The Best Races to Run This Summer
For most folks, the months of October, November, March, April, and a bit into May are “sweet spots” for running. That is, the weather is cool but not cold, and if the rain is not coming down and the winds are not whipping, you pretty much have the time of your life out there on the trails! However, winter brings bitter temperatures and icy conditions that often leave outdoor running out of the question. And summer… woof. Summer is arguably the worst of them all. Although the sun is out for longer (meaning you have more time during the day to run when it is light out) that also means the sun is out there warming the earth for longer stretches. The summer heat and humidity leave most runners opting to spend May through September at the gym or in the dungeons of their home basements, cranking it out on the treadmill. If you live in the southern states, you are probably familiar with heat warnings, and humidity that gets so muggy and bad that you feel like you can’t breathe! But summer should not have to mean hanging up your racing shoes! Fortunately, there are plenty of great races around the country that avoid the heat and set you up to have a great mid-year race!
The Soldier Field 10 Mile Race
This race in Chicago is scheduled for late May, during Memorial Day Weekend. Chicago is known for its blustery, frigid winters and so most folks can’t really fathom trying to run there before it warms up. But at the end of May, when spring is starting to tiptoe into summer, the skies are clear and the sun sits high. This race takes runners on a beautiful tour of the Windy City, with terrific views of the city’s skyline and a run down the famous Lake Shore Drive. This race is a real testament to our United States military heroes, as uniformed men and women in the Armed Forces greet runners at the finish line by hanging race medals around their necks. The best part? The Stadium Green nearby features a fabulous post-race party of beer, food, music and relaxing views of Lake Michigan.
When you think of Colorado, you probably think of skiing, snow-capped mountains, and a fun culture that celebrates food, music, and excellent craft beer. But around Memorial Day Weekend, the city of Boulder, Colorado host one of the largest road races in the United States – and it combines some of the best and funkiest parts of Colorado living into one unforgettable race day. We are talking over thirty entertainment vendors and groups (everything from musical acts to belly dancers and Elvis impersonators) lining the race route, with a monumental finish inside the University of Colorado’s football stadium, Folsom Field (which, by the way, is filled with thousands of area spectators cheering you on!). The fun doesn’t stop there though – stick around for an air display of flyover planes and skydivers!
Every July Fourth for the past 104 (!) years, Seward, Alaska has been hosting this three-mile race on Mount Marathon. As one of the oldest races on record, this race takes runners up and down some downright awful hills – but the views more than makeup for it! You have probably seen pictures of the epic beauty that is the Alaskan Wilderness during the summer months. Well, the Mount Marathon is your chance to experience the hype in-person. Just make sure you come prepared with gloves, as race directors encourage this for the descent that is so steep you will likely have to use your hands to descend the mountainside. (Hey – at least it’s not brutally hot!)
Leading Ladies’ Marathon & Half Marathon
Okay, so we know this leaves out our gentlemen runners, but we just had to include this race. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Black Hills (home to Mt. Rushmore, terrific hiking, and the casinos of Deadwood that are filled with memories of the Gold Rush golden days) is Spearfish Canyon. The summer months draw a crowd to the Canyon, as motorcyclists, hikers, campers, and tourists alike venture in to see the views. But this race is not just great for the waterfalls and mountain air – this is South Dakota’s fastest marathon race, as the course runs totally down the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. This race takes place near the end of August, so you don’t have to worry about any early-season snows. Plus, the camaraderie and support for your fellow lady runners are some of the best you’ll find anywhere!
Beach to Beacon
August and early September, in the weeks leading up to Labor Day Weekend, the coastal towns of Maine are buzzing with summer vacationers who travel north to soak up the sun while avoiding the excessive heat warnings that most of the rest of the country is suffering under. These little towns come alive during those weeks, as tourists are seen at all hours of daylight, barefoot with an ice cream in hand, perusing the boardwalk and enjoying a patio breeze with a glass of Chardonnay. This time of year can also draw a crowd for runners, who flock to the Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine for a fantastic seaside 10k. The race course features sweeping Atlantic Ocean views and of course, a run beside a quintessential Maine lighthouse. Besides the fact that runners are typically all either starting or coming off a relaxing beach vacation with friends and family, one of the best parts about this race is that its founder, Joan Benoit Samuelson (winner of the first-ever women’s marathon in the 1984 Olympics) is there at the finish line to greet you!