Almost all road races give runners a chance to do something that is otherwise difficult—running on traffic-free streets. But some races go a bit further, letting runners take advantage of bridges, roads, stadiums, racetracks and grounds that are typically off-limits the rest of the year. Here are 10 unique races with brag-worthy elements that are sure to produce a one-of-a-kind experience you won’t soon forget.
Navy Bay Bridge Run
May 21, San Diego, Calf.
Support the Navy’s Moral Welfare and Recreation programs with this annual 4-mile run in San Diego. The race takes runners from downtown to Tidelands Park via the Coronado Bay Bridge. You will enjoy incredible views of the San Diego Bay from the 2.1-mile long bridge that rises to 200 feet above the water.
Bryce Canyon Half Marathon
July 8, Bryce, Utah
You will find amazing places to run in National Parks across the country, but very few races are permitted inside. The Bryce Canyon Half Marathon is one of the most unique. The 6 a.m. start allows runners to see the sunrise (and, of course, avoid the heat) before tackling the point-to-point course that starts at 7,652 feet before descending into the canyon. The mostly downhill course features some impressive views of Bryce Canyon’s signature sandstone pinnacles and spires.
Photo: Scott Morris
Volcano Rain Forest Runs
Aug. 19, Big Island, Hawaii
This event, which includes a half marathon, 10K and 5K, offers runners a chance to run on an active volcano—although don’t worry, you won’t be near the eruption zone. Located just outside Volcanoes National Park, the race features a run up the 4,000-foot tall Kilauea volcano, one of the most active in the world.
Detroit Free Press Marathon
Oct. 15, Detroit, Mich.
It may be the Detroit Marathon, but the race is best known for the unique course that has runners leave the city for a quick jaunt to Canada and back. At just past the three-mile mark, runners take the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River into Windsor, Canada. After about three miles up north, racers return to the U.S. side of the river via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Going through customs has never been so easy.
Niagara Falls Marathon
Oct. 15, Buffalo, N.Y.
Here’s another chance to cross international borders during a race. This point-to-point course starts in Buffalo, N.Y., where runners will cross over the Peace Bridge to complete the rest of the route in Canada, before finishing in front of Niagara Falls.
Photo: Joy Asumen
Across The Bay 10K
Nov. 5, Stevensville, Md.
This point-to-point 10K run in Maryland takes place largely on the impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Runners start on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay before crossing the bridge, which spans 4.35 miles over the bay and reaches a height of 186 feet.
Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas
Nov. 12, Las Vegas, Nev.
The famous Las Vegas Strip doesn’t shut down for anyone—except for runners at this annual nighttime marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K. The races, which both start and finish on the famous street housing the glittering hotels and casinos, has become known for its party atmosphere and post-race headliner concert.
March 18, 2018, Asheville, N.C.
This 6th annual event takes place entirely on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, the largest privately owned home in the United States. Built by George Vanderbilt in 1895, the Chateau-style home is the closest thing we have to a castle in this country. The property is filled with hardwood forests and manicured gardens. The marathon offers runners a look at what it was like to live at the top in the Gilded Age.
7 Mile Bridge Run
April 14, 2018, Marathon, Fla.
This race in the Florida Keys takes place entirely over water, as runners traverse the famous 7-Mile Bridge that connects the city of Marathon, Fla., to Little Duck Key. Technically, the race is only 6.8 miles long, and you only have 90 minutes to finish. Organized by the Marathon Runner’s Club to celebrate the opening of the bridge in 1982, the race is capped at 1,500 runners each year.
Photo: 7 Mile Bridge Run
One American Mini Marathon
May 5, 2018, Indianapolis, Ind.
Traditionally the largest half marathon in the United States, the One America Mini Marathon draws 35,000 runners. While you’ll get a nice tour of downtown Indy, the race is known for running a lap on the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You don’t have to be a racing fan to get a kick out of running on the racetrack that hosts the Indianapolis 500 later in the month.