I’m currently in training mode for my first half-marathon and am enjoying the experience so much that I’m already looking ahead to find more events to keep me motivated all year long! Having upcoming races on the calendar gives you a goal to work toward. Plus, visualizing yourself crossing the finish line with a personal best will inspire you to lace up your shoes (or clip into your pedals, slip on some goggles, etc.) when you’re feeling less-than-inspired. Bonus points if you’re raising money for a good cause at the same time!
With that in mind, we found four unique events held across the U.S. that we can’t wait to try.
- When and where: March 10 in Arlington, Virginia
- Why: It’s a little late notice, but if you’re free this Saturday, try to beat the leprechaun in this fun run! The man in green begins 10 minutes after the gun goes off and tries to pass as many walkers and joggers as he can on the way to the finish. Snag a prize if you beat him, but don’t feel bad if you see him run on by. For every person the leprechaun beats, one dollar is donated to a local police charity.
- When and where: March 26 in Tucson, Arizona; April 1 in Charlotte, South Carolina; June 3 in St. Louis, Missouri; June 10 in Minneapolis, Minnesota; June 24 in Austin, Texas; July 15 in Fort Collins, Texas; July 22 in Denver, Colorado; August 12 in Des Moines, Iowa; August 19 in Chicago, Illinois.
- Why: Bored on your bike? Not during this race! Find a partner and tackle checkpoints around town, pedaling between each stop. Adding to the fun factor: There’s no set route or order to the checkpoints, so it’s up to you to pick what you believe is most efficient. Proceeds from each race benefits two or three charities in the host town.
- When and where: August 10 to 12 in Columbus, Ohio
- Why: Pick a cycling course that you will cover over one or two days (from 25 to 180 miles) and gather donations to support cancer research. Since sponsors cover the logistics of the rides, 100 cents of every dollar you raise goes directly to fund team research grants at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center — James Center Hospital and Solove Research Institute. After just three years of Pelotonia, more than $25 million has been donated. New for 2012: A more scenic route!
- When and where: November 11 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Why: This 5K stands out for more reasons than the snazzy costumes pictured above (don’t worry, you can just wear sweats)! The family-friendly event honors Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation creator Alexandra “Alex” Scott, a precocious young girl who started a lemonade stand at age 4. While she was bravely battling neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, Alex said she wanted to give doctors money so they could “help other kids like they helped me.” Sadly, Alex passed away when she was 8, but by then, word had spread and her foundation had garnered more than $1 million. Now her parents organize The Lemon Run, Team Lemon (a race training program) and more, in memory of Alex.
Now tell us: What is the best fitness event you’ve ever participated in or what one is on your bucket list?