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With over 1,000 marathons and 2,000 half marathons in the U.S. alone, and with a new year on the horizon, we’d love to help you find a hidden gem or two to add to your 2017 race schedule. So this month we’ve done just that, mining thousands of RaceRaves member reviews to recommend 7 events that score high marks while keeping a low profile.


Miracle Match Marathon logoMiracle Match MarathonWaco, TX
(Jan 22; 50K, marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 10K, 5K)
With all proceeds going to help those in need of lifesaving marrow and stem cell transplants, the Miracle Match is a small race with a big heart. But don’t confuse “compassionate” with “soft”—the event bills itself as “The Toughest Little Marathon in TX” for good reason. And if its hills aren’t enough, optional trials like the Jalapeño Challenge and Jacob’s Ladder Challenge will “make you question your sanity”. Then again you’re a runner, so your friends & family already do!

Carlsbad 5000 logoCarlsbad 5000 – Carlsbad, CA
(Apr 2; “All Day 20K” = 4 x 5K, 5K, 1 miler)
Despite being the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series’ signature event and the “World’s Fastest 5K”, Carlsbad somehow manages to fly under the radar. Perhaps this is owing to its 5K-only format or sleepy seaside venue. In any case, Carlsbad is a celebration of running, with age-group races that attract both competitive and casual runners as well as top elites like 5-time Olympian Bernard Lagat. Who knows? You may even bump into U.S. women’s marathon & half marathon record holder Deena Kastor at her favorite local brunch spot.

Missoula Marathon logo width=Missoula Marathon – Missoula, MT
(Jul 9; marathon, half marathon, 5K)
Big Sky Country features eye-popping natural beauty and one of the most beloved running events in the U.S. The folks at Run Wild Missoula do everything right, from start line fireworks to breathtaking scenery to spot-on support. Strategically located between Glacier National Park to the north and Yellowstone/Grand Tetons to the south, and with hospitality to spare, Missoula may just be the host with the most.

Queen Bee Half Marathon logoQueen Bee Half Marathon – Cincinnati, OH
(Oct 7; half marathon, 4 miler)
The buzz is real at this female-inspired event brought to you by the organizers of the popular Flying Pig Marathon. Though 5% of the half marathon field are men, the Queen Bee “celebrates the comradery between women” with “a unique experience where women are encouraged and pampered” every step of the way, from the “appropriately challenging course” to the “totally girly” swag. Girlfriends unite! And spoil yourself with one of the Midwest’s most rewarding race experiences.

Baystate Marathon & Half logoBaystate Marathon & Half Marathon – Lowell, MA
(Oct 22; marathon, half marathon)
If being treated to the Northeast’s changing autumn colors along a course celebrated for its Boston Qualifying potential sounds appealing, then Massachusetts’ other marathon is for you. From its silky smooth organization to its “beautiful course scenery” to the “amazing” volunteers who “answer all the questions you could possibly have”, Baystate is a proven winnah.

Lake Powell Half Marathon logoLake Powell Half Marathon – Page, AZ
(Oct 2017 date coming soon; half marathon)
Their Zion, Yosemite and Yellowstone events may draw more attention, but it’s the Lake Powell Half that earns Vacation Races a 5/5 overall rating (out of 24 reviews) on RaceRaves. The VR team’s picturesque courses, rigorous attention to detail and environmentally conscious cup-free hydration system earn high praise and a devoted following from runners looking to “Run where you play”.

Brazen Racing logoBrazen Racing – San Francisco Bay Area
(year round; distances 5K to 50K)
Named the Pacific West region’s “Best Trail Racing Series of 2015” by Competitor, Brazen hosts 26 events of varying difficulty throughout the Bay Area, all of which feature a supportive low-key environment, creative swag and an unmatched post-race spread. If you’re looking to test the waters of trail racing, or are simply searching for a great trail running experience where every stranger is a friend you haven’t met, you can’t go wrong with Brazen.

Feeling inspired for the new year? Check out our smart race finder to search for events around the world by name, date, location, distance, terrain & more. Then sign up for a free account to build your wish list!


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Race Day Tips (Part One)
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The race every runner should run

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