Common.
Crescent City Classic
April 15, New Orleans
Run 6.2 miles through the Big Easy with more than 20,000 other runners in an iconic race that was first run in 1979. The course takes in plenty of New Orleans sights, starting downtown, then going past the Superdome, through the French Quarter and finishing in City Park.
Capitol Hill Classic
May 14, Washington, D.C.
This springtime 10K exclusively on Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill takes runners near the Capitol building, then around RFK Stadium and Lincoln Park. There’s even a 3K and a kids’ run available—appropriate, since the race generously benefits D.C. public schools.
Navy Bay Bridge Run
mid-May, San Diego
More than 10,000 runners take the rare chance to run across San Diego’s Coronado Bay Bridge on foot, a 2.1-mile bridge that stretches 200 feet above San Diego Bay. The views alone—of downtown, Coronado Island, shipyards and the Pacific Ocean—make this 4-miler a unique and popular race.
Bay to Breakers
May 21, San Francisco
Running costumes don’t get much better than the ones at this classic 12K that starts near the Embarcadero and ends at the Pacific, on the other side of the peninsula. For something different, run as a group tethered together in the Centipede Challenge. Or run naked, as many people still do every year while carrying on a tradition started in the 1960s.
May 29, Boulder, Colo.
The first edition of this iconic 10K started way back in 1979. Always held on Memorial Day, the finish ends at Folsom Field football stadium with a patriotic display.
Keep Austin Weird 5K
June 24, Austin, Texas
Lots of silly, strange and absurd costumes can be found along this course, part of a celebration recognizing Texas’s capital city’s most famous tagline. Known as “The Slowest 5K on the Planet,” this run features 15 Fun Stops along the course. It’s definietly anything but normal.
NYRR Retro 4-Miler
June, New York City
Put on the short shorts, headbands, tube socks and throwback shoes for this fun event. Or throw on your best Run DMC costume—if it’s retro and you can run in it, it’ll work. Just like races did way back before chip timing, timers shout out finishing times as runners cross the finish line.
Peach Tree Road Race
July 4, Atlanta
This annual gem is the largest 10K in the world. With 60,000 runners and thousands of spectators along the course on the Fourth of July, it’s become an American bucket-list race. Enduring the heat and humidity of the South in the summer is worth it for this iconic 10K.
Surf City Run 5K
July 4, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Huntington Beach’s annual Fourth of July run takes racers past the beaches in this quintessential SoCal town that calls itself “Surf City USA.” Enjoy the views—and don’t miss the patriotic parade, which follows the race at 10 a.m.
July 9, Utica, N.Y.
15Ks don’t often come more challenging than this long-running race in update New York. The hilly, point-to-point course is tough, but worth it: The prize purse at this nearly 40-year-old race is sizeable. More than 17,000 runners take part every year for this race with a beautiful backdrop.
Beat the Tide
July 10, Plymouth, Mass.
This event is only four years old, but its innovative challenge—run fast enough to avoid getting wet by the incoming tide over a 5K or 5 mile distance—is plenty of fun, and capped off at the end with an evening clam bake.
Beach to Beacon
Aug. 5, Cape Elizabeth, Maine
One of the Northeast’s most respected road races, Beach to Beacon draws a world-class elite field every year. The point-to-point 10K was started by legendary Olympian Joan Benoit Samuelson and takes runners around picturesque New England coastal scenery.
Run Internacional 10K
Aug. 5, El Paso, Texas
This is one of the few races requiring runners to carry a passport—this run starts in El Paso and crosses the U.S.-Mexico border into Juarez. This run takes in historic sites and promotes a spirit of togetherness, with planty of American and Mexican flags in sight.
Lake Union 10K
Aug. 13, Seattle
This 10K in the heart of the Emerald City circumnavigates one of Seattle’s central lakes that ties many of its neighborhoods together. Obviously, the views of downtown, the Space Needle, Gas Works Park, seaplanes and all the water traffic are amazing, and the Northwest’s summer weather can’t be beat.
Falmouth Road Race
Aug. 20, Falmouth, Mass.
This point-to-point 7-miler from the town of Woods Hole to the coastal town of Falmouth is one of the most prestigious races in New England’s rich running scene. It started with 100 people in 1973 but has grown to more than 12,000 annually since then.
Twin Cities 10 Mile
Oct. 1, Minneapolis-St. Paul
The Upper Midwest’s hardy running culture makes this fall 10-miler a can’t-miss, and the race is literally run from one Twin City to the other. This fast, point-to-point course starts in Minneapolis and finishes in St. Paul, near the Minnesota state capitol building.
Army ten miler
Oct. 8, Arlington, Va.
This race offers a great glimpse at some can’t-miss D.C. landmarks. Starting near the Pentagon, runners cross the Arlington Memorial bridge into the District and run along the National Mall, taking in some of America’s most iconic memorials and buildings. The 33-year-old race gives out a finisher coin to all participants.
Manchester Road Race
Nov. 23, Manchester, Conn.
A New England Thanksgiving tradition, this 81st annual race often draws a top field for the 4.746-mile run. The 15,000-person race also draws a lot of Thanksgiving-themed costumes.
Photos: Courtesy of Bolder Boulder, Courtesy of Shamrock Run Portland, Courtesy of Bay to Breakers, Paul Kim/Atlanta Track Club, Kevin Morris/TD Beach to Beacon, Courtesy of Falmouth Road Race