8 Extremely High-Elevation Half Marathons

© Uptall | Dreamstime.com

© Uptall | Dreamstime.com

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” — John Muir

We go to the mountains for this pick of races, put together by our Carissa Liebowitz. My favorite is Colorado’s Pikes Peak Ascent, where you climb to a jaw-dropping 14,115 feet — nearly half the height of Mount Everest — by the time you reach the finish line.

1) Rocky Mountain Half Marathon • Estes Park, CO

You’ll hit 7,934 feet above sea level at this Colorado race, which runs just outside the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Runners start and finish along the shore of Lake Estes, and travel paved paths and scenic roads throughout. Thankfully, the climbs are considered only moderately difficult for this region of the country.

Early August • Complete race info >>

2) Flagstaff Half Marathon • Flagstaff, AZ

Located along the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, Flagstaff is home to this lung-burning race that tops out at 8,659 feet, run on single-track trails and dirt roads through the Coconino National Forest. Challenging yet well-marked and well-supported, it’s a race to remember.

Late September • Complete race info >>

3) Madison Half Marathon • Ennis, MT

Billed by organizers as America’s highest road marathon, this point-to-point race begins near Black Butte Mountain and finishes up at Clover Meadows, climbing to 9,587 feet in the process. You’ll run entirely on gravel and dirt roads, and get to soak in once-in-a-lifetime views of Montana’s Gravelly Range.

Late July • Complete race info >>

4) Red River High Mountain Half Marathon • Red River, NM

A challenging and scenic race that climbs some 700 feet between the start and the finish line here in this southwestern mountain resort town, this race reaches 9,450 feet at its highest point. Along the way, you’ll run alongside the Valley of the Pines as well as Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico.

Mid May • Complete race info >>

Our Melissa Mincic and a pair of runner friends, just after finishing the Pikes Peak Ascent in 2014.

Our Melissa Mincic and a pair of runner friends, just after finishing the Pikes Peak Ascent in 2014.

5) Pikes Peak Ascent • Pikes Peak, CO

Climbing mountains during a race is not for the faint of heart. Runners need to be well-prepared for this beast of a race, which starts at 6,300 feet and takes you climbing for the next 13.32 miles to reach the apex of Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet. Most runners find it takes them about as long as a 26.2-miler — plus another half hour.

Mid August • Complete race info >>

6) Rocky Mountain High-est Leadville Half • Leadville, CO

“You’ve heard the stories, seen the movies and know the reputation.” That’s how the organizers tout this insanely high-elevation race, which reaches 10,152 feet at its highest point. Leadville is known in the running community for its legendary 100-miler, and this event offers a taste of what that race entails here in the Sawatch mountain range.

Early September • Complete race info >>

7) Slacker Half Marathon • Georgetown, CO

The hardest part of this Colorado race is getting to the starting line. From there, everything else is literally downhill. Runners begin at 10,660 feet in the Loveland Ski Area and travel 13.1 miles all the way to downtown Georgetown at 8,525 feet. You’ll cruise past wetlands, waterfalls and amazing views of the Continental Divide.

Late June • Complete race info >>

8) Jackson Hole Half Marathon • Jackson, WY

You’ll start at 6,300 feet and gain only about 228 feet during the Jackson Hole Half Marathon, which follows a point-to-point course that starts just outside downtown Jackson and finishes in Grand Teton Village. There, you’ll get to see breathtaking views of the snow-capped peaks of nearby Grand Teton National Park.

Early September • Complete race info >>

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