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Chilled Out Runs

Seashore Nature Trail

A runner sloshes through the course of the seashore nature trail 50K. 

Cooler temps and smaller crowds make late fall the best time of the year to run a race. Find your distance at one of these under-the-radar regional favorites.

Marshall University Marathon
Huntington, W.Va. • November 11

Approaching a decade in existence this fall, the Marshall University Marathon has become a PR chaser favorite for a fast and flat course in the floodplain along the Ohio River. With no crowds (fewer than 500 runners) to maneuver and crisp fall temperatures to enjoy, the race provides the perfect combination of elements for a fast finish. Plus, you’re given the glory opportunity to carry a football during the last 100 yards for a big finish at the goal line of the university stadium.

Backyard Burn Trail Run
Clifton, Va. • November 18

The fall portion of the Backyard Burn is a series of four trail running races in the Metro D.C. area. Using the best wooded sanctuaries surrounding the nation’s capital, each race in the series features both five- and 10-mile courses that wind through twisty singletrack, traverse grassy fields, and climb forested fire roads. Two races remain in the series this year: November 18 at Hemlock Overlook in Clifton, Va., and December 2 at Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station, Va.

Tryptophan Half Marathon
Cumming, Ga. • November 22

While thousands are strolling side by side at the Atlanta Half Marathon, you can earn your Thanksgiving Day dinner at this brand new alternative in the northern suburb of Cumming. This reasonably priced half will have runners hauling on an out-and-back course on the Peachtree Parkway from Ronald Reagan Boulevard to Johns Creek Parkway. A mellow elevation grade means you can post a fast time and make extra room for pumpkin pie.

Mason-Dixon Line 6-Mile Hill Challenge
Westminster, Md. • November 25

Burn off some of that turkey and stuffing and finish this fun race that rehashes the old Yankee-Dixie rivalry. Runners get to choose to represent the North or the South before running six miles along the country roads near a portion of the historic divide between Maryland and Pennsylvania. As the name suggests, the course has plenty of ups and downs, specifically three long challenging hills that are rewarded with three lengthy downhill stretches, as well as two half-mile flat stretches for kicking it into high gear.

Run at the Rock
Burlington, N.C. • December 1

With average highs around 55 degrees, it will be tough to find better running weather at this race in the Carolina Piedmont. Racers tackle one or two laps on this tough seven-mile loop course on the diverse terrain of the trails at Cedarock Park. Slog through wooded singletrack with a few hundred faithful for a hearty haul through rock gardens, mud patches, and plenty of short and stout rolling hills.

Road Warrior Half Marathon
Greenville, S.C. • December 1

Known for over four decades as the Paris Mountain Road Race, the longstanding 20K has been expanded by .67 miles and officially become the Road Warrior Half Marathon. While the name has changed, one thing has definitely stayed the same—the toughness of this serious slog in the South Carolina Upstate. The course starts at Furman University’s McAllister Auditorium before winding its way toward a grueling ascent of Paris Mountain via Altamont Road. Then it’s back down through a circuit of secluded wooded roads before returning to campus. There’s a reason this race has long been dubbed the “oldest and toughest 20K” in the South. A little extra distance should only make it tougher.

Pine Mountain Trail Run
Pine Mountain, Ga. • December 2

If you’re up for a long distance challenge, tighten your laces and head to FDR State Park for a 40-mile epic on the Pine Mountain Trail System. You’ll run a tough course on rocky, ankle-twisting singletrack that traverses both pine and hardwood forests. Along the way you’ll pass plenty of scenic rock outcroppings and waterfalls, and you may be required to get your feet wet during a few stream crossings, depending on water levels. This scenic terrain, 80 miles southeast of Atlanta, was a favorite spot for President Roosevelt to visit and think about world affairs. You’ll understand why when you get into a running rhythm and let your mind wander through the peaceful Georgia woods.

Seashore Nature Trail 50K
Virginia Beach, Va. • December 15

One of the fastest ultra courses in the country runs through the flat seaside woods of First Landing State Park. If you’re looking for an ultra PR, you’ll have relatively mild temps and few hills as you stroll on hard-packed dirt trails through marshy swampland and maritime forest on the coast of Virginia. Last year the race yielded the 15th fastest female 50K time in the country. The field is intentionally kept on the small side, so register in advance as the past two years have sold out.

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