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24 Must-Do Sept./Oct. Races Across The U.S.

Looking for a race this fall? Check out our list.

Looking for a race this fall? Check out our list.

Northeast Region

Jets Back To Football Run 5K
Sept. 7, East Rutherford, N.J.

Are you ready for some football? If the answer is yes and you happen to be a runner, then give this annual event a try. The Jets Back to Football Run 5K unites all levels of fitness enthusiasts and football fans. The start location is where the storied gridiron team plays: the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. Keeping with the football theme, the race, part of the NFL Run Series, ends at the 50-yard line. Awards are given out to the top 5 overall male and female winners and age-group masters male and female winners.

Rock ’n’ Roll Providence Half Marathon
Sept. 29, Providence, R.I.

If you want to take part in one of the best Rhode Island races of the year, this one is for you. Going into its third year, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Providence Half Marathon offers runners seeking short-distance options with something to compete in: For the first time this year, there will be a 3.1-mile “mini marathon.” And if 13.1 and 5K aren’t your cup of tea, you can always find a buddy and team up in the two-person half-marathon relay.

Prospect Park Half Marathon
Oct. 5, Brooklyn, N.Y.

This is the perfect race for New York City–area runners who are taking part in that city’s marathon in November. At 13.1 miles, the Prospect Park Half Marathon is no cake walk given the undulating nature of the course (located on the Park’s outer loop), which is a perfect test for the New York City Marathon. The event’s website warns that “only the strong will survive” this event.

Mid-Atlantic Region

Abebe Bikila Day International Peace Marathon and Half
Sept. 14, Washington, D.C.

Looking for a low-key marathon or half? Consider this event, held in honor of famed Ethiopian marathoner Abebe Bikila, the first black African to win an Olympic medal. The course, a qualifier for the 2014 Boston Marathon, is run exclusively on the flat gravel trail alongside the C&O canal. (The marathon is two loops of the 13.1-mile course). With a field limited to 350 participants, you won’t have to jostle for position as you run.

Tigerlily Pink Boa 5K Run/Walk
Sept. 15, Fairfax, Va.

Break out the pink and head to Fairfax Corner for this event. Featuring a flat-and-fast course, the race benefits the Tiger Lily Foundation, which supports programs assisting young women (ages 15–40) living with breast cancer. Pre- and post-race entertainment includes live music, Zumba and yoga. Pink boas are welcome but not required.

Black Hill 10K
Oct. 19, Germantown, Md.

Craving a little cross country running? You’re in luck: This 10K will have you navigating rocks, roots and twisting trails as you run through Black Hill Regional Park. Part of Montgomery County Road Runner Club’s low-key race series, this event sports a cheap $10 registration fee — that’s as enticing as the course. What’s more? It’s free for MCRRC members.

Southeast Region

3rd Annual Run for Lawson
Sept. 28, Tallahassee, Fla.

In 2009, 18-year-old Tallahassee resident Lawson Mayfield passed away suddenly from bacterial meningitis. Her family and friends founded this off-road 5K and 10K to honor her memory and raise funds for the National Meningitis Association. (They’ve brought in $70,000 so far.) The chip-timed race winds through the gorgeous Welaunee Plantation and attracts a major crowd — last year, more than 2,000 runners, walkers and volunteers participated.

The Color Run Atlanta
Sept. 28, Hampton, Ga.

The Color Run, now the single-largest 5K series in the country, hits Atlanta Motor Speedway with only two rules: wear white and finish in a rainbow of color. This untimed event attracts thousands of participants who get covered in vibrant powder at each kilometer. The event’s goal is to promote health through fun, especially if you’re a first-time 5K participant. Prepare for 3.1 miles of colorful endurance — the post-race scrubbing is definitely worth it!

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler
Oct. 5, Orlando, Fla.

After a fun-filled day at the Happiest Place on Earth, muster up your remaining energy for this nighttime race, which begins at 10 p.m. at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Runners will follow a nostalgic, exciting route that passes by Disney characters and scenic landmarks, such as Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat. But beware — Disney’s most notorious villains may be spotted along the course. Participants in search of fitness and PRs aren’t the only ones who benefit from this race — the run’s official charity is Autism Speaks, an organization that funds global biomedical research dealing with autism and raises public awareness regarding autism.

South Region

Mud Fears Me
Sept. 28, Shreveport, La.

If you���re looking for a sloppy challenge, look no further. The Mud Fears Me 5K presents more than 20 obstacles throughout the 3.1-mile course that will test your strength, stamina and mental grit. If you have a little one who is fond of playing in the mud, make it a family affair by signing up 4- to 12-year-olds for the half-mile course with 10 pint-sized obstacles. Even better, the event helps the Max Cure Foundation, which supports children and families living with pediatric cancer. You can even donate your muddy running shoes at the end of the race — one dollar per pair goes back to helping those kids and families in need.

The Zombie Run
Sept. 29, Nashville, Tenn.

See Nashville get overrun with zombies right before your very eyes. When you register for this 5K event as a “human,” you’ll receive a Zombie Survival Pack to help you outrun the brain-eating monsters. If that’s not your style, consider registering as a “zombie,” and you’ll have the chance to chase down plenty of fresh brain. A zombie run unlike any you’ve ever seen, this is the only event that creates an apocalypse environment by converting the venue into a Hollywood-style movie set. Be prepared for helicopters, smoke, sirens and loudspeaker evacuation warnings!

Barefoot Run 5K
Oct. 5, Coppell, Texas

While shoes are optional to participate in this event, proceeds go toward supporting Shoes for Orphan Souls. Donating more than 2.5 million pairs to 74 countries, the organization helps provide shoes and socks to orphans and vulnerable children. Regardless of what you wear on your feet, help support the mission by signing up for the Barefoot Run 5K, a beautiful run along the trails of Andy Brown Park East.

Midwest Region

5K9 Walk/Run Chicago
Sept. 22, Chicago

This national series for both people and pets comes to Chicago for the first time with a 5K run and 1-mile walk at Montrose Harbor. The mission of the race is to promote a healthy lifestyle while raising money for animal welfare organizations. Athletes are welcome to run the flat Lakefront course with or without their dogs, and a race-day expo will feature exhibitors for both runners and their pets. The event even offers free eight-week training plans for those interested in racing with their canine.

Magellan Ready to Run 20 Miler
Sept. 22, Chicago

Get ready to run that fall marathon at the Chicago Area Runner Association’s annual run on the Lakefront path. The point-to-point course offers timed pace groups, 10 aid stations, a gear check and transportation back to the start for all participants. The same hydration products and gels at the upcoming Bank of America Chicago Marathon will be along the course, and runners can enjoy free Stewart’s Coffee before and after the finish. A wave start organized by pace ensures the path won’t get too crowded, and all runners will receive a technical T-shirt and entry to the post-race finisher party.

Prairie State Marathon and Half Marathon
Oct. 12, Libertyville, Ill.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon may close in the dead of winter, but there’s still an option for Illinois runners looking for a Boston-qualifying marathon in October. Starting at the Independence Grove Forest Preserve, the fourth annual Prairie State Marathon and Half Marathon is mostly run on crushed limestone paths in the northern suburbs, and features a tour of the area’s prairies, forests, rivers and lakes. The course is USATF-certified too. All participants receive a hooded long-sleeve technical shirt, a finisher medal and professional event photography.

Mountain West Region

Run the Ranches and 7.5-mile races
Sept. 15, Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Grand County, Colo.

The first of two scenic fall trail races in beautiful, hidden Grand County, Run the Ranches is a 7.5-mile tour through the rolling ranch lands and fall foliage at Devil’s Thumb Ranch, known for its exceptional cross-country skiing and rustically upscale family lodging and recreational activities. There’s also a 3-mile run/walk and a half-mile fun run for youngsters. The second race in the fourth annual series follows on Sunday, Sept. 22, at nearby Granby Ranch. New this year is a post-race Western-style barbecue, complete with cold brews and bluegrass music. Proceeds benefit the local Headwaters Trails Alliance.

Equinox Half Marathon and 5 Mile
Sept. 22, Poudre Canyon, Fort Collins, Colo.

If it’s time to give the legs a fall break after a long race season, look no further than down the canyon. This fast, fun point-to-point half marathon (with a 5-mile option) follows the scenic Poudre Canyon, alongside the rushing waters of Colorado’s only nationally designated Wild and Scenic River. Heading out from the historic Mishawaka Amphitheatre (or Gateway Natural Area for the 5-mile run), this 13.1-mile road race winds down to a post-race wrap on private land, featuring plenty of local foods and beer from some of Fort Collins’ 11 award-winning breweries.

Pikes Peaks Road Runners Fall Race No. 1
Oct. 6, Monument Valley Park, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Part of the historic Pikes Peak Road Runners Fall Series, which builds to progressively longer distances, this 3.5-mile trail race is a tame grass-and-dirt trail trek with a couple of short climbs. By far the best part of the friendly, hometown event comes near the end, when runners must wade up Monument Creek, salmon-rush-style, for three quarters of a mile, then drag shoes loaded with sand and mud to the finish. Sound like fun? Bring your best smile — and worst shoes.

Pac-West Region

Endure the Bear Trail Run
Sept. 7, Big Bear Lake, Calif.

The Endure the Bear Train Run literally has a race distance for everyone — even that kooky ultrarunner in your family — as it offers a 5K, 15K, 30K, 50K and family fun run and walk. All of the events start and end at Big Bear Village, and courses 15K and longer include some technical trails. This endurance palette also sports some tasty eats at the finish line.

TriRock San Diego
Sept. 22, San Diego

Given the rising popularity of triathlon, chances are pretty high that you’ve considered or tried the endurance trio. The TriRock Triathlon Series has all would-be and newbie triathletes covered. Put on by the same company that produces the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, TriRock welcomes runners into the triathlon circle with a friendly atmosphere, individual bike racks and music along each course. On Sept. 22, TriRock lands in San Diego, the birthplace of triathlon, and features sprint- and intermediate-distance courses, a downtown venue and stunning views of America’s Finest City. If you’d like to add a little charity to your regiment, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America is the title charity for the San Diego event and offers an extensive training program in five U.S. cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Bridge to Bridge 7K/10K
Oct. 6, San Francisco

Beginning at the Ferry Building on The Embarcadero, the Bridge to Bridge offers a runners-eye view of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Historically a 7K-only race, 2013 brings in a 10K addition, taking runners along the Promenade boarding Crissy Field toward the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. While the 10K course is USATF-certified, the 7K course is not, measuring around 4.5 miles. The event benefits the Special Olympics Northern California and features a post-race concert by the band “The Novelists” this year.

Northwest Region

The Rogue Run Half Marathon
Sept. 22, Medford, Ore.

If you’ve never experienced the beauty of the Rogue Valley, this race is the perfect opportunity to do so. Located near several wineries, the half marathon is part of the Jackson County Harvest Fair, providing the perfect opportunity to go on a weekend getaway. The fair offers activities such as grape stomping, pie eating, paintball, an amateur beer and wine competition, and a micro-brew fest, which features a beer garden from local breweries. And luckily for age groupers, the race awards prize money to the top three finishers in all four age groups. Depending on how quick you are and how much beer you consume, you may be able to offset a chunk of the weekend’s costs!

Race for a Soldier
Sept. 29, Gig Harbor, Wash.

If you want to get more than a workout out of racing, consider the Race for a Soldier half marathon. The proceeds fund programs, such as horse therapy that helps soldiers readjust to society and, in many cases, recover from PTSD, as well as programs that pair soldiers with service dogs. Two days before the event, the race organizers host a golf tournament and prayer breakfast, where attendees can listen to stories from soldiers. If a half marathon is a bit too long for you, the event also offers a 2-mile race and a fun run for the kids.

Portland Marathon and Half Marathon
Oct. 6, Portland, Ore.

The Portland Marathon and Half Marathon are a favorite among the Portland running community, and it has gained recognition around the country for being well-organized and people-friendly (and walker-friendly, given that the course is open far longer than in most marathons). The race includes on-course entertainment and bands, and both the marathon and the half offer scenic river views and begin and end in downtown Portland. The race is also kid-friendly — the Saturday before the event hosts a Portland Marathon Kids’ Fun Run & Fitness Festival, which includes snacks, bibs, medals and the opportunity for parents to run along.