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(Photo: Vacation Races)

As a runner, nothing can be more daunting or more motivating than planning out your race schedule for the new year. So many races, so little time! And we totally get that — which is why, if you’re looking for a race you’re in the right place. Whether your 2018 is all mapped out or you’re still searching for the perfect challenge to jump-start your training, here are eight events highly recommended by the RaceRaves community.

Check out our 7 quick picks for 2017 races.

The Cowtown logo on RaceRavesThe CowtownFort Worth, TX
(Feb 24–25; 50K, marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K, Cowtown Challenge)
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and that’s a good thing when it comes to The Cowtown. This year marks the 40th anniversary of North Texas’ largest multi-event race, which features distances to fit any moo-d and skill level. Finishers laud every aspect of race weekend from the “top-notch organization” to the “happy, friendly demeanor,” but its appeal may be most evident in the high number of repeat runners. Looking for a running weekend that’s “as much a race as it is a family event”? Ain’t no bull to say The Cowtown is a winter winner.

Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon logo on RaceRavesCincinnati Flying Pig Marathon – Cincinnati, OH
(May 5–6; marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 10K, 5K, 1 miler, Skyline Chili 4-Way Challenge, Skyline Chili 3-Way Challenge)
Go hog wild! The winner of our inaugural March Lunacy tournament and America’s Rave Race for 2017, Cincinnati’s hometown marathon celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2018. Flying Pig earns rave reviews for embracing its namesake, with start corrals known as “pig pens”, volunteers affectionately referred to as “grunts,” and a “finish swine” where finishers collect pig-themed swag. From its scenic, hilly urban course to its unrivaled community support, the Pig leaves other races pink with envy.

Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon logo on RaceRavesSanta Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon – Santa Ynez, CA
(May 12; half marathon, half marathon relay)
With its idyllic courses and iconic finish-line festivals, the Destination Races Wine Country series is a favorite among traveling runners. Held each year on Mother’s Day weekend, the Santa Barbara event follows a scenic rolling course through the Santa Ynez Valley before finishing in the charming Danish town of Solvang, where post-race beer and wine tasting awaits. Looking to treat yourself (and Mom) to a weekend getaway of racing and riesling? In wine country, there’s plenty of pampering to go around!

Glacier Half Marathon logo on RaceRavesGlacier Half Marathon – Kiowa, MT
(Jun 16; half marathon)
The inaugural 2017 Glacier Half quickly established itself as one of the most rave-worthy events from the team at Vacation Races. With deference to its challenging course which features over 1,000 feet of climbing in the first five miles, enthusiastic finishers call this a “spectacular event” with “amazing views” of Glacier National Park that “are worth every step it takes to get up there.” And speaking of inaugural events: the newest member of the VR lineup, the Mount Rushmore Half Marathon, launches in September 2018.

Rock Tahoe Half Marathon logo on RaceRavesRock Tahoe Half Marathon – Stateline, NV
(Jun 16; half marathon)
Look up “blue” in the dictionary, and you may find a picture of Lake Tahoe in June. Soaring evergreens and sweeping vistas of the lake earn the Rock Tahoe Half high marks for its “breathtaking” views and “beautiful scenery.” Don’t be fooled by its net elevation loss, though — the course sits over a mile high and includes several “gnarly climbs” to test your legs. But with live music and a post-race pool party at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Rock Tahoe is your perfect summer getaway to “Run, Rock, and Recover.”

Mount Desert Island Marathon logo on RaceRavesMount Desert Island Marathon – Bar Harbor, ME
(Oct 14; marathon, marathon relay, half marathon)
Lying just off the southeast coast of Maine, Mount Desert Island (MDI) is home to what its finishers call “the most scenic marathon I have ever run” and “definitely one of my top five favorite races of all time (50+ marathons).” The rolling course offers spectacular coastal views while passing quaint New England villages. Humans aren’t MDI’s largest residents, though, as the island is also home to the black bears and moose of Acadia National Park. For a picturesque fall marathon or half, you won’t do better than Bah Hahbah.

Williams Route 66 Marathon logo on RaceRavesWilliams Route 66 Marathon – Tulsa, OK
(Nov 17–18; marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 5K, 1 miler)
Anyone who’s never used “fun” and “marathon” in the same sentence has never run Route 66. From the confetti cannon that starts you off “feeling like you can conquer the world” to the “continuous hills” and “amazing community support” that make you “feel like a rockstar when you cross the finish line,” Route 66 is “one of Oklahoma’s biggest block parties.” As a bonus, marathoners can take the Center of the Universe Detour to earn a unique inlaid coin and complete the World’s Shortest Ultramarathon. Runners, get your kicks at Route 66!

The North Face Endurance Challenge logo on RaceRavesThe North Face Endurance Challenge Championship – San Francisco, CA
(Nov 17–18; 50 miler, 50K, marathon, marathon relay, half marathon, 10K, 5K)
Whether you’re a first-time trail runner or a seasoned “dirtbag” who prefers your trails both technical and beautiful, The North Face Endurance Challenge has a distance for you. Starting in Crissy Field (5K, 10K, relay) or the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco (other distances), runners are treated to eye-popping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Pacific Ocean on one of the most scenic trail networks in the country. Throw in serious prize money for the winners, and TNFEC is a crown jewel of the trail-running circuit.

Our quick picks are only the beginning! Check out our smart race finder to search for events around the world by name, date range, distance, location, terrain & more. Then sign up for a free account to build your wish list and start coloring in your 50 States Map!

Find this article informative or entertaining? Please share it, and let others know RaceRaves is the premier online resource to DISCOVER, REVIEW & TRACK all their races and to CONNECT with other runners!

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Introducing your (smart) 50 States Map
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8 Trail Running Tips: How to get started
Best Bets for a Boston Qualifier (Oct-Mar)
Best Bets for a Boston Qualifier (Apr–Sept)
Toughest Road Marathons in North America
Unconventional Races that dare to be different
5 Half Marathon Series worth a full look

And for more helpful articles, check out our blog!

3 thoughts on “8 Quick Picks for 2018 Races

  1. I loved running the Glacier Half and was thrilled to see it made your list. Also, I’m running the Pig this year, their 20th anniversary, and will be earning that special finisher’s jacket. Your review makes me even more excited about it.

    1. COOL, awesome to hear you’ll be running the Pig, Lorelei! Can’t wait to hear how you like it, it’s high on our list as well. And your Glacier Half photo of the fuzzy four-legged pedestrian was one of our favorites of the year, talk about great marketing! 🙂

Your turn – what do you think?