The only thing better than running a race is running one on the Fourth of July. It seems many Americans agree: According to Running USA, July 4 is now the second most popular holiday among runners, ranking behind only Thanksgiving. In fact, 329,620 runners finished a race on our nation’s birthday in 2016—an all-time record! If you think about it, racing on this day makes perfect sense. In many ways, running a race is the ultimate celebration of the American Dream: You give it everything you’ve got till you cross the finish line, relying on yourself and your inner strength every step of the way. How better to celebrate the sport that makes you feel as free and alive as the country you live in?
Test yourself in the heat while having fun
Depending on where you live, summer running can be pretty miserable thanks to the oppressive heat and humidity. It’s also great training for fall races. Fourth of July races give you a chance to push yourself in the heat in a safe, supported environment after you’ve had a month or more of warm weather to acclimate. Think of it as a patriotic speed workout with a medal and watermelon at the end!
Bust out your patriotic best
Everyone loves a theme, and what better theme exists than freedom? Think of a Fourth of July race as your chance to go absolutely nuts with all the red, white and blue apparel you can get your hands on. Don’t think you have to stop at just your clothes either. Many running companies are starting to make special-edition patriotic shoes. If that’s not enough, get your whole family in on the act. “I love to sport my American flag running gear,” says Jacksonville marathoner and mom of two Kate Brunson. “I’ll be celebrating the Fourth of July at the Celebration 5K with my flag shirt and red, white and blue decorated double jogging stroller. My boys will be waving little flags!” Talk about the ultimate finish line photo!
Celebrate with a free festival
At Fourth of July races, the party doesn’t necessarily stop just because the race has ended! Some races, like the Keep Raleigh Independent 4-Miler, offer free admission to a Fourth of July festival after the race, while others, like the Red, White, and Boom Half Marathon in Minneapolis, feature free hot dogs and ice cream at the finish line. A Fourth of July race can quickly turn into an all-day party and fun for the whole family. Those fireworks are just for you!
Get active before the celebrations begin
One of the reasons so many people love to run on Thanksgiving morning is because they know they’ll indulge in all the delicious food later in the day, and racing gives you a pass to do just that. Fourth of July is no different! With hamburgers, hot dogs, apple pie and plenty of adult beverages likely to be passed around throughout the day, an active start is ideal to get your metabolism going. Plus, participating in a race gives you the chance to celebrate the day with your running friends before enjoying time with your family.
For runners who may not have the holiday off, including medical professionals, an early morning race is a mini-celebration. “I work in the ER around the holiday, so running a race on the Fourth gives me a way to still enjoy something for myself while I’m working and everyone else is not!” says Raleigh runner Sallie Elliott.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the running community come together to celebrate the things that make our country great, especially in a time when so many of us are often divided by politics. Don’t miss your opportunity to celebrate your American pride this year! Dig out all the red, white and blue running gear you can find and check out Running in the USA for a full list of events in your area.