If you love exploration via races, sure you can go the destination route and get out of town, but you can also stay close to home for exciting race opportunities. The D.C. area hosts a variety of races, from 5ks to marathons, road races to trail races, city streets to nature; whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it nearby.
Searching for races to add to your D.C. bucket list? These are the can’t-miss courses to sign up for:
Known as “the people’s marathon” registration costs are reasonable and anyone can sign up. Avid runner, 8-time marathoner, and Team in Training coach Noa Besner describes, “throughout the race, whether it’s the paratroopers jumping from planes with the American flag, the signs featuring fallen marines, or the marines lined up to cheer you up the final hill, it feels like you’re part of something different, and something important.” The 26.2 miles features a mix of monuments and landscape and with strong crowd support, there is always something to look at. Noa particularly loved the monument miles and felt inspired, getting a “how lucky am I” feeling as she ran the course.
While race coordinators can’t predict when the cherry blossoms will bloom, when it hits during this race, it’s magical. The 2016 race happened to have unseasonably chilly temps and extreme winds, but in prior years the weather during this race has been more runner-friendly. Starting and ending by the Washington Monument, immediately you know you’re in for a treat, running past monuments, along the water, and hopefully enjoying cherry blossom views every step of the way. It’s not easy to score a spot, but if you are fortunate enough to get in from the lottery, consider yourself lucky to be able to run during such a gorgeous time in D.C.
Full of entertainment and energy, the Rock ‘n’ Roll course will keep you going strong for 13.1 miles. The race isn’t all fun and games; there are some challenging hills. D.C. nurse practitioner, health coach, and runner Danielle Milanowski says when she ran the half, the hills were good for an added challenge, plus the amazing support crews and entertainment kept her spirits lifted and her motivation high. There are always people cheering you on, plus there’s a band at every mile to keep you going. Danielle has run 10 half marathons and loves that DC is full of healthy events, races and relays, counting the Rock ‘n’ Roll as one of her favorites thanks to the energy and the course that leads you through monuments, and interesting neighborhoods and parks like Rock Creek.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed race, the Navy-Air Force half is a great option. Another favorite of Danielle’s, she says the race has a great vibe and the weather is usually good, making it the right time to try for a personal best. The mostly-flat course is beautiful and the majority is along the water, plus offering views of iconic monuments. The race ends near Hains Point, giving you extra motivation to hit that scenic finish line.
If you’re looking to see the full D.C. landscape in one race, check out the D.C. Ragnar, starting in Cumberland, Maryland and ending in Washington. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do all 206.7 miles on your own, you’ll be tackling the course as a relay team of 12 and will run three blocks over a 24-hour period. Ragnar’s are gaining in popularity thanks to the unique experience of running through the night, camaraderie from teammates and the opportunity to take on a unique challenge, testing your persistence and dedication. Teams get a set of 12 medals that double as puzzle pieces and when put together display Ragnar messaging. The sometimes hilly D.C. course gives you a taste of running through historic towns, sites and a finish line party right in D.C.