Whether you’re designing a packed 2022 racing schedule or your goal is to sign up for your first race ever, here are 11 classic races with high energy, rich cultural history, and guaranteed fun that we recommend adding to your calendar.
1. The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle — Chicago, Illinois
Date: Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20
Distance: 8K (about 5 miles)
The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle extends Chicago’s famed Saint Paddy’s Day festivities and serves as a rust buster for the spring road-racing season. Established in 1980, the race has grown to become the world’s largest timed 8K, with over 30,000 participants and massive crowds of spectators rivaling the Chicago Marathon and Half Marathon as one of the city’s premier running events.
The 8K run and a two-mile walk are the headliner events on Sunday morning, but the Shuffle also offers several events to choose from over the weekend, including a mile race on Saturday.
Be sure to stick around for the post-race party, held at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park; it kicks off right after the 8K run and two-mile walk. The party features live music, food, and lots of beer.
The 8K course begins and ends in Grant Park, winding through Chicago’s Loop community, in the heart of the city. The course is relatively flat and fast. Participants must be able to maintain a 15-minute-per-mile pace for the 8K run, and a 30-minute-per-mile pace for the two-mile walk.
Expect temperatures in the high thirties to low forties. Weather conditions can be unpredictable: snow, rain, sleet, or beautiful sunny skies can all be typical for Chicago in mid-March, so be prepared for anything on race day.
8K Run: $50
Two-Mile Walk: $35
Note: Prices increase leading up to the event. The next price jump will be on February 16.
2. Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic — New Orleans, Louisiana
Date: Saturday, April 16
Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)
Established in 1979, the Allstate Sugar Bowl Crescent City Classic is one of the oldest 10Ks in the world, held each year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. The event has become one of the headliner traditions in New Orleans, right up there with Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest.
The Classic is put on by the Crescent City Fitness Foundation, a local New Orleans nonprofit. While there’s an elite division, the race is inclusive for people of all fitness levels—both walkers and runners are invited to participate.
This being New Orleans, you’ll definitely want to stick around for arguably the best post-race party in American road-racing circuits. Hosted by Michelob Ultra, festivities include live bands, delicious local Creole cuisine, and a lively atmosphere.
The fast, certified 6.2-mile course starts downtown in front of the Caesars Superdome on Poydras Street. Participants run through the city’s historic French Quarter before taking a left onto Esplanade Avenue to the finish in New Orleans City Park on Lelong Avenue, just short of the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Water stations (on both sides of the street) and portable toilets (on the ride side of the street) are placed at mile markers one through five.
Spring is warm and humid in NOLA. In mid-April, expect daytime temperatures ranging from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies. Morning lows can fall into the upper fifties, so it might be cooler at the start of the race. The average humidity this time of year is around 73 percent.
Now through March 31: $55
April 1 through April 13: $60
April 14 through April 15: $65
3. Lilac Bloomsday Run — Spokane, Washington
Date: Sunday, May 1
Distance: 12K (7.46 miles)
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, the Bloomsday Run is back. The race has been held on the first Sunday of May since it was founded by Olympic marathoner Don Kardong in 1977 as part of the city’s annual Lilac Festival. Participation has traditionally ranged from 35,000 to 45,000 people.
While there is an elite element to the race, it’s a fun run at its core, with some 30 performers peppered along the 7.46-mile road route. The entertainment is eclectic and ranges from rock bands and belly dancers to drum lines and choirs.
The course starts downtown on Riverside Avenue and heads northwest, passing by the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute and eventually heading up the challenging “Doomsday Hill” before returning downtown, past the Spokane County Courthouse, and finishing on Monroe Street Bridge.
May mornings in Spokane are typically pleasant, in the low-sixties with a high chance of cloud cover.
You can enter the race online here and snag an early-entry price of $28 until March 19. There is also a virtual race option available, which costs $38 and includes a race participant shirt.
4. Bay to Breakers — San Francisco, California
Date: Sunday, May 15
Distance: 12K (7.46 miles)
San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers, held on the third Sunday of May, was established in 1912. It began as a way to lift city morale after a devastating earthquake, and it’s now the oldest consecutively held annual race in the world.
The event features world-class athletes, and it also showcases the city’s free-spirited and diverse personality. Participants are known to wear outlandish costumes as they head through the center of San Francisco to the chorus of live music and roaring crowds of spectators lining the route. Bay to Breakers also features a centipede division: teams of 13 or more runners that run the full 12K course as a unit, usually linked by a bungee cord.
The course is a point-to-point race beginning at the downtown intersection of Main and Howard Streets, a few blocks from the Embarcadero and near the Bay. The 12K race runs west through the city, continuing through the beautiful Golden Gate Park along John F. Kennedy Drive. It ends at the Great Highway along the Pacific coast’s Ocean Beach.
The route is gorgeous and spans nine of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods. But it’s also extremely hilly. The biggest challenge in the race is the notoriously grueling Hayes Hill, which begins at mile two. It’s about two-thirds of a mile long, with an average grade of 5.5 percent—but at its steepest point, the grade is 11 percent.
May weather in this part of the Bay can range from cold and windy to warm and humid. Average temperatures for mid-May span from 50 degrees to 70 degrees, but due to wind coming off the ocean, it can feel chillier than other 50-degree days. Be prepared for the possibility of rain.
5. Carlsbad 5000 — Carlsbad, California
Date: Sunday, May 22
Distance: 5K (3.1 miles)
If a 5K PR is on your list of goals this year, you’ll definitely want to add this race to your schedule. The Carlsbad 5000 is a blazing-fast 5K race in the snazzy SoCal beach town of Carlsbad, with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. The event has been a spring tradition in this region since 1986.
Because it’s fast, the race typically boasts a world-class field of international athletes. But don’t be deterred if you aren’t all that swift: the event welcomes runners of all ages and abilities. There are seven 5K races, with participants sorted by age, gender, and ability. The headliner is the men’s and women’s Skechers Performance Elite divisions, which feature a professional field competing for some serious cash prizes. Past champions have included the biggest names in the sport, such as marathon gold medalist Eluid Kipchoge and former American marathon record holder Deena Kastor.
The high-energy weekend is chock-full of fitness festivities, including a free health and wellness expo and a Q and A with elite athletes. Plus, you don’t want to miss the post-race Pizza Port beer garden.
The setting of the “World’s Fastest 5K” is an oceanfront route with stunning vistas. Beginning on Grand Avenue in downtown Carlsbad, it runs for nearly two miles down Carlsbad Boulevard and along the Pacific coast. It ends with a final turn onto Carlsbad Village Drive for a thunderous downhill finish in the center of Carlsbad Village. The course is sanctioned and certified by USA Track and Field.
May—like almost every other month here—is pleasant in Carlsbad. You can typically expect dry conditions and temperatures between 55 and 68 degrees.
The cost to register as an individual for the 5K event is $39. You can also register a team.
6. BolderBoulder — Boulder, Colorado
Date: Monday, May 30
Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)
The BolderBoulder is a locally owned and operated 10K road race with a 40-year history. Attracting over 50,000 runners, walkers, and wheelchair participants, it’s the fourth-largest road race in the U.S. and the fifth-largest in the world. Given its massive size, the race is divided into about 100 waves, with participants placed by their ability level, with proof required for the faster waves. Nearly 100,000 spectators fill the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field, where the race finishes, as part of one of the largest Memorial Day tributes in the country.
The race is competitive, attracting professionals from around the world. The BolderBoulder International Team Challenge invites countries to put together three-person squads to compete for a prize purse. The race is also wildly entertaining, with live music, dancers, and other types of performance art on nearly every corner of the course.
The point-to-point course is located more than a mile above sea level, with the highest point at 5,391 feet elevation. Runners wind through Boulder’s neighborhoods and downtown, finishing at Folsom Field. While the route is relatively hilly, it isn’t as mountainous as you might expect for a setting in the Rocky Mountain foothills.
Boulder can get warm in late May, with an average high of 76 degrees. Fortunately, it’s dry heat, so you don’t have to worry about slogging through humidity. Note, however, that sun exposure is more direct at this altitude, so make sure to slather on the SPF!
Pricing varies, depending on which registration package you choose. The least-expensive option ($59) comes with a short-sleeved shirt and must be chosen before May 10.
7. Grandma’s Marathon — Duluth, Minnesota
Date: Saturday, June 18
Distance: 26.2 Miles
Grandma’s Marathon is held every June in Duluth and is famously picturesque, running from the city of Two Harbors, along Lake Superior, and into the heart of town.
The event began in 1977, when the only local business that would sponsor the 150-participant race was the newly opened Grandma’s Restaurant. Now nearly 10,000 runners take part in its marathon. Still, it’s maintained its folksy charm, making it a favorite among those who either don’t qualify for marathon majors or who want something slightly more low-key. Spectators aren’t lined up on the entire course, but crowds start to get bigger and more energetic as the race approaches Duluth.
The event is followed by an all-day post-race celebration that includes drinking and local live music. The festivities have traditionally taken place near the finish line in Canal Park, but due to COVID-19, that was moved to Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park last year. It has yet to be announced if the party will be moved back to its traditional setting.
Grandma’s Marathon is a point-to-point, mostly rural course starting just south of Two Harbors, Minnesota. It runs along scenic Highway 61 and the coast of Lake Superior for most of the race, until around mile 22, where it passes through downtown Duluth before circling around to finish in Canal Park. Over the past four years, the route was altered due to construction but its traditional route will be reintroduced in 2022.
The course is fast and mostly flat or gently rolling with few major hills save the steep-but-short Lemon Drop Hill at mile 22.
While Duluth has an average high of around 68 degrees in mid-June, the weather is unpredictable. Expect anything from a pleasant 50 degrees to a scorching 90 degrees, with winds from any direction—which can be significant on the lakefront. Make sure you’re prepared for anything on race day, and come with layers and sunscreen.
January 1 to March 31: $140
April 1 to June 1: $150
8. Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race — Atlanta, Georgia
Date: Monday, July 4
Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)
Established in 1970, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race is held every year on Independence Day. Since the late 1970s, the iconic event has held the title of the world’s largest 10K race, with a cap of 60,000 spots.
Post-race Fourth of July festivities are hosted at Piedmont Park, where a stage hosts live performances and an awards ceremony.
The 6.2-mile course begins on Peachtree Road at Lenox Square Mall and takes participants down the streets of Buckhead into midtown Atlanta, then down Tenth Street to finish in Piedmont Park.
This is a challenging course. While the first half of the race is run largely downhill, brace yourself for the infamously difficult three-quarter-mile-long “Cardiac Hill” after crossing Peachtree Creek.
Race organizers take precautions regarding the weather, including providing an alert system to keep runners up to date on the conditions and how they may affect the race. Additionally, water is provided at each mile along the course.
$45 or $35 for members of the Atlanta Track Club
Opening registration is held from March 15 to March 31.
9. Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race — Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Date: Saturday, August 6
Distance: 10K (6.2 miles)
This historic race will return to a live competition after a two-year hiatus. Established in 1998 by running great Joan Benoit Samuelson, the event has grown to a field nearing 6,500 participants. It’s a breathtaking point-to-point course that begins near Crescent Beach State Park and finishes at the historical Portland Head Light. The race attracts top runners around the world but is open to participants of all paces and abilities.
It’s to be determined whether the start of the race will be modified this year. Pending on the status of the pandemic, there may be a rolling start, with runners given a specific start time to commence the race without a gunshot.
This is a relatively fast course, starting south of Cape Elizabeth near Crescent Beach State Park on Route 77. It winds north on the wide highway, thinning the field, then takes a right onto Old Ocean House Road and wends along scenic rural roads with ocean views before rejoining Route 77. After turning onto Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth, the course skirts the coast before entering Fort Williams and taking an uphill path to the finish at the top of the fort next to the iconic Portland Head Light.
The course is rolling throughout, although it averages slightly downhill, with a starting elevation at 50 feet above sea level and an ending point just 25 feet above sea level. (The highest point is 100 feet above sea level and the lowest is 20 feet above.) The largest climb falls at the halfway point.
In Cape Elizabeth during the month of August, participants can expect temperatures between 68 and 79 degrees and humidity around 85 percent. (It can be particularly humid in the morning.) Be prepared for the possibility of rain.
Registration for the event will open up to residents of Cape Elizabeth on Tuesday, March 15, and to the general public on Wednesday, March 16.
Once registration opens, you can sign up through the race website here.
10. Oktoberfest 5K — Manchester, New Hampshire
Date: Saturday, October 8
Distance: 5K (3.1 miles)
If you’re looking for a more low-key race in the fall, with some spectacular fall foliage, Manchester’s Oktoberfest 5K is a great option.
It’s an Oktoberfest festivity, so be sure to stick around after the race for drinks at the Backyard Brewery and Kitchen.
The 5K looped course begins and ends at Backyard Brewery and Kitchen. It’s a relatively flat road route that heads through a wooded area outside of the city center.
Weather in Manchester tends to be mild in the autumn; average temperatures in October vary between 45 and 60 degrees. Humidity and wind levels are low in the fall, so you can reasonably expect nice racing weather.
$25 for ages 21 and up; $20 for youth
The online-registration deadline is Friday, October 7 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.
11. AACR Philadelphia Marathon — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date: Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20
Distance: 26.2 miles
For those looking to run a historic marathon that doesn’t require a qualifying time, the AACR Philadelphia Marathon is a fantastic alternative. With origins in the 1920s, the race takes participants on a scenic route through the heart of the city and a variety of neighborhoods. It is consistently ranked among the top ten best marathons in the country and attracts about 30,000 racers each November.
The course, along with other events over the weekend—including a half marathon—is USA Track and Field sanctioned and certified. The terrain is flat and fast, with minor hills, making it a great opportunity to grab a marathon PR.
Beginning and ending at Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the marathon runs over mostly flat terrain, crossing through the heart of Philadelphia and passing some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Liberty Bell Center, and waterfronts on the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.
The race route changes slightly year to year, and the 2022 course has yet to be announced. But whatever it ends up being, expect to weave through the historic district, pass through charming colonial streets and along scenic riverbanks, and finish by the art museum steps of Rocky fame.
The weather is typically mild, averaging around 45 degrees for the past several years of the race. Temperatures have ranged from 31 to 68 degrees. The average humidity is about 75 percent and it tends to be cloudy.
Registration is not yet open for the 2022 race, but stay tuned for updates at the event website here.