When you visit a city for the first time, it can be hard to know where to start to get a sense of the local flavor. Do you check out bars and restaurants? Museums and parks? Take a guided tour?
Here’s a suggestion: Join in the festivities during the town’s annual running or walking race. Not only will you see different parts of the city, geographically speaking, but you’ll also get a sense of the people who live there and what they care about.
Whether you’re a hard-core endurance athlete, a casual jogger or an enthusiastic spectator, running races can serve as a window into a city’s personality. For inspiration, here are 10 cities around the country that host unique races you won’t find anywhere else.
1. The Dipsea Race — Mill Valley, Calif.
Held every June in Northern California, the Dipsea Race has been going strong since 1905. The race starts in downtown Mill Valley and winds 7.5 miles over steep hills and several flights of stairs. The 1,500 participants jog through Mount Tamalpais State Park, Muir Woods and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area before finishing at Stinson Beach.
Aside from the often-treacherous terrain and stunning views, the race is known for its camaraderie — runners frequently help each other get up off the ground when they fall along the route, says Dave Albee, a member of the race committee.
“The bulk of the entrants are from Mill Valley,” Albee says. “It is a very much a family-oriented race as it connects and touches multiple generations of families who, by tradition, have competed in the race.”
2. The Bolder Boulder — Boulder, Colo.
Held on Memorial Day, the annual Bolder Boulder 10K blends wacky race-day traditions with the solemnity of honoring those who died serving our country. This race has been a tradition in Boulder, Colo., since 1979 and gives the