The Best Holiday Fun Runs in 2018

From New York to Phoenix—and from 5 kilometers to 500 miles

Run, run, Rudolph! (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty)
christmas runs

Whether you’re hoping to set a 5K PR, get the family out of the house, or sweat out a New Year’s hangover, there are thousands of fun runs around the U.S. in the next month that just might fit the bill. Here are eight great races to consider.

Jingle All the Way

Washington, D.C., December 9

If you’re looking for a casual, fun 5K in the Washington, D.C., area, Jingle All the Way has you covered. If you’re hoping for a bit more mileage, sign up for the 15K. Both courses wind along the Potomac River and past the capital’s most famous points of interest, starting and finishing right by the Washington Monument. With less than 30 feet of elevation change, the courses are perfect for pushing your limits. Thousands of runners participate every year, many in costume. Jingle bells are encouraged, obviously. 

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The Santa Monica–Venice Christmas Run

Santa Monica Beach, California, December 15

The Santa Monica–Venice Christmas Run is a classic for those who are SoCal beach bound over the holidays. The race, with both a 5K and a 10K, takes runners down the iconic Venice Boardwalk. More than 5,000 runners participate each year, and the event—which includes costume contests and kiddie fun runs—is a seriously fun start to the holiday season, even if that region’s winter wonderland has more sandcastles than snowmen.

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2018 Elf on the Run 5K and 10K

San Francisco, December 16

Looking for a photo with Santa? At the Elf on the Run 5K and 10K race, you get a free photo with the big guy postrace, as well as a free yoga class and gait analysis. And that’s all after running along the San Francisco Bay Trail, surrounded by expansive views of the water and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Across the Years

Phoenix, December 28 to January 3

Hardcore runners and ultra lovers will like this one: a six-day race. The event is held at Camelback Ranch, a popular spring-training baseball facility, and runners cover as many miles as possible around a one-mile course in the allotted time. Previous winners have clocked up to 550. You’re free to stop any time for food or sleep, but the clock is always ticking. There are 24-, 48-, and 72 -hour options as well.

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Run in the New Year and the Hangover Half and 5K 

Wichita, Kansas, December 31 to January 1

This three-part race will help you ring in the New Year with a 5K in the afternoon, another 5K at midnight, and a half marathon on New Year’s Day. Of course, you can participate in just one of the events, but why not do all three and get a head start on increasing your weekly mileage in 2019? 

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NYRR Midnight Run

New York City’s Central Park, December 31

The party in Times Square not really your thing? Sign up for the New York Road Runners’ Midnight Run, a four-miler in Central Park that starts as the ball drops at midnight. There’s a dance party starting at 10 P.M. for a warm-up, and you’ll be running under a firework display. (Bonus: this race can help you earn a coveted spot in the 2019 New York City Marathon, thanks to the Road Runners’ 9+1 Program.)

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Resolution Run 5K and Polar Bear Dive

Seattle, January 1

In Seattle, the classic New Year’s Day 5K gets a chilly twist with an (optional) polar plunge at the finish line. After running through Magnuson Park, 60 percent of participants hop into Lake Washington, just 100 yards from the finish line. The finish-line area is equipped with heated changing tents, so you can shed your soaked layers before indulging in coffee, chili, and hot chocolate.

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Chicago’s 33rd New Year’s Day 5K Run and Walk

Chicago, January 1

The Windy City’s New Year’s run takes participants along the blustery Lake Michigan shore before tucking back into the shelter of skyscrapers and city streets. Be sure to bundle up, because the average high temperature on January 1 in Chicago is 32 degrees. Postrace, embrace the hair-of-the-dog method: drinks are on the organizers at Select Cut Steakhouse.

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Filed To: Events / Marathon / Running / New York / Holiday
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