With the summer box office season coming to a close and the fall TV season heating up, what better time to recognize running events that pay tribute to the big and small screen? Join us as we say “hooray for Hollywood” with our rundown of movie- and TV-themed races, where the celluloid hits the road. And if you’ve run any of these events, we’d love for you to post your review. Lights, camera, action!
Screenland 5K — Culver City, CA
(Feb; 5K, kids run)
“And the Oscar goes to….” Before you hear those five magic words that captivate a nation, take your own stroll down the red carpet in running shoes at the Screenland 5K. Now in its third year, Screenland has fast become the morning warmup for that evening’s Academy Awards ceremony, with costume-clad runners paying homage to their favorite film characters. The race starts under a rainbow balloon arch at the corner of “the world’s shortest Main Street” and runs past the historic Culver Hotel and the Sony Pictures Studio (formerly MGM Studios) where The Wizard of Oz was filmed, before finishing on the red carpet at tiny Media Park. With Tinseltown-inspired finisher medals and entertainment along with a Munchkin Dash for the kids, there’s no better way to get the Oscars adrenaline flowing and put yourself in an award-winning frame of mind.
Wicked Marathon — Wamego, KS
(Mar; marathon, half marathon, Flying Monkey 5K)
Ruby red Nikes are optional at this friendly, small-town tribute to The Wizard of Oz. Race day starts and finishes in front of the OZ Museum, home to one of the largest private collections of Oz memorabilia in the world. Rolling hills along the marathon and half marathon courses give the feeling you’re not in Kansas anymore, as does a sighting in mile one of the Old Dutch Mill, a photogenic Dutch windmill built in 1879 that now stands in Wamego City Park. Age-group winners score impressive Emerald Castle trophies, while a separate prize awaits the runner with the most Oz-some costume. And photo ops with favorite Oz characters round out a weekend of wicked running fun. A word of warning, though: springtime weather in Kansas can be unpredictable, so you may want to keep an eye out for flying houses. (Other Oz-themed races of note include the Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz in Olathe, KS and the Oz Run Half Marathon and 5K in Chippewa Falls, WI.)
Star Wars Rival Run — Lake Buena Vista, FL
(Apr; half marathon, 10K, 5K, kids run)
Originally two separate events held at Disneyland (“Light Side”) and Walt Disney World (“Dark Side”), the Star Wars Rival Run was born after runDisney’s cancellation of its California events for 2018 and beyond. And while all of the company’s races support its movie properties, the Force is particularly strong with its Star Wars offering. Like other RunDisney events the Star Wars Rival Run is notoriously pricey, but where else can you run in full Jedi regalia while rubbing elbows with intergalactic celebrities like Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and Chewbacca on their home turf? Not only that, but runners who conquer the Star Wars Rival Run Challenge (10K on Saturday, half marathon on Sunday) earn each individual finisher medal plus the exclusive Rival Run Challenge Medal. Because going home from any runDisney event without maximum bling is a Wookie mistake.
Shawshank Hustle 7K — Mansfield, OH
Run in the footsteps of Andy, Red and their fellow Shawshank inmates at this summer tribute to the 1994 classic. Much of The Shawshank Redemption was filmed in Mansfield, and the 4.6-mile Hustle course passes several of the 15 local filming sites including Brooks’ Bench. The race starts and ends at the now-defunct Ohio State Reformatory, better known to moviegoers as Shawshank State Penitentiary. And bragging rights are on the line in the Guards v. Inmates Challenge, which pits two teams of runners against a fleet-footed “warden.” Race weekend features tours of the Reformatory (free for race participants) along with appearances by Shawshank actors, and forget the Dolby Surround Sound and plush recliner seating of your local cinema — what could be better than a Shawshank viewing in the Reformatory Central Guard Room? Get busy running, or get busy dying.
Forrest Gump Challenge — Reeds Spring, MO
(Aug; 50K, marathon, half marathon, 5K)
Lace up your magic shoes for a running tour of charming Reeds Spring, located in Southwest Missouri near Branson. With a distance for everyone, the Forrest Gump Challenge benefits the Cross Country Missions to fund mission projects, charities and other non-profits. The race starts and finishes at LifeSong United Methodist Church, site of the one and only aid station on the course and a gathering place for runners and spectators to test their ping-pong skills while watching Forrest Gump on a big screen all day. As for the race itself, loopy is as loopy does, and the 5K loop course requires that marathoners complete eight identical loops while 50K runners complete ten. Gump-inspired costumes are encouraged, and each finisher receives a custom Gump-themed medal. And like most of the events on this list, a virtual race option exists for fans who can’t make the trip to Branson.
Wonder Woman Run Series — Multiple locations in CA
(Sept–Nov; 10K, 5K)
Calling all superheroes! With its inaugural tribute to everyone’s favorite Amazonian princess, DC enters a realm dominated by their runDisney-owned competitor, Marvel Comics. Whether your preference tends toward Lynda Carter’s original Wonder Woman or Gal Gadot’s updated heroine, men and women alike will appreciate this “run”derful celebration of their inner superhero. Registration includes Wonder Woman-themed running kit (kids get a cape!), wrist cuffs and finisher medal, plus complimentary race photos and post-race backdrops to show off your best #iamwonderwoman pose. And optional kit upgrades like knee-high socks and visor let you put your best costumed foot forward on race day. With five events in Northern and Southern California as well as a virtual run, there’s a race to fit even the busiest crime-fighting schedule.
SPACEROCK Trail Race — Agua Dulce, CA
(Oct; half marathon, 10K, 5K)
Billing itself as “the final trail running frontier,” SPACEROCK takes place on the dirt, sand and gravel trails of Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Southern California. With its diverse terrain and otherworldly rock formations, Vasquez Rocks provides the backdrop for popular movies and TV shows including Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica and Planet of the Apes, as well as classic westerns such as Bonanza and Gunsmoke. The race gets stellar reviews on RaceRaves with high marks for its scenery, production and “awesome and outer space-themed” swag. And though its shorter distances may dissuade runners who favor the marathon distance and beyond, the half marathon course with over 3,200 feet of elevation gain is an ultramarathon-like challenge for any earthling. For seasoned trail runners and first-timers alike, SPACEROCK is an “out-of-this-world experience.”
Rocky Run — Philadelphia, PA
(Nov; 10 miler, 5K)
Relive the spirit of ’76 — 1976, that is — at this salute to Philadelphia’s favorite fictional son. Runners answer the bell at the start line in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, within punching distance of the famous Rocky Statue. The 10-mile and 5K courses follow scenic out-and-back routes along the Schuylkill River before finishing back at the Museum. (Smile for those free race photos!) Once you’ve gone the distance, celebrate with a heavy-legged dash up the Museum’s 72 “Rocky Steps” and strike your own Balboa-inspired victory pose. Runners with the heart of a champion can complete the 5K and 10 miler to earn both finisher medals as well as the exclusive Italian Stallion 13.1 Challenge medal, all without chasing a single chicken. The Rocky Run sold out in 2016 and 2017, so you’ll want to grab a ringside seat early before you miss out.
A Christmas Story Run — Cleveland, OH
(Dec; 10K, 5K)
If you’re a fan of Red Ryder and pink bunny suits (above), we triple dog dare you to resist this festive homage to the 1983 holiday favorite. Though set in Northern Indiana, A Christmas Story was in fact filmed in Cleveland, and it turns out the distance from the former Higbee’s department store (the start line) to Ralphie’s house (the 5K finish line/10K turnaround point) happens to be 3 miles, or 5K. Every finisher earns a major award, i.e. a finisher medal inspired by the movie, while all participants gain free admission to A Christmas Story House & Museum. Runners know recovery is important, so be sure to drink your rich, chocolatey Ovaltine at the post-race party, or visit the Old Man’s Beer Garden to toast your finish among like-minded adults. Questions? Feel free to direct those to the organizers at 877-LEG-LAMP. Seriously.
Paramount Ranch Trail Runs — Agoura Hills, CA
(Dec; 50K, marathon, 30K, half marathon, 10K)
Travel back to the Golden Age of Hollywood at this hiking and trail-running mecca just north of Malibu. Paramount Pictures purchased the 2,700 acres in 1927 for use as a “movie ranch,” and since then the diverse landscape has stolen the show from talented actors like Gary Cooper, Bob Hope and Jane Seymour. Still in use today, the ranch serves as one of the filming sites for HBO’s popular Westworld. With distances ranging from 10K to 50K on well-maintained trails, the race welcomes both trail running newbies and diehard dirt devils. And the 10K loop course ensures that even though Paramount Ranch feels like an oasis in the urban jungle, you’ll never be too far from civilization. All participants score cool swag including a handmade ornament, finisher medal and tech shirt. Plus it’s the holiday season, so a prize awaits the man and woman with the most festive costumes.
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