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The FITNESS Ace Your Race Guide

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Your bod was built for running. And the more you do, the hotter and healthier you get. Whether you want to slim down or speed up, we've got the tips, training plans and sweet gear that will move you. On your spark, get set, go!

Run for Fun

Word to the walk-joggers and solo sloggers: Road races are not just for, you know, runners anymore. There's a new breed of beginner-friendly events that merge happy hour with your workout, says Jonathan Ages, the founder of Bloodsweatandcheers.com, which offers daily tips on cool fitness events, including a 5K that turns your tennis whites into tie-dye over the course of 3.1 miles and a Duck Dynasty-themed hillbilly hustle. So lace up and have some fun, already!

Races to Fly For

The research says it all: According to Running USA, 66 percent of runners plan to travel overnight to a race in the next 12 months. And no one knows destination races like Julie Weiss, the blogger behind MarathonGoddess.com, who completed 52 marathons in 52 weeks last year and hasn't stopped yet. Her three golden rules: "Pack an extra pair of everything to be safe, take the aisle seat on the plane or train so you can easily stretch your legs, and plan to stay an extra day post-race rather than pre-race -- save the sightseeing for your recovery." Ready to book? Here's a short list of popular races to get a jump on.

5K: MS Run the US
Take part in raising funds and awareness to cure multiple sclerosis on this 3.1-mile course in New York City on August 16 -- the last stop of the official 3,100-mile, 13-city MS Run the US Relay across America. (msruntheus.com)

10K: The Midnight Cowboy Run 10K
Start off the wee hours of Sunday on the right foot with spectacular views of the Las Vegas Strip; line up for the run on Saturday night, September 20. (jusrun.com/races/midnightcowboy)

Half: Divas Half Marathon in Puerto Rico
Glam up on race day in your best boa and tiara for this exotic run through historic Old San Juan. This women-only event, taking place on November 9, is the ideal girls' getaway. (runlikeadiva.com)

Marathon: Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon
Good weather and a great crowd are key to a stellar 26.2 performance, and this popular course in South Texas is a must-do when December 7 hits. After the race, enjoy a concert and famous sights, including the Alamo. (runrocknroll.competitor.com/san-antonio)

On Your Marks!

About 60 percent of finishers in nontraditional races are newbies, according to Running USA, a running-industry nonprofit organization. When you want to do a 5K or a 10K from start to finish -- or just get to the post-race after-party with enough energy left -- give yourself 10 weeks to prep. "If you can walk to the park, you're fit enough to do my program," says Jonathan Cane, an exercise physiologist and the cofounder of City Coach in New York City. Get Cane's 5K and 10K race plans and use #funrun to hashtag while you train.

 
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