17 ‘Off-Road’ Half Marathons That Get You Off the Pavement

Courtesy Towpath Marathon

1) Towpath Half Marathon

You’ll follow a winding route among the wooded trails of Ohio’s 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, along a crushed limestone trail that runs along the Ohio Canal Corridor, a 110-mile stretch of recreational paths for bikers, hikers and walkers.

October • Sagamore Hills, OH

2) Tryon Half Marathon

Run through the “friendliest town in the South” here in the mountains of western North Carolina, along a course made up of 25 percent paved roads and 75 percent packed dirt and gravel. Much of the course winds alongside the river, so you’ll get to see plenty of mountain streams and cross over the North Pacolet River.

November • Tryon, NC

3) Rockledge Rumble Trail Half Marathon

Run along the twisting, winding trails of Dallas’s Lake Grapevine, this race features a combination of different kinds of terrain, from soft dirt trails in the early miles to much rockier and more challenging ground in the later miles.

November • Grapevine, TX

4) Potomac River Run Half Marathon

This race — which bills itself as the “easiest marathon and half marathon in America” — takes place on the soft dirt path of the C&O Canal Towpath trail, which stretches all the way from the tidal basin in Washington, D.C. to the mountains of western Maryland.

October • Washington, DC

5) Autumn Georgetown Half Marathon

Also run on the C&O Canal towpath along the Potomac River, this pancake-flat race unfolds along dirt paths that are considered an excellent spot for the runner looking to set a personal record time.

October • Washington, DC

6) Area 13.1 Half Marathon

Nicknamed the “Alien Half” thanks to its nighttime running and the glow-in-the-dark gear many runners wear, this race unfolds almost entirely on the soft dirt paths of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, which run up and down the wide, rolling river for many miles through the city.

August • Roswell, GA

7) Chessie Trail Fall Half Marathon

You’ll run a mostly flat and fast trail shaded by ash, oak and beech trees turning every shade of yellow, orange and red this fall at this race, which follows a 7-mile-long dirt and gravel trail built on the old Chesapeake & Ohio railroad corridor.

October • Lexington, VA

8) Aspen Valley Half Marathon

More than 7,000 feet up in the Rockies, this race takes runners off the highways and onto a converted rail corridor trail with soft dirt and gravel surfaces, along gorgeous scenery thanks to the mountain peaks all around and the Roaring Fork River alongside the trail, and an almost all-downhill course.

July • Aspen, CO

9) Ice Age Trail Run Half Marathon

Named one of America’s most scenic races by Trail Runner magazine, this race takes runners on a tromping, hilly run through Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest, along a series of single- and double-track trails, along a combination of soft, grassy trails as well as twisting, hilly runs through the woods.

May • LaGrange, WI

10) Grasslands Trail Run Half Marathon

You’ll need to be ready for real trail running at this race through the 20,000-acre Caddo and Lyndon Johnson National Grasslands in the Texas backcountry – which means you’ll need to be ready to run across streams, through muddy bogs, as well as sand and underbrush.

March • Decatur, TX

11) Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon

Run the challenging hills and trails of a piece of Hollywood history at this race, which takes runners through a park in the middle of one of the nation’s largest urban areas, which has played a role in countless movies and television shows, from the 1955 James Dean classic Rebel Without a Cause to shows like 24.

October • Los Angeles, CA

12) Trail Loppet Half Marathon

Most of this race, which features both a 13.1-mile and 13.1-kilometer distance, takes runners on the dirt and grass trails inside Theodore Wirth Park, just west of downtown Minneapolis, featuring some challenging hills and forgiving surfaces.

September • Minneapolis, MN

13) Trail Trashed Half Marathon

Run through Henderson’s Hidden Falls Park, just a short drive from Las Vegas, at this early spring race that features plentiful views of the mountains and hills all around, the gorgeous rock formations that this region is known for, and lots of rocky, desert terrain.

March • Henderson, NV

14) American Heroes Run Half Marathon

Embracing their motto – “no politics, just patriotism” – this race celebrates the freedoms we enjoy and also serves as a remembrance of those who lost their lives in the attacks on New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.

September • Longmont, CO

15) Grand Island Trail Half Marathon

This summertime race takes runners through the heart of the forest on Michigan’s 13,500-acre Grand Island, which lies a half-mile ferry ride off the coast of nearby Munising and has been kept in its natural state to protect its forests, coastline and beaches.

July • Munising, MI

16) X-Country Half Marathon

You’ll run dirt trails through wide open meadows and wooded forests within Florida’s 6,200-acre Alafia River State Park at this autumn race, as well as over sweeping grass plains and plenty of hills.

November • Lithia, FL

17) Dale F. Kilwein Memorial Half Marathon

Runners get to enjoy a mowed grass surface for most of the route at this race on the last weekend in August, as they make their way along the 17-mile-long Crooked Crane Trail on the shore of Patterson Lake in western North Dakota.

August • Dickinson, ND

Races that take you off the roads but not necessarily onto trails -- soft, dirt paths in cities and far beyond.
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