If you’re a runner, you’re probably pretty used to racking up the miles in your favorite pair of sneakers. Those soles are all too familiar with the Pittsburgh hills and have crossed countless finish lines around the city.
That means it’s time to introduce them to some new pavement and a change of scenery out-of-town. You won’t need to go too far though; there are an incredible amount of unique and fun road races and trail runs within a 4 hour drive of Pittsburgh!
So start planning your race-cation. Compete amongst Ohioans, West Virginians, and our friendly neighbors is Philly. But win it for Pittsburgh, and we’ll celebrate when you get back! Here’s your travel map of 17 races to fill up your 2016 calendar.
Presque Isle (Erie), Pennsylvania | September 11, 2016
What’s the opposite of Pittsburgh’s hilly terrain? Flat. Sweet, sweet flat. That’s what the Erie Marathon at Presque Isle is known for. It has ideal marathon conditions: flat, paved surface, frequent shade, a moderate climate with cool gusts off the lake, and a bevy of aid stations along the course. If you’re a serious runner, this 26.2 course is USATF-certified and your ticket to the Boston Marathon. If you’re not so serious of a runner, you can always sign up for the Presque Isle Half, a 13.1-mile adventure through the same course, run July 17th.
Buffalo, New York | April 30, 2016
You’re a law-abiding citizen, right? Well if you drive the speed limit, you can get to Buffalo in four hours. Once you get there, you can promptly take your pants off…as long as you’re wearing boxers and have registered for the Buffalo Undy 5000. So you’re in the public Delaware Park, next to the Buffalo Zoo, in your underwear… Don’t panic; the police won’t sweat you, but the 3.1 miles will. Run free knowing that you’ll be benefitting Colon Cancer Alliance and the warriors fighting cancer across the nation. So pick out your best pair for this brief 5K.
Kenmore, New York | March 19, 2016
They say the mustache makes the man. And mustaches also make for one thrilling foot race through the streets of Kenmore, New York. Here, men and women alike can sport staches (real or fake) as they speed through this USATF-certified 5K course, beginning and ending in Mang Park. It isn’t just about the run, though. The race supports a number of local and national charities, as well as throwing one of the best post-race parties around – featuring a brunch, adult beverages, and a high-stakes mustache contest. Amongst those entering, only three mustachioed men will reign victorious – the losers will surrender their stache to the clippers of a trained on-site beautician. Three winners will also be chosen for the most stunning fake mustache.
Deep Creek, Maryland | September 17-18, 2016
Join fierce competitors, Ironmen, and novice triathletes for a full weekend of triathlon fun. Down in Deep Creek, they’re going on 10 years of running, swimming, and biking the beautiful surroundings of Deep Creek Lake. It’s really beautiful…until you remember that it’s in hilly Appalachia. Thus, the name of the triathlon is SavageMan, a grueling physical and mental test for resilient men and women. There are multiple events and distances throughout the weekend, from sprints to half-Ironmans, catering to different skill levels. Though, if you truly want to leave your mark on this race, attempt the climb at The Westernport Wall (it’s a 31% grade at its steepest). If you can pedal to the top without a stop, they’ll immortalize you by laying a brick with your name on it along the climb.
Williamson, West Virginia | June 11, 2016
The Hatfields and McCoys were famous for hating each other’s guts. But the race creators insist “No Feudin’, Just Running!” And run you shall in what has been listed amongst The Weather Channel’s “15 Toughest Marathons in the World”, fun, bucket list runs for Road Runner Magazine’s, and is one of Red Bull’s must-have finisher’s medals. What’s tough about the race is that you’ll be running through the mountainous land of the Hatfield-McCoy feud through both West Virginia and Kentucky. What’s fun about the race is that at registration, you’ll be labeled a True Hatfield or Real McCoy. “Family” times will be averaged at the end and the fastest clan will have bragging rights. Until the next year…
Richmond, VA | May 21, 2016
This is no ordinary urban 10K, even if it does start and finish in the heart of Virginia’s capital, one of the largest cities in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s quite the urban jungle – emphasis on jungle. Aside from running on dirt trails on parts of two islands in the James River, this race also sends runners maneuvering through ravines, climbing over floodwalls, scaling steep staircases, rock-hopping across dry creek beds, and passing under railroad tracks through a concrete culvert. It’s a whirlwind adventure that combines the spirit of trail racing with the ruggedness of both the natural and the manmade surroundings.
Arlington, VA | July 23, 2016
Who are our fitness night owls? Everyone knows the drill: you wake up before the sun to jostle around at a chilly starting line; your reward is the same old water, orange, and bagel at the finish line. Well the Crystal City is here to shake things up. Arlington, Virginia plays host to the Crystal City Twilighter, a summer night jaunt through a flat and fast 5K course as the sun goes down. And when the sun sets, the party starts. You’ll be given post-race drink tickets and directed to Arlington’s local watering holes for some well-deserved R&R.
Washington County, Maryland | November 19, 2016
Join in on America’s Oldest Ultramarathon, now a memorial run for the former President John F. Kennedy. JFK really set the stage for ultrarunning (anything over marathon distance) in the United States whenever he challenged U.S. Marines to travel 50 miles on foot in under 20-hours. More than just servicemen took up the call and the JFK 50 Mile Memorial was born. As long as you can make it under 2016’s 13-hour time limit, you’ll be running across 50 miles of Maryland, including spending some time on the famous Appalachian Trail.
Washington D.C. | April 3, 2016
Is there anything more beautiful than the National Mall cherry trees in full bloom? How about over 17,000 bodies in motion running through the Nation’s capital. That sort of runner turnout is a thing of beauty. It’s no wonder that it’s so popular, too. Billed as the “Runner’s Rite of Spring”, this 10 mile run allows you to peek at the stunning cherry blossoms while hitting your peak stride. If running 10 miles seems a bit daunting, and you’d rather ooh and aah at the spring flora, drop down to the 5K Run/Walk or ½ mile Kids’ Run.
Reading, Pennsylvania | August 2016
Trail running is fortunate to have zany race directors like Ron Horn, who likes to entertain his “guests” for this 13.1-mile race, which doesn’t officially start until runners have recited a humorous, self-demoralizing rant known as the Oath of the Half-Wit. This is one of only a few races in the country that has beer stops at aid stations (miles 9 and 11 last year), and might be the only event with polka music at the post-race party. Horn also hands out a horse’s ass award—literally shaped like an equine’s hindquarters—to all finishers.
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania | October 14-16, 2016
If you’re serious about running, it’s likely that you’ve flipped through the pages or at least skimmed an article of Runner’s World magazine. Its pages are spilling with running knowledge, training advice, and shoe reviews. So you can count on their namesake half marathon and festival weekend being incredibly well done. Don’t you get it? This is runner heaven, with a full schedule of run-specific seminars, live music, pre-race dinner with Runner’s World editors, and a complete slate of races – from 5Ks and dog runs to trail runs and half marathons. For one weekend in October, Bethlehem, PA is Running, USA.
Mt. Wolf, Pennsylvania | September 10, 2016
What do you know about Sasquatch? You know, Big Foot. Well, many claim that he lives in Pennsylvania. And within driving distance too! Want proof? Check out the Sasquatch Preservation Trail Run. There, you’ll head on out into the boonies for a brief trail run through 8,000-acres of preserved farm and woodlands. During this 5K, you’ll hop over roots and kick up the dust while taking in the native birds, deer, turkeys, and maybe even a glimpse of the big man himself.
Sandusky, Ohio | September 2016
If you’ve never been to Cedar Point, you’re seriously missing out. This amusement park is insane (it still can’t top Kennywood, am I right?). But come September, get ready to experience the park like never before – triathlon-style. It’s Challenge Cedar Point! Complete with a kids’ race, sprint triathlon, and half & full distance triathlons, you’ll be conquering the park by swimming, biking, and running the surrounding Lake Erie area. It’s a beautiful thing. Dive into your 1.8 or 3.9km swim from the beach of the park’s Hotel Breakers. Spin through the park to the scenic Lake Erie causeway on your 90 or 190km bike ride. Run 21.1 or 42.2km through downtown Sandusky and cross the line at the park for a finish you’ll never forget.
Columbus, Ohio | November 20, 2016
Sometimes we run just for the thrill, and sometimes we run for snacks. And the Hot Chocolate 15K has the best ones! Fifteen kilometers through Columbus is just long enough to build up your appetite. Race straight up High Street, across Lane Avenue, and travel back down Olentangy, finishing up downtown. As your reward, a giant cup filled with goodies will be waiting for you at the end – hot chocolate, chocolate fondue, marshmallows, pretzels, cookies, the works! You’ll be running in the cold month of November (perfect time for hot chocolate), so layer up and visualize hot, chocolaty victory. If you don’t want to run far to get your treats, sign up for the 5K route.
Cincinnati, Ohio | March 5; April 29; September 17, 2016
Cinci is very proud of its heritage as the major pork producer for the United States. They’re also proud of their brewing history. And if you’re going to run for something this year, it might as well be meat and beer. The creators of the Christian Moerlein Beer Series are encouraging you to be a real “brew hog”. That means completing the three legs of their boozy road races of varying distances: the Bockfest 5K, the Little Kings Mile, and the Hudepohl 14K/7K. Each race is just as good as the rest, allowing you to run through Cincinnati and sample the best of the city’s heritage.
Cleveland, Ohio | May 21, 2016
Warning: This is not your typical 5K. The UrbanObstaCLE takes the average race to a whole new level. Sure, running will be required. But the three-mile distance isn’t the only thing standing between you and the finish line. You’d better be prepared to go over, around, or through a variety of obstacles, like tires, barrier wall, and buses. Oh, we should probably mention sliding over the hood of a car, too. Don’t forget about the rope climbs and scaling walls either. Then, just when you think you’ve arrived at the home stretch, you’ll still have to run the stairs and ramps inside Progressive Field before finally crossing home plate (read: the finish line).
Lakewood, Ohio | July 9, 2016
Few things are better than a backyard barbecue. But the Summer Meltdown is definitely one of those things. It’s a summertime celebration with a few thousand friends, 50-some street vendors, games, activities, contests, a one-mile kids run, and a 5K for the grownups. If you like the sound of that, you’ll love this daylong party in Lakewood. That’s right, the fun continues throughout the community even after the race comes to an end. Kick it in the beer garden, listen to some live music, and celebrate summer in Cleveland.
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