Italy’s Palio del Drappo Verde is the world’s oldest running race. First contested in Verona in 1208, it ran for 590 years before taking a two-century long break when the French invaded Italy in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars. Race organizers brought back the event in 2008 as a 10K, though earlier versions were reportedly designed as a seven to eight kilometer circuit that passed by Verona’s landmarks, including a handful of churches. The 596th edition took place on March 17, 2013.
Coming in a relatively close second is Scotland’s Carnwath Red Hose race, a three-mile event that has been held continuously since 1508, “interrupted only by plague and war,” according to this Guardian article, written on the event’s 500th anniversary. “The race has been staged every year since King James IV of Scotland granted the lands around Carnwath in 1508 to one Lord Somerville with an unusual but legally binding condition: to find Carnwath's fastest runner every summer. A fast man could bring news of an English invasion and his red socks—by tradition knitted by the head gamekeeper's wife or mother—were the insignia by which he could be recognized,” the article explains. The Guinness Book of World Records currently lists Red Hose as the world’s oldest road race.
In the U.S., Buffalo, New York’s YMCA Turkey Trot wins the title of oldest road race, besting the Boston Marathon by five months. The 8K event started in 1896 and even weathered its own Rosie Ruiz-like scandal in 1899 when a runner entered in the team division was “charged with riding part of the race in a wagon,” according to the race website, forcing his team to forfeit its victory.
Off-road, California’s Dipsea is the oldest trail race in the U.S. Beginning in 1905, it’s run every year on the second Saturday in June. The event covers 7.4 scenic miles from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach and is limited to a field of 1,500 runners.
Looking for more running lore? Check out this list of the longest-running road races in the world.