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24 Must-Do Nov./Dec. Races Across The U.S.

FInd a race in your region!

Flushing Meadows 5K
Nov. 23, Queens, N.Y.

This annual 5K is all about helping the Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team hosts the race, and all proceeds go to the park, which was the location of the 1964–1965 World’s Fair and is currently where the U.S. Open tennis tournament is played. The race organizers bill the course as “beautiful.” Medals are awarded to the top three finishers in each age category, while the top seven overall receive trophies.

Jingle Bell Run
Dec. 8, Natick, Mass.

What’s a Massachusetts run in December without a pair of bells on your feet? That’s just what’s going on at this 2-mile race in Natick. Along with top prizes going to the fastest, there will also be an award for the most festive attire, so if you have a Santa suit and will be in the area, bring it! The event is put on in part by the Strivers Running Club for Girls, with proceeds benefitting needy families.

Nittany Valley Half Marathon
Dec. 8, State College, Penn.

This 13.1-mile race, held in gorgeous State College, has a long and rich history. In fact, this year’s event marks the race’s 30th anniversary. With 300 feet of elevation change, the course is definitely far from flat, and since the race is held in December, the conditions could be challenging. If you are planning to race in it, bring the right gear and check out the website, which is full of useful information and even offers mid-pack runners with race-day hints.


Karaoke 5K Run or Roll, Then Rock Out
Nov. 22, Washington, D.C.

Love to sing while you run? Then this Friday night race is perfect for you. DJs will blast tunes from the ’80s, ’90s and today along the course, which starts and ends at R.F.K. Stadium. Don’t want to run? Roller skating and roller blading are also options. All participants are invited to a post-race karaoke concert, where up to 50 wannabe rock stars will be randomly selected to sing on stage with a live band. No doubt—you’ll have a rockin’ good time. 

Run Under the Lights 5K
Nov. 23, Gaithersburg, Md.

‘Tis the season to run a holiday-themed race. Get in the spirit with this sparkling run that cruises around the Winter Lights Festival in Seneca Creek State Park. Starting at 6:15 p.m., the night race runs through 380 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays, such as Winter Woods, the North Pole, Penguin Cove and Toyland. Jogging strollers are welcome, making this fun run a true family affair. Register early—the event is limited to 800 runners due to parking limitations.

Surf-n-Santa 10 Miler & Frosty’s 5K
Dec. 7, Virginia Beach, Va.

A trip to Virginia Beach is totally worth it for this race, which attracts more than 5,000 runners annually. Not only does every participant receive a Santa Hat and a medal, but there’s also a rockin’ post-race holiday party at the Virginia Convention Center. Choose the 10-mile distance or the 5K—there’s even a Rudolph 1K option for kiddies 12 and younger. And don’t forget the family-friendly “Naughty or Nice” costume contest, rewarding the best Grinch, Santa, Hanukkah Harry and Rudolph out there.


Women’s Running St. Pete Half Marathon & 5K
Nov. 24, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Run or walk along downtown St. Petersburg’s scenic waterfront on a flat and fast Florida course. Take in the area’s quaint communities and historic buildings before crossing the finish line at the famous waterfront Mahaffey Theater. This female-focused race is big on girly bonding, recognizing the top three female runners to cross the half-marathon finish line as well as female finishers in each age group.

Down 2 Earth 5K, 10K and Half Marathon Thanksgiving Trail Run
Nov. 24, North Miami Beach, Fla.

Before indulging in platefuls of Thanksgiving food, burn off some calories at a trail run that replaces the traditional cityscape with a refreshing dose of nature. Taking place in North Miami at Oleta River State Park, the largest urban park in the Florida State Park system, the run features a variety of challenging earthy terrain—from rolling hills and climbs to roots and gravel, as well as some technical sections. Depending on your skill (or mood), choose from a 5K, 10K or half marathon.

Reindeer Romp 5K
Dec. 7, Atlanta

Don your antlers and celebrate the holiday season with a brisk romp around Atlanta’s picturesque Chastain Park. Celebrating its second year, this festive 5K is put on by Shemoves ATL, an organization motivating women to engage in an active lifestyle. Part of the encouragement for getting across this finish line? A lively post-race celebration and long-sleeved, female-fit tech tops.


Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & ½ Marathon
Nov. 17, San Antonio, Texas

If you’re in search of a race that can rock your world, look no further than the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Marathon & ½. Known to attract big names in both running and music, the event boasts four-time Grammy nominee Joe Nichols as its headliner. To keep your mind off those weary legs, runners will also be greeted by local bands at every mile of the course, making for a race-long party. Featuring a new looped course, the races will take runners past Brackenridge Park, the San Antonio Zoo, The Pearl and Trinity University. With a scenic course and plenty of entertainment along the way, this event is much more than just a marathon (or half).

The UltraCentric Experience
Nov. 21–23, Grapevine, Texas

Now in its 28th year, The UltraCentric Experience was around before ultrarunning was cool. With 6-, 12-, 24-, 48- and 72-hour events, races are held at the scenic Meadowmere Park on Lake Grapevine. All runners receive UltraCentric commemorative medals and embroidered fleece jackets, while the champions earn a quarter-ounce American Eagle Gold Coin. Attracting runners from across the nation, several American records have been set at this USATF-certified event. Whether you’re looking to try an ultra event for the first time or you’re a seasoned veteran, The UltraCentric Experience is accessible to all, with on-site camping, dinner and brunch available to you and your entire cheering squad.

Music City Thanksgiving Day 4- and 8-Miler
Nov. 28, Nashville, Tenn.

Earn your Thanksgiving feast by running the Music City Thanksgiving 4- and 8-Miler through the streets of Nashville. Starting and finishing at Titan Stadium, these races will take you right past the Nashville Rescue Mission—the event beneficiary. All runners are asked to bring a frozen turkey to be donated. Not only will you burn enough calories to consume holiday fare without guilt, but you’ll also know that you made someone else’s Turkey Day possible. With both 8- and 4-mile races, this event is fit for the whole family, providing a great way to kick off Thanksgiving celebrations.


Naperville Turkey Trot
Nov. 28, Naperville, Ill.

The 16th annual event, organized by the Noon Lions Club in Naperville, has grown into one of the largest Thanksgiving Day races in Illinois. Registration is limited to 7,500 participants—and it has sold out the past three years. Why so popular? The family-friendly race features rolling hills through the scenic neighborhoods near Naperville Central High School, where the race starts and finishes. Runners receive long-sleeve technical T-shirts and enjoy a post-race pancake breakfast. Just save room for the turkey.

Santa Hustle

Dec. 7, Chicago

Learn just how hard it is for Santa to maneuver around with that hat and beard at the fifth annual Santa Hustle at Soldier Field. All participants will receive a Santa hat, beard and red long-sleeve technical T-shirt just like the big guy wears (or so we’ve heard). You’ll find Christmas music, candy and cookies to enjoy along the 5K course. The post-race festivities include a big party, and the race is an official drop-off site for Toys for Tots. The top three in each age group receive customized Santa Hustle medals, and awards will be given to the best group and individual Santa costumes.

Reindeer Run 5K
Dec. 7, Brookfield, Ill.

You’ll see actual reindeer—and a whole lot of other critters—at this 5K run, organized by the LaGrange YMCA and featuring a course through the Brookfield Zoo. Race entry includes admission to the zoo, parking, a race T-shirt and post-race goodies. The Brookfield Zoo will be decorated for the season, and a kid dash makes it a great event for all ages. Proceeds from the event benefit YMCA programs in the community.


Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & ½ Marathon
Nov. 17, Las Vegas

There is not a more fitting location for this on-the-road party than the Las Vegas Strip, which is closed to traffic for the event. Scenic courses for the full marathon, half marathon and “Half of the Half” 6.5-mile races pass some of the strip’s most famous spots, including the famous Mirage volcano, along the way. Both the full and half marathons also peruse through famed Fremont Street, boasting the “Fremont Street Experience” as one of the awesome perks of this nighttime run. Don’t forget to wave at the runners in orange—their jerseys are not only fitting for this neon run, but they also represent Team Challenge, the charity-team beneficiary for the entire event. And for those who get a little distracted along the way, the full marathon cut-off time has been upped to five hours this year.

Ugly Sweater Run Tempe
Nov. 23, Tempe, Ariz.

Offering 5K races around the country for those ugly sweater owners, this race series hits Tempe in November. The event offers hot chocolate at the finish line, as well as alcohol options for those itching to numb the pain of wearing your more hideous attire. Participants are encouraged to bring a toy to donate to the local Toys for Tots chapter—there will be a huge inflatable Christmas tree for all donations collected.

RMRR Wash Park 4.5-miler

Dec. 1; Denver

Rocky Mountain Road Runners wraps up its 12-event series with the fast and furious (and sometimes frigid) 4.5-mile race at Denver’s famous Washington Park. Similar to the Colorado Masters Running/Racewalking Association deal, RMRR includes a year’s worth of monthly events for just $35—otherwise races cost just $10 to enter and are open to all. The “trophy” series, ranging from 2- to 10-mile runs, groups member runners by handicap and tracks times throughout the year.


Big Sur Half Marathon
Nov. 17, Monterey, Calif.

Most runners are familiar with the legendary beauty of the Big Sur International Marathon in April, which is why it fills up within hours the day it opens registration. To experience some of that beauty without the hustling for a slot, sign up for November’s Big Sur Half Marathon, which, like the marathon, is extremely popular but isn’t in as high in demand. For those not up for a half marathon, the Pacific Grove Lighthouse 5K kicks off the day before.

Father Joe’s Turkey Trot
Nov. 28, San Diego

Most San Diego runners and walkers are at Father Joe’s Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. It’s a San Diego running tradition that has grown so large runners at the front of the start line can’t see the end of the pack. Taking place at Balboa Park, the 5K raises money for San Diego’s homeless community, and participants who donate $100 receive a Father Joe’s Villages Thanksgiving Hoodie. Don’t forget to purchase one of the pies sold at the race—runners know that a Turkey Day 5K offers an extra excuse to eat whatever you want that afternoon and evening. Good luck, and bon appétit.

The Sweater Dash 5K
Dec. 7, Pleasanton, Calif.
Dec. 14, Anaheim, Calif.

We’ve all received an ugly sweater at least once, so instead of throwing it in your closet and forgetting about it, wear it to run The Sweater Dash 5K in Pleasanton on Dec. 7 or Anaheim on Dec. 14. Part of a nationwide series that proudly calls itself “The Ugliest 5K of Your Life,” these two races are great ways to sport a hideous top stashed in the back of a closet. (Prizes will be given out for the ugliest sweaters of the day.)  The race will also include a toy drive for needy kids, so participants are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to donate.


Seattle Turkey Trot
Nov. 28, Seattle

In 2007, three Seattle runners decided to create the Seattle Turkey Trot to ease their guilt from eating vast quantities of food on Thanksgiving Day. Their idea caught on, and now the Seattle Turkey Trot is a popular annual event, organized by the Ballard Food Bank. The event is still low-key—the course is an unofficial, unmeasured 5K distance, and runners are encouraged to join for a holiday celebration over achieving a PR. So run, enjoy and eat plenty of turkey.

Oregon Mid-Valley Road Race
Nov. 28, Albany, Ore.

The Oregon Mid-Valley Road Race features a 5.2-mile and 3.75-mile race, as well as a 2.5-mile walk. Race proceeds benefit the Mid-Valley Lions Club, which offers health services, such as eye exams, YMCA mentoring, health screenings and neighborhood park improvements for lower-income areas in the community. The race also includes a school challenge: The high school and junior high school with the most registered participants from the designated cities—Albany, Corvallis, Philomath, Lebanon and Jefferson—receives a $1,000 donation. What’s more? The race includes catering from Eola Hills Winery and Pig Out BBQ. 

Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis
Dec. 8, Portland, Ore.

Get into the spirit of giving by participating in this Portland-based event, with proceeds going toward arthritis research and programs. Costumes, antler hats and shoelace bells are encouraged; the 5K event also includes a holiday costume and ugly sweater contest. Participants who raise $1,000 or more get access to the VIP tent, which offers breakfast food and private bathrooms—the top fundraising team even receives its own Porta Potty on race day. Top fundraisers also win prizes, including holiday-themed tube socks for those who raise at least $100.