The bucket-list races have their time and place, but sometimes you want to avoid the crowds — and maybe even get a podium finish — with lesser-known races. These 10 races — from 5Ks to trail to endurance — offer a great opportunity to enjoy running away from all the hype.
St. Petersburg, Florida – February 9, 2020
In its second year, this race on Florida’s west coast overlooking Tampa Bay is sure to become a favorite among runners in the area sooner rather than later. From the artsy downtown area to Pinellas Trail and sections along the waterfront, you’ll get a little bit of everything along with near-perfect winter weather. Choose from four distances ranging from a 5K up to the marathon.
7 Sisters Trail Race
Amherst, Massachusetts – May 2, 2020
If you’re looking to take on a new challenge, this 12-mile trail race on technical singletrack is one of the hardest in the Northeast. But along with the 3,500 feet of elevation gain, you’ll get some of the most incredible views of the Holyoke Range. Keep in mind, though, that this low-key event won’t have aid stations and requires participants to carry their own supplies.
Back 9 Endurance Run
Copper Harbor, Michigan – May 16, 2020
This new race in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula offers runners a unique challenge in a safe environment. Choose from the 12- or 24-hour timed event run around the trails and golf course surrounding Keweenaw Mountain Lodge and see how many 3.5-mile laps you can run. While there will be some hills and mud to deal with, the race is ultimately set up to be fun and quite different from the kind of races you’re probably used to.
Newport 10 Miler
Newport, Rhode Island – May 31, 2020
While this race is somewhat of a regional classic, it doesn’t get the same fanfare as races like the Rock n’ Roll series. The flat course is ideal for beginners looking to step up to a longer distance before jumping to the half-marathon, or experienced runners looking for a PR. And with scenic coastal views along the entire course, this city by the sea event is as relaxed and calming as a historic race is going to get.
Lake Waconia Half-Marathon
Waconia, Minnesota – June 6, 2020
Weaving through the quaint city streets of Waconia before making its way around the lake, this is as beautiful a race as you’ll find during the warm summer months. Choose from a fun two-person half-marathon relay, a 10 miler or a 5K that welcomes you to bring your family and your pooch.
Jay Peak Trail Running Festival
Jay, Vermont – September 5–6, 2020
Trail races are a great way to escape the road-running scene for a more peaceful, serene environment. What we like about this event is the variety of distance options (kids trail race up to the 50K ultra) and the family-friendly atmosphere. The northern Vermont ski resort is also stunning, and you won’t get better weather or pre-foliage scenery anywhere during early fall.
The Scenic Half-Marathon
Sandpoint, Idaho – September 20, 2020
With a name that says it all, this half-marathon and 10K feature panoramic views of Lake Pend Oreille and the surrounding mountains. While the course and organization of this race are first class, the number of participants is usually only in the hundreds, making it a true hidden gem for anyone lucky enough to participate.
Run Crazy Horse
Hill City, South Dakota – October 4, 2020
Even though just over 100 participants finished the full-marathon in 2019, this race in its 10th year is one of the most beautiful in the U.S. The race begins at the Crazy Horse Memorial and heads almost entirely downhill through the famous Black Hill and Ponderosa forests on the Mickelson Trail. If you aren’t up for the 26.2, there’s also a five-person relay option and a half-marathon.
Little Canyon Half-Marathon
Fort Payne, Alabama – October 2020
You probably haven’t heard of this small-town race near Jacksonville State University, but it deserves a spot on your bucket list. The paved course runs along the Little River Canyon National Preserve for most of the first half before heading to the rolling countryside for more picturesque views. While you won’t have many runners beside you, it’s an experience you won’t forget.