We’ll admit it: Sometimes it’s worth lacing up for a race with no time goals, no fancy gear, and no anxiety. If you’re new to the fun-run game, summer’s the perfect time for your first. These spirited, festive options are a great alternative to Sunday Runday, a different type of family outing, or just a forced exercise in learning how to conquer race-day nerves.
Portland, Oregon; June 2
It’s like Mardi Gras but for runners. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Portland’s largest fun run. The party kicks off at 7:45 p.m., meaning glow sticks and neon body paint will light the way through your downtown course. Expect to see plenty of participants dressed in costume, all putting on a show for the more than 250,000 spectators who come out to cheer as part of the annual Rose Festival.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin; June 10
Why wait for the post-race beer when you could just have it during? It’s only 1.8 miles long, but this organized beer run certainly won’t be where you set a PR. You have four mandatory brewery stops, where you’ll try one of Milwaukee’s finest. We recommend training your stomach for this one.
Newton, Kansas; June 16
Forget gels and chews for a quick hit of energy. During this 5K, you have to eat three cookies at every aid station before continuing on to the next. While your belly may not thank you, your taste buds certainly will.
Anchorage, Alaska; June 23
Alaska gets approximately 20 hours of sunlight every day around the summer solstice. Most runners arrive near dinnertime to watch the costume parade before toeing the line for a 10 p.m. start. You’ll watch the sun set around 11:40 p.m. and, if you’re lucky, catch the northern lights while you run. The event offers the marathon distance, plus a half marathon and 5K option.
Indianapolis,Indiana; June 30
After clocking your 5K or 10K race, you’ll receive your normal finisher’s medal—plus a spoon. Head over to the free froyo and toppings bar to channel your inner child as you create the ultimate sundae.
Vancouver, Washington; July 7
If you really can’t bring yourself to pay race fees on a shorter distance, then this half marathon is a good compromise. It starts at 6 p.m., so you’ll cross the finish under the stars. And with a 5K and 10K option on the same night, you can even bring friends to the party who aren’t as stoked on going long.
Roswell, New Mexico; July 7
If you’ve ever wondered if there’s life in outer space, add this race to your summer calendar. Part of the paranormal town’s annual UFO festival, the Alien Chase gives you a firsthand look at some of the the country’s most alien-friendly terrain.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; July 20
Although this one-mile road race attracts an elite field, it also includes different waves, so that there’s a spot for everyone. Heats include a kids-only option, a dog race, and a masters class, meaning the whole family can compete.
Oregon City, Oregon; August 5
Drawing inspiration from the 1980s computer game, this eventrequires runners to do much more than just make it from the start to the finish. Throughout the 5K course, you’ll be forced to decide how to get to the next station—like floating or fording across a river. Those calls will ultimately determine how quickly you make it to the end.
Memphis, Tennessee; August 11
Start and finish your run at Graceland, the former home of the King of Rock and Roll. The course winds through Presley’s estate, with each block flanked with Elvis and Priscilla impersonators. At the end, you’ll be treated to an Elvis-themed party that includes food, drink, dancing, and, of course, his music.