The 20 Best Races to Run in 2018

Ashley Lauretta
by Ashley Lauretta
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The 20 Best Races to Run in 2018

With a new year comes new goals — and for runners, that includes setting up a race calendar. If you are on the fence about what distances you should go for this year, we have a race for you. Whether you want to sprint a mile or take on 100 miles, our list has a race that fits  and some encourage costumes or promote unique race experiences. Read on, but be prepared to want to run all the races in 2018.

JANUARY

SYNCHRONY FINANCIAL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL ARIZONA
January 12-14 | Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona

Whether you want to run a 1-mile race or a marathon, Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona has something for you. What makes this race unique? There are actually two start lines. The marathon starts runners in Phoenix and ends in Tempe, where the other distances start and finish.

FEBRUARY

KRISPY KREME CHALLENGE
February 3 | Raleigh, North Carolina

Donut lovers no matter where you are, in February you’ll want to be in Raleigh taking on the Krispy Kreme Challenge. You’ll run 2.5 miles to a Krispy Kreme, chow down on a dozen donuts and run 2.5 miles back to the start at North Carolina State University. Five miles, 12 donuts and endless bragging rights.

THE COWTOWN
February 23-25 | Ft. Worth, Texas

The 40th edition of this North Texas race takes place in 2018. Though you’ll find all race distances, we recommend the ultramarathon for runners who really want to go long. Another challenge: You can run races on back-to-back days and earn three medals over the course of the weekend.

MARCH

UNITED AIRLINES NYC HALF
March 18 | New York, New York

If you’re looking for a unique way to experience New York City, this race is it. Not only do you get to see Brooklyn, Manhattan and Central Park by foot, you’ll do so behind some of the world’s top elite runners who take on the course every year.  

CARLSBAD 5000
March 24-25 | Carlsbad, California

Known as the “World’s Fastest 5K,” this race draws some of the biggest elite runners in the country. More than 10,000 runners hit the beach town of Carlsbad — just north of San Diego — to take on different heats throughout the day and attempt to break the many speedy records that have been set on the course.

SHAMROCK SHUFFLE 8K
March 25 | Chicago, Illinois

Chicago knows how to do St. Patrick’s Day and there is a lot more to its celebration than dyeing the Chicago River green. Run your way through downtown decked out in your best green garb before you celebrate the holiday with friends.

APRIL

BOSTON MARATHON
April 16 | Boston, Massachusetts

It is hard to make a list of must-do races and not include the Boston Marathon, which has become the holy grail of racing. Though qualifying for the famed marathon gets harder and harder each year, running for charity is a great way to get an entry. And even if you can’t toe the start line in Hopkinton, lining the course as a spectator is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to watch inspiring performances by the pros and amateur runners alike.

BIG SUR INTERNATIONAL MARATHON
April 29 | Big Sur, California

Though this is one of the tougher races in the country, the Big Sur International Marathon is also one of the most beautiful. The course takes runners along Highway 1 from Big Sur to Carmel with stunning, unobstructed coastal views almost the entire way. If running down a closed Pacific Coast Highway isn’t unique enough, there is even a piano man serenading runners as they cross the Bixby Bridge to take on the second half of the course.

MAY

ONEAMERICA 500 FESTIVAL MINI-MARATHON
May 5 | Indianapolis, Indiana

Runners, start your engines and sign up for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. One of the largest half-marathons in the country, not only does each wave of runners follow an IndyCar, but runners actually run a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the race.

ALASKA AIRLINES BAY TO BREAKERS
May 20 | San Francisco, California

This iconic race is one big costume party that takes over the streets of San Francisco. Not only do you get to take on a unique race distance — a 12K — but you can do so in a celebratory environment full of runners, walkers and those who dare to take on the hills of San Francisco.

JUNE

GRANDMA’S MARATHON
June 16 | Duluth, Minnesota

This iconic race began in 1977 and has been a tradition in Minnesota ever since. Though there are just a few more runners (it has gone from 150 to almost 10,000) the race is named after Grandma’s Restaurant, a then-new local business that was the first sponsor of the race. This is definitely a hometown race through-and-through.

ANCHORAGE MAYOR’S MARATHON AND HALF-MARATHON
June 23 | Anchorage, Alaska

Celebrate the longest day of the year — a summer solstice tradition — by heading to Alaska for the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon and Half-Marathon. Once you’ve taken on one of the five distances offered, head to the nearby Summer Solstice Festival and celebrate like a local.

WESTERN STATES 100 ENDURANCE RUN
June 23-24 | Auburn, California

If you are looking for a challenge, the Western States Endurance Run is the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race. Runners go from Squaw Valley to Auburn and experience a lot of ascents and descents; you’ll climb more than 18,000 feet and descend almost 23,000 feet throughout the course.

JULY

AJC PEACHTREE ROAD RACE 10K
July 4 | Atlanta, Georgia

Hosted by the Atlanta Track Club, 2018 marks the 49th year of the AJC Peachtree Road Race. This  Fourth of July tradition is actually the largest 10K in the country, with participation growing every year. Head south for the summer and take on this Independence Day celebration.

AUGUST

RUN WITH THE HORSES MARATHON
August 18 | Green River, Wyoming

If you feel like every race is the same, prepare for one of the most unique experiences of your life. Head to the small Wyoming town of Green River for the Run with the Horses Marathon, which sounds exactly like what it is. Runners have the opportunity to run alongside wild horses for one of the most majestic race views of all.

SEPTEMBER

NEW BALANCE 5TH AVENUE MILE
TBD | New York, New York

For runners who want to take on a short, fast race experience, the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile is for you. Not only will you get to watch some of the best elites out there battle it out, but you’ll get to take on a new challenge by racing an all out, sprint to the finish, mile.

OCTOBER

HERSHEY HALF-MARATHON
October 21 | Hershey, Pennsylvania

Chocolate lovers, pay attention. Head to the famed town of Hershey for the Hershey Half-Marathon and be prepared to get whiffs of chocolate throughout the course. You’ll even run by Hersheypark and get two tickets to Hersheypark in the Dark, to enjoy the theme park — which was originally created to host Hershey Chocolate Factory workers and their families — while you’re in town.


READ MORE

> The Major Marathon Cheat Sheet
> The Major Half-Marathon Cheat Sheet
> The 10K Cheat Sheet
> The 5K Cheat Sheet


NOVEMBER

HOT CHOCOLATE 15K/5K – CHICAGO
November 4 | Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is known for its large running community and this is yet another race where everyone comes out in full force. The Hot Chocolate 15K/5K is known for its record-setting number of participants. Embrace the cold, chilly winter weather and warm your bones after the race with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LAS VEGAS
November 11 | Las Vegas, Nevada

This race is one of only two times every year the Las Vegas Strip is shut down to vehicular traffic and people take over the streets (the other is New Year’s Eve). Experience the sights and sounds of Las Vegas and run the strip at night, with a course lit by hotels, casinos and the endless attractions on the Strip.

DECEMBER

A CHRISTMAS STORY 5K/10K
TBD | Cleveland, Ohio

Fans of the movie “A Christmas Story” will want to be in Ohio for this race. Runners, clad in costumes — you’ll see everything from Santa Claus to Pink Bunnies to Leg Lamps — take to the streets of Cleveland and experience the Christmas Story house up close and personal. The iconic house serves as the finish line for the 5K and the turnar ound point for the 10K.


GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN

> Men’s Running Gear
> Men’s Running Shoes
> Women’s Running Gear
> Women’s Running Shoes


About the Author

Ashley Lauretta
Ashley Lauretta

Ashley is a journalist based in Austin, Texas. She is the assistant editor at LAVA and her work appears in The Atlantic, ELLE, GOOD Sports, espnW, VICE Sports, Health, Men’s Journal, Women’s Running and more. Find her on Twitter at @ashley_lauretta.

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