The Running of the Lights 5.5K in North Carolina starts with the Times Square ball drop.
The Running of the Lights 5.5K in North Carolina starts with the Times Square ball drop. (Photo: Bill Guy Jones Crew)
In Stride

New Year’s Eve at the Races

Crush a last-minute race to bring the new year in right

The Running of the Lights 5.5K in North Carolina starts with the Times Square ball drop.

Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.

If your New Year’s plans are not already set in stone, you may want to consider running a race to ring in 2016. There are some definite benefits to this hearty approach to an occasion more commonly associated with maximum debauchery.  1) You will have the psychological edge on January 1 of knowing that your year got off to an active start. 2) You won’t have to fret about which party to attend or stress out in a desperate quest to a have a good time. 3) You will be less likely to wake up with the kind of hangover that makes you wish you were dead. 

Sound enticing? If so, here are a few New Year’s events going down across the country.

NYRR Midnight Run, New York City, 4 Miles

Going to be in New York City for New Year’s? Forget Times Square, unless you’re keen on being herded along with thousands of tourists, or catching a glimpse of the walking, talking wax sculpture that is Ryan Seacrest. Far better to run around Central Park at midnight with like-minded revelers, while fireworks explode overhead. The NYRR Midnight Run is typically populated with costumed and, presumably, not-entirely sober runners, but there is a competitive contingent as well, with prize money for the top three men and women. 

First Run, Portland, Oregon, 5K or 10K

From craft brews to roses to one of the world’s largest (and best) bookstores, the city of Portland, Oregon, has a lot to offer. Situated on both sides Willamette River, it’s also a city of multiple bridges, you’ll be able to tear across minutes after midnight on January 1 in the First Run 5 or 10K. Starting and finishing at the World Trade Center in downtown Portland, this event provides extra motivation for athletes in the form of post-race suds from Deschutes Brewery—the Bend brewmasters who made our Top 100 Places to Work list.

Belle Isle New Year’s Eve Family Fun Run, 5K or 1 mile

Another way to run along a famous waterway, but also get home in time to prepare for New Year’s Eve, is available to those who will be in the Detroit area on the 31st. Sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and now in its 46th year, the Belle Isle Fun Run touts itself as the longest continuously-held running event in Michigan. The short race kicks off at 4 p.m. and takes place on the Detroit River just a few hundred feet from the Canadian border.  

Running of the Lights, Clemmons, North Carolina, 5.5K

If Timothy Leary had tried his hand at race directing, it might have looked something like the annual Running of the Lights in Tanglewood Park, North Carolina. A live feed of the Times Square ball drop functions as the starting signal for this 5.5K. Rather than fireworks, runners then enjoy the radiance of endless winter scenes illuminated (and often animated) by a million-plus LED lights, as the course winds through Tanglewood’s renowned Festival of Lights. Participants are asked to bring at least three canned goods, which, along with a portion of race proceeds, are donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

New Year’s Race, Los Angeles, 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon

For those with unbreakable New Year’s plans, there’s a chance to atone for the sins of the evening a few days later in Los Angeles at the New Year’s Race. Taking place on Sunday, January 3rd, this event includes a 5K, 10K, and half-marathon. There’s also an additional “challenge” element: runners can participate in one of the shorter races and line up again for the half-marathon, which starts two hours later. This two-race option will appeal to those who like to accumulate hardware, as it includes three medals–one for each race run and one for successfully completing the doubleheader. 

Filed to:
Lead Photo: Bill Guy Jones Crew

promo logo