24 Must-Run Fall Races Across the U.S.

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


Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn 10K
Oct. 12, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Rockin’ a new course this year, the Brooklyn event is the only 10K race in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. The course takes runners through gorgeous Prospect Park, located in the heart of Brooklyn. But don’t let the shorter-than-half-marathon distance deceive you — participants will still experience the signature on-course bands and headliner concert at the finish line. The finish line festival, complete with sponsor and charity vendors, will take place at the Nethermead in the center of the park. Be sure to arrive early, as parking surrounding the venue is limited.

DownEast Double Trouble Trail Race Challenge
Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, Sullivan, Maine

Sometimes running races is more about winning prizes or taking in the scenery, but it can also be about helping support a great cause. In the case of the DownEast Double Trouble, you can get all three. The two races, held one weekend apart in the middle of foliage season, benefit both the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust and the Frenchman Bay Conservancy. According to organizers, runners who compete in both races are eligible to receive a special prize. However, with 1,200 feet of climbing, the roughly 7-mile course isn’t for the faint of heart!

Manchester City Marathon
Nov. 3, Manchester, N.H.

New Hampshire’s largest city is the host to its namesake marathon this November. At this year’s seventh anniversary edition, the race serves as the USATF New England Marathon Championship for the year. The challenging course also serves as a Boston qualifier. Recreational runners will have a chance to enjoy the scenic fall foliage as well as take in the sights throughout the Queen City’s historic mill district. Those not interested in tackling the full 26.2 miles have the option of completing a half marathon.

Run! Geek! Run! 8K
Oct. 5, Washington, D.C.
Geeks unite! Flaunt your techie side loud and proud at this 8K supporting the Equal Footing Foundation, a charity supported by the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Not a tech geek? You’ll still love the nerdy-chic trophies handed out to all age-group and overall winners.

Ghost, Goblins & Ghouls Spooktacular 5K & Scarecrow Sprint Fun Run
Oct. 26, Leesburg, Va.
Planning a killer costume for Halloween? Then head to this race, where you can win big even if you don’t cross the finish line first. The 5K races through the neighborhood streets of the Paxton Campus, offering a spooky Halloween feel — and don’t be surprised if you stumble across some haunts! Run in costume and be eligible to win a prize in one of three categories (individual, couple or team). Then stick around for funhouse tours, a beer garden, a coffin-simulator experience and more.

Dash 5K and Doggie Run
Nov. 3, Washington, D.C.
Conquer the challenging trails of Rock Creek Park, then see how quickly your canine companion can go in the one-mile doggie run, where treats and water will be offered at both the start and finish lines. Want to really do it up? Enter the costume contest — awards will be doled out to the most creative getups for you and your pooch.

Big Pumpkin Run 5K

Oct. 26, Roswell, Ga.
Now in its sixth year, this popular race always draws a big crowd. The scenic course takes runners through some of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Roswell. Finishers are treated to a great-looking, long-sleeve technical T-shirt, a family area and more. All age-group winners will receive the coveted Big Pumpkin Run Bobblehead Trophy. Proceeds benefit the World Harvest Church Youth Mission program.

Down2Earth Oleta Halloween Trail Run
Oct. 27, North Miami Beach, Fla.
Prep for all that Halloween candy with a 5K, 10K or half marathon. This off-road trail run sends participants through the Florida state park system’s largest urban park, Oleta River State Park, allowing them to connect with nature while celebrating the season. No doubt lots of runners will show up in costumes for this one. Race-day registration will be offered from 6-7 a.m., and the race kicks off at 7:30.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon and 1/2
Nov. 9, Savannah, Ga.
This scenic course lets participants revel in Savannah’s most famous sights and architecture as they make their way to the finish line at Forsyth Park. The wave start and local bands playing along the route help create a fast, energetic experience. Leading up to the big race is a Health & Fitness Expo at Savannah’s International Trade & Convention Center, where participants can stock up on gear, free samples and nutritional products and get expert advice for final race-day preparations.

Frankenthon Monster Marathon
Oct. 26, Cedar Park, Texas
Marathons can be frightening, especially when Frankenstein inspires the run. Despite the name, the Frankenthon is a small, friendly marathon perfect for newbies and seasoned marathoners alike. A scary, fast course, the Frankenthon covers 26.2 miles of concrete and crushed granite on the Brushy Creek Trail in Cedar Park. Comprising three 8.75-mile loops, this is an ideal marathon for spectators, especially since many runners dress in costume in the spirit of the season. If you’re in search of a laid back, well-organized event that offers a little something different, look no further.

Great Pumpkin Run for Research
Oct. 26, Shreveport, La.

Not only does the Great Pumpkin Run allow you to sport your favorite Halloween costume, but it also supports cancer research at Feist-Weiller Cancer Center at LSU Health Shreveport. Featuring a 5K run and health walk, a half-mile kids run, healthy lifestyle exhibits, bike demos, face painting, costume contests and pumpkin decorating, this event is fit for the whole family. Have fun and run for a reason at this year’s event, held at the Centenary College Gold Dome. Long-sleeved shirts go to the first 500 registrants, so sign up early.

Gnarly Neon 5K
Nov. 9, Houston, Texas
Revel in the colorful chaos at this year’s Gnarly Neon 5K. Perfect for all ages and speeds, you’ll be showered with neon for a full 3.1 miles, transforming you into a canvas of color. Setting it apart from other themed runs, this event is kicking things up a notch by adding DJs, live bands and colorful surprises around every corner. Costumes are encouraged and Gnarly Neon sunglasses are required, so gather up your friends and get ready to run and rock out in the most colorful way.

Des Plaines River Trail Races

Oct. 19, Lincolnshire, Ill.
Now in its third year, the Des Plaines River Trail Races offer a flat, scenic course for runners looking to take on a half marathon, marathon or 50-mile race. The Des Plaines River Trail is a wide, crushed-limestone path that features both lush forests and open prairie. All races start and finish at the Half Day Forest Preserve in Lincolnshire, Ill. Fifty-mile finishers receive a belt buckle, while half- and full-marathon finishers receive medals. Hot chocolate will be available for all runners and spectators from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and after the race runners can enjoy a picnic in the preserve with hamburgers, chicken and veggie burgers. If you’re looking for a low-key alternative to the big, urban fall marathons, this is the race for you.

Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Marathon
Oct. 27, St. Louis

Rock ‘n’ Roll returns to St. Louis with more options for runners who want a great tour of the city and entertainment from some of the Midwest’s best music on the course. The loop course starts and finishes in downtown St. Louis with great views of the Arch. Both the marathon and half marathon will take advantage of St. Louis’ scenic neighborhoods, parks and historic areas. This year, runners can choose from the marathon, half marathon, two-person half-marathon relay and the new mini marathon, a 3.75-mile run. Once again, the finish-line festival after the race will feature plenty of food, drinks and live music to celebrate your accomplishment.

Cantigny 5K Run/Walk
Nov. 2, Wheaton, Ill.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of this 5K, which runs on the beautiful grounds of Cantigny, the 500-acre estate of former Tribune publisher Colonel Robert R. McCormack and now houses the First Division Museum, a golf course and a world-class landscape garden. The 5K run begins at the visitor’s center and offers a scenic tour of the property via paved roads and the cart path of the golf course. The race typically sells out and is limited to 1,000 runners. Proceeds benefit the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans. Post-race refreshments will be available, and runners are welcome to tour the grounds and the museum after the race.

Coal Creek XC Challenge
Oct. 13, Louisville, Colo.

Touted as a European-style cross-country race that will take you back to your high school race days or give those never-ever cross-country runners a taste of this classic form of competition, the annual 5.72-mile Coal Creek XC Challenge is a noteworthy race to add to the fall calendar. It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s definitely a bit out of the ordinary. Sponsored by the Colorado Masters Running/Racewalking Association, this race has a quirky course that traverses farm fields, dirt trails, hills, some tricky ditches and a stream crossing. With that kind of terrain, the race director reminds newbies to bring a fresh pair of shoes for the after-party.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Marathon and 1/2
Oct. 20, Denver
Part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, the Denver race is not to be missed. Giving runners a chance to experience 26.2 or 13.1 miles in the mile-high city, the festive courses loop through the spectator-friendly roads of downtown Denver, offering an urban adventure framed by stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. A two-day Health and Fitness expo and big post-race party at Civic Center Park is all part of the fun.

Women’s Running Half Marathon & 5K
Nov. 3, Scottsdale, Ariz.
With the 110-degree days a distant memory, Scottsdale is the perfect setting for an early-November half marathon. Featuring an average high of 75 dry degrees, this friendly female race, part of a series stretching from Florida to California, takes off at 7 a.m. in downtown Scottsdale. The 5K starts in nearby Tempe, and both races finish at Tempe Beach Park. The half marathon and 5K feature plenty of race-day support, festive costumes and an après-race scene that only a bunch of mademoiselles on a mission can create.

City to Sea Half Marathon
Oct. 13, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
There are few places in California that are as beautiful as San Luis Obispo, which is why the City to Sea Half Marathon is a perfect option for runners looking to enjoy a weekend of running and California scenery. The half marathon, which also offers a 5K, is a point-to-point race that begins in San Luis Obispo and ends in Pismo Beach, meaning all participants get to enjoy the stunning central California coast afterward. What’s more? Proceeds from the event go to help the Cuesta College cross-country and track and field programs.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Halloween Half Marathon
Oct. 27, Los Angeles

While the entire Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series is known for music, fun and runners who enjoy the experience of racing with friends, this race is unique because it features one of the world’s largest costume contests, with prizes given for best rock star and superhero, scariest costume, most original costume and best overall costume. Alt-rock band Cracker serves as the headliner during the post-race concert, and runners help raise funds with Team ASPCA, which supports life-saving animal programs throughout the country. Best yet, if a half marathon is too far for you, the race also features a mini-marathon — about 3.5 miles.

Dirty Girl Mud Run
Nov. 2, Ventura, Calif.
The Dirty Girl Mud Run is a women-only, untimed obstacle course 5K, which makes it a decidedly more stress-free alternative for women looking to test the obstacle craze but wary of some of the more hard-core obstacle series out there. Run it, and have fun belting out some high-pitched, girlish screams and hollers. The course even features a “PMS” obstacle — “Pretty Muddy Stuff.” Why, what were you thinking?

Airfield Estates Vineyard Run
Oct. 12, Sunnyside, Wash.
There are few things that go better with trail running and crisp fall air than a nice glass of wine, and Seattle runners can enjoy all three at the Airfield Estates Vineyard Run. The 5K winds through the family-run vineyard’s rolling land, and it includes prizes for the fastest men, women, children and dogs, as well as prizes for the best costumes. But the best part about this 5K is that you can make a weekend out of it, as Airfield Estates offers a five-course winemakers dinner the night before the event, a lunch afterward and a grape stomp after the lunch. Of course, every activity comes with its own price tag, but there are few events on the running calendar that offer such amenities, and participants of the grape stomp are helping to create the vineyard’s 2013 Ruby Rosé.

Xterra Harvest Half Marathon & 10K
Oct. 12, Kenmore, Wash.
Xterra is known throughout the running and triathlon communities as a race company that puts on some pretty epic trail events — the Xterra Harvest Half Marathon and 10K in St. Edward State Park provides Seattle-area residents with the chance to easily check out what all the buzz is about. Both courses begin at the meadow near the parking area and park offices and feature hills, wide trails, winding narrow trails and views of the park’s historic seminary building, which the Catholic church built in 1932.

Happy Girls Trail Half Marathon and 5K Road Run
Nov. 2, Sisters, Ore.
Before you go signing up for the Happy Girls 5K Road Run instead of the Happy Girls Trail Half Marathon, remember that the marathon is mostly downhill, which means the course will likely go by a lot quicker than you imagine. Plus, it offers singletrack within the gorgeous Peterson Ridge trail system. Participants of both the 5K and the half marathon get to enjoy the pre-race Sisters Stroll, a wine and art walk in downtown Sisters, as well as a post-race party at Three Creeks Brewery, so either choice is a win-win for local runners.


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