Go the Distance: The rolling, scenic Umstead 100-mile run near Raleigh, N.C., is the best beginner-friendly century run in the country.
It’s the season of bloom—and also a time when runners shed their winter skin and get ready to race. Toe the line at one of the South’s classic foot races. From fast road races to epic off-road ultras, the region has the perfect course for every distance.
Charlottesville Ten Miler
Charlottesville, Va. • March 16
A rite of passage in Charlottesville’s tight-knit running community, the scenic ten miler attracts a field of over 2,000 runners who enjoy the best of the historic town in Thomas Jefferson country. Racers take off from the grounds of the University of Virginia and wind through the campus towards downtown and back. Mid-March should deliver the perfect temps for finishing 10 miles, while taking in views of the surrounding Central Virginia Blue Ridge off in the distance.
Cooper River Bridge Run 10K
Charleston, S.C. • April 6
Spring will be singing as you run with the masses at this popular low country 10K. Growing into one of the region’s most popular road races since inception in 1978, the race features some of the best landscapes of the South Carolina coast as it moves from Mt. Pleasant across the Cooper River via the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge into historic downtown Charleston. In addition to the camaraderie of 40,000 runners, the race will get a sonic boost in 2013 with the addition of 20 bands from varying genres along the course.
River Bound Race Series
Swannanoa, N.C. • April 6
North Carolina Outward Bound hosts this fast-growing race series on the trails of Warren Wilson College. At the first race on April 6, choose between a 10K or 5K as you run through the scenic campus’s impressive network of trails that often parallels the Swannanoa River. Additional races take place on June 8 (15K/5K) and September 14 (half marathon and 5K). There is also an additional series on various trails around Charlotte with races in May, July, and September.
Umstead 100 Miler
Raleigh, N.C. • April 6
For the better part of two decades, Umstead has been helping ultra runners make the leap to the coveted century mark, and along the way prepared them for some of the epics with tougher topography. Runners are given a generous 30 hours to complete eight 12.5-mile laps on the loop course within Raleigh’s Umstead State Park. Set on a course of powdery granite screenings that’s gentle under the legs, runners follow a well-marked path with glow sticks for finding your way at night. There’s a total of 8,000 feet of elevation gain during the race, but with plenty of space between the hills, runners have ample time for recovery. A 50-mile option is also offered.
Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10K
Richmond, Va. • April 13
Shrouded in Virginia’s seasonal blooms, a huge field of 35,000 runs out and back around the median of Monument Avenue in Richmond’s Historic District. Along the way, the thick pack of runners gains the momentum of live bands and loud partying spectators, as they enjoy the comfort of the tree-lined streets that move past a series of statues commemorating legends of the Confederacy and legendary tennis champ Arthur Ashe (an area native). With a flat course and plenty of encouragement coming in every direction, this is a great race for runners just making the leap to 10K.
Scenic City Trail Marathon and Half-Marathon
Chattanooga, Tenn. • May 18
Trail running is serious business on the vast network of footpaths constantly being created in Chattanooga. Get a taste of the area’s choice singletrack at one of the largest trail marathons in the South. Choose between 26.2 and 13.1 miles as you huff it on the trails of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Raccoon Mountain, which features plenty of twists, turns, roots, and rocks, as well as expansive views you’d hope to find on the eastern side of good ole’ Rocky Top. When it comes to climbing, though, this one isn’t quite as steep as other races in the venerable Salomon Rock/Creek Trail Series, so road warriors looking to try trail should consider this a solid option.
Capitol Hill Classic 10K
Washington, D.C. • May 19
Seize the opportunity to march on Washington in a pair of short shorts. This classic 34-year-old event in the District is the only race run entirely though the historic corridor of Capitol Hill. Runners pass the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress before taking shelter from the sun under the tree canopies along East Capitol Street. Circle around RFK Stadium before heading back down East Capitol for the finish.