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24 Must-Do August/September Races Across the U.S.

With cooler autumn weather just around the corner, finish the summer strong with one of these races.

With cooler autumn weather just around the corner, finish the summer strong with one of these races.

MID-ATLANTIC

Running of Leesburg 20K
Aug. 17; Leesburg, Va.
leesburg20k.potomacriverrunning.com

Here’s a rare opportunity to run long in August. A great prep for a fall half or full marathon, the race is run throughout historical Leesburg. An early start time helps beat the heat, but if you’re not quite up for the mileage, hop into the 5K instead.

Cops and Robbers Run
Sept. 6; Washington, D.C.
copsandrobbersrun.com

Here’s your chance to be a bad guy—without breaking the law. A new twist to a novelty run, you can opt to enter this 5K as a cop or robber as you dash through obstacles. Cops are released 60 seconds after a “robbers’ jailbreak” with the goal of tagging as many bad guys as possible before the finish line. Proceeds go to the D.C. Police Foundation.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon
Aug. 31; Virginia Beach, Va.
runrocknroll.competitor.com/virginia-beach

End summer with a bang by entering this half marathon, which is as fun and festive as they come. A PR is definitely doable on the flat course along Virginia Beach’s coastline (not to mention you’ll be extra motivated by live local bands and cheer squads along the way). Soak in a full weekend of running with the newly added Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Festival, offering a 1-mile run the day before the big 13.1—a chance to shake out before you rock out. Not ready for 13.1? Grab a buddy and enter the two-person half-marathon relay.

MIDWEST

Raceway 5K Fun Run and Walk
Aug. 16; Carpentersville, Ill.
raceway5k.com

The second annual Raceway 5K takes place at the Raceway Forest Preserve in Carpentersville, Ill., the former home of the Meadowdale International Raceway. The old track is featured prominently on the course, with plenty of curves, straightaways, embankments and hills to make for an interesting race. The event, which is organized by the Carpentersville Rotary, benefits the club’s charity operations.

Urban Hoedown 5K and Country Music Festival
Aug. 27; Chicago
f3running.com

Country meets urban at this inaugural 5K evening run at Soldier Field. The country-themed race features a lakefront course, but the post-race festivities are unlike any other race in the city. Runners will be treated to live country music from Pamela Rose and Windy City Country, in addition to line dancing (with instruction), a mechanical bull and a beer garden. All finishers receive a bolo tie medal. The event benefits Salute Inc., a support organization for returning veterans.

The Magnificent Mile Chicago Women’s Half Marathon and 5K
Aug. 31; Chicago
womenshalfchicago.com

Get a different view of the Magnificent Mile, as this annual women’s-only event offers a new course that runs down the most famous street in Chicago. The event features a north Michigan Avenue course for the first time. Runners of both the 5K and half marathon will receive a technical performance tank and a finisher’s medal. The post-race party will take place at another Chicago landmark, Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, with music, food and vendors.

MOUNTAIN WEST

Running on Thin Air Half Marathon
Aug. 23; Red Feather Lakes, Colo.
runningguru.com

Tucked away in northern Colorado, this unpretentious affair challenges athletes for 13.1 miles through scenic Roosevelt National Forest. Runners can expect all the elements that make for a fun off-road race: dirt trails, sand, rocks and several water crossings. In its third year, the litter-free, “cupless” race requires runners to carry bottles or packs, but aid stations are available for refilling. The post-race medal ceremony and nosh takes place on the patio of the rustic 1940s Beaver Meadows Resort Ranch restaurant. Race fee includes a tech shirt, finisher’s medal, course-side nutrition, post-race adult beverage, swag and a raffle entry.

LoziLu Women’s Mud Run
Aug. 30; Denver
lozilu.com/denver

This one goes to the girls! Stopping through its hometown, the LoziLu Women’s Mud Run will put your last girls’ day to shame. Some 14 obstacles—nets, walls, slides, mud baths and more—featuring LOL-worthy names, such as “fishnets,” “hot mess” and the “exfoliator,” will keep you smiling and on your toes during this awesome August adventure. The themed 5K fun run starts strong with a group warmup led by LoziLu’s pro trainers and ends with some big bangs, including a photo-moment “red carpet” waltz, full-service cleanup at the “salon,” fitness-focused farmer’s market and after-party featuring entertainment, prizes and contests—plus plenty of feminine swag.

Lakewood Trail Running Series
Sept. 3; Lakewood, Colo.
lakewood.org/trailrunning

The first race in a four-for-fall Lakewood Trail Running Series explores the undulating trails at beautiful Bear Creek Lake Park, just west of Denver. Held every Wednesday in September at 6 p.m., the evening races offer a welcomed respite after a long stretch at the desk or a hot day in the sun. The first race is typically about 4 miles long, and each race gains ground, with none more than 7 miles.

“Last year we were challenged by the flooding, but were able, with the great cooperation of the park staff, to hold all races on totally different trails than in previous years,” said Polly Zimmerman, a fitness specialist for the city of Lakewood. Zimmerman notes races will take place rain or shine. The whole series is an affordable $60 until Aug. 31.

NORTHEAST

Bluff Point Trail Run
Aug. 10; Groton, Conn.
hartfordmarathon.com

Bluff Point is the last significant piece of undeveloped land located on the Connecticut coastline. The Bluff Point Trail Run is a 3.5-mile race that takes participants along the park’s peninsula, offering them stunning views of Long Island Sound on one side and lush forests on the other. The race is one of the Hartford Marathon Foundation’s newest events.

Percy Sutton Harlem 5K
Aug. 23; New York City
nyrr.org

This annual 5K hosted by the New York Road Runners is all about honoring the memory of Percy Sutton, who served as the Manhattan borough president in the 1970s and was instrumental in establishing the New York City Marathon. (Sutton passed away in 2009.) This race takes place in historic Harlem and is part of the city’s Harlem Week. The course circles St. Nicholas Park, a beautiful enclave in the middle of Harlem.

Freeport Half Marathon
Sept. 7; Freeport, Maine
freeporthalfmarathon.com

Fans of L.L. Bean take note: This race, held on a challenging course, is within walking distance of L.L. Bean’s company headquarters. The race is part of the New England Half Marathon Tour, and 20 percent of all entry fees support the Freeport, Pownal and Durham Education Foundation & Freeport Community Services.

NORTHWEST

Run a Muk 5K/10K
Aug. 23; Mukilteo, Wash.
runamuk.jigsy.com

One of Seattle’s prettiest suburbs, Mukilteo is the perfect spot for a picturesque summer race. Indeed, the race begins at Rosehill Community Plaza with views of Puget Sound and winds over and through rolling hills. Race organizers even say that runners might spot a bald eagle during the event or hear the gruff voices of resident sea lions. For those who like to dress up to run, the event also includes a pirate costume contest, with prizes for the best male, female, child and team.

Sunriver Marathon for a Cause
Aug. 30–31; Sunriver, Ore.
sunrivermarathon.com

Part of the Bakers Dozen Series, the Sunriver Marathon for a Cause, which includes a marathon, two half marathons, a 10K, 5K and kids dash, is one of 13 half marathons in the Pacific Northwest that support local charities and other nonprofit programs. Moreover, if you decide to compete in three or more of the Bakers Dozen races, you earn a chance to win free entry into the series’ events in 2015. It’s easy to turn this event into a Labor Day weekend excursion, even if you have non-runners in your family, as the city and its namesake resort offer many non-running activities, including horseback riding, tennis, spa treatments and golf. (The race even includes a “speed golf for a cause” event.) Just remember that while the marathon is a Boston Marathon qualifier, the course is on high-desert terrain, about 4,200 feet above sea level.

Happy Girls Run
Sept. 6; Forest Grove, Ore.
happygirlsrun.com/forestgrove

Located at Henry Hagg Lake Park about 50 minutes west of Portland, the Happy Girls Run offers women a chance to run a half marathon, 10K or 5K on a mix of trails and paved surfaces while earning swag, such as something from Bronwen Jewelry. If you enjoy the event, you can participate in other races in the Happy Girls Series, including one in Spokane, Wash., on Sept. 27 and Sisters, Ore., on Nov. 2.

PACIFIC WEST

America’s Finest City Half Marathon & 5K
Aug. 17; San Diego
afchalf.com

San Diego is known as America’s Finest City—and what better way to enjoy the city than to run past some of its most beautiful landmarks during one of the best months of the year? You’ll start at the Cabrillo National Monument, roll through Point Loma neighborhoods, enjoy views of the San Diego Bay and Harbor Island, cruise through downtown and the northern end of the Gaslamp District and finish in Balboa Park. Just remember, the half marathon is on a deceivingly tough course, with miles 2 through 4 on a sloping downhill portion that makes it easy to go out fast and shred your quads before reaching the notorious Sixth Avenue hill at mile 11. Don’t worry—after turning into the park, the cheering crowds give you extra oomph to the finish line.

Gaspin’ In the Aspen Summer Woods Run
Aug. 23; Flagstaff, Ariz.
flagstaffnordiccenter.com

With a 15K, 5K and 1K kids fun run, there’s something for everyone at one of the most popular trail events in Arizona. It’s so popular, the event has sold all of its 400 available spots every year it’s been in existence. Offering views of Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona, and a challenging and hilly course that rolls through the forest, the race is a must-do when you’re in the area. One of six races in the Flagstaff Summer Running Series, the race only offers 200 of the 400 available spots to runners who don’t participate in the full series.

Aquarium of the Pacific 5K
Sept. 6; Long Beach, Calif.
aquariumofpacific.org

Looking for a fun little 5K that also offers some activities for the kids afterward? This event is an all-day affair for the whole family. The course starts at Rainbow Harbor, winds around the aquarium and travels through Shoreline Village. Participants can enjoy free admission into the aquarium (which is included in the affordable registration fee), where you can check out the shark lagoon, penguin exhibit and much more. There are plenty of divisions available—runners all have a fair chance to score a top-three spot among their age groups.

SOUTH

Twilight Run on the Beach
Aug. 16; Corpus Christi, Texas
rangerproductions.co

Join Ranger Productions for its second annual Twilight Run on the Beach, featuring a 4-mile run, 2-mile run and 2-mile walk. Starting and finishing at the North Beach boardwalk after the sun goes down, this is a great chance to pull out all your best neon and glowing accessories for an evening of fun. A wholly unique event, the entire course will be marked by glow sticks, and participants are asked to sport headlamps or bring flashlights. In addition to the races, the festival will feature a glow-inspired finish line costume contest, music and plenty of cool prizes.

Hot Hatch Chile Run, Walk and Roll
Aug. 23; Southlake, Texas
neuroassistance.org

Organized by the Neuro Assistance Foundation, the Hot Hatch Chile Run, Walk and Roll is entering its sixth year of helping to raise money for people with spinal cord injuries and disabilities. For runners, walkers and wheelers of all paces, this event includes a 1-mile run, walk and roll, a 5K handcycle race and a 5K run and walk. In addition to a technical T-shirt, all registrants will receive a well-deserved Central Market hot breakfast, which includes hatch chile breakfast tacos, hatch quiche, roasted potatoes, fruit, juice and coffee.

Moonlight Bootlegger 5K
Aug. 30; Memphis, Tenn.
bootlegger5k.com

In honor of our bootlegging ancestors, the Moonlight Bootlegger 5K sends runners through the moonlit woods toward a finish line that includes plenty of food, spirits and bluegrass music. All runners will receive a commemorative mason jar from which to enjoy Piedmont Distillers’ moonshine after the finish. Serenaded by old-timey music, runners will feel as if they’ve been transported back to the times of Prohibition. While this may not be the most competitive trail race you’ve ever participated in, it’s sure to be one of the most fun.

SOUTHEAST

Wet and Wild 5K/1 Mile Fun Run
Aug. 9; Hartwell, Ga.
classicraceservices.com

For three days each summer, Lake Hartwell becomes a destination for water-fueled sports during its Wet and Wild weekend. More than 3,000 spectators come out to enjoy watercross racing, family paddle events, paddleboard demos and more. This year, the festivities also include the inaugural Wet and Wild 5K. Kicking off at 7 a.m. at Hart State Park, the race winds through a combination of shaded park roads and narrow forest trails. The slightly hilly trek is the perfect way to explore the scenic 147-acre recreation area before concluding the high-temperature run with a refreshing (and optional) “splash down” finish into Lake Hartwell. For those looking for a quick and easy jaunt, a 1-mile fun run takes place after the 5K.

Sea Dog Brewery 5K
Aug. 17; Clearwater, Fla.
premierracinginstitute.com

Take part in a beer- and bark-themed run beginning and ending at Sea Dog Brewery. Starting at 7:30 a.m., the dog-friendly 5K heads down Enterprise Road through the Woodgate neighborhood. The casual race culminates with a post-race party featuring Sea Dog suds and catered foods. You may even get the chance to tour Sea Dog’s new brewing facility. Never one to leave out the pooches, Sea Dog Brewery honors the top three four-legged race finishers—in the big dog (more than 50 pounds) and small dog (under 50 pounds) categories—with dog bowl awards. The human age-group winners also get dog bowls to take home.

Hotlanta Half
Aug. 24; Atlanta
hotlantahalf.com

They don’t call it Hotlanta for nothing. Now you can experience the heat of this Southern metropolis firsthand during the inaugural Hotlanta Half. The 13.1-miler begins and ends downtown at Atlanta’s Underground and follows a popular course along the city’s developing Belt Line. Pass the scenic environs of Piedmont Park, and feel like a real athlete as you fight the hills and humidity. Pass Centennial Olympic Park, and when you catch sight of Georgia’s capitol gold dome, you’re near the finish line, where a medal, race shirt and SwagFest bag—not to mention a lively post-race party—await.