Best Costume Run
Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon
Oct. 28, Voorheesville, New York
Given that this race is held a few days before Halloween, there's always a bit of trickery out on the wooded, 13.1-mile loop course that meanders through John Boyd Thacher State Park. Runners are encouraged to wear costumes, parts of the course are decorated in the spirit of Halloween, and, if that's not wacky enough, there is a special prize for the runner who carries the most bananas picked up on the course. (Taking the gorilla theme to the max, race directors actually leave bundles of bananas out on the course.)
Best Desert Race
Moab Trail Marathon
Nov. 3, Moab, Utah
Set amid the epic red rock backcountry terrain that has made Moab a famous mountain biking destination, this roller-coaster course starts and finishes along the slow-moving Colorado River. This year's race will double as the U.S. trail marathon championship.
Best Waterfall Run
Silver Falls Trail Half Marathon
Nov. 3, Silverton, Oregon
This undulating 13.1-mile loop course passes over several bridges and alongside 10 large waterfalls, the highlight of which is the section of trail that actually has runners pass under the spectacular 136-foot North Falls, as it meanders through the fir tree forests of9,000-acre Silver Falls State Park. Race organizers added an equally scenic (and more challenging) full marathon for 2012.
Best Island Run
Catalina Island Eco Marathon
Nov. 10, Catalina Island, California
This race sends runners on a hard-to-believe otherworldly journey through three different ecosystems via singletrack trails and soft dirt roads. What makes this island, and marathon, so unique is that it's one of the few places in the world where you can see buffalo, bald eagles, seals, and palm trees during a single run.
Best Race in Hawaii
XTERRA Kualoa Ranch Trail Runs
Dec. 2, Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii
As you run through the tropical rainforest on this 4,000-acre working cattle ranch once owned by King Kamehameha III, you might get the eerie feeling you're about to see a dinosaur emerge from the foliage or a war plane fly overhead. That's because you're racing through the terrain where parts of the popular television series Lost and Hollywood hits Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, and Windtalkers were filmed. The event includes 5K, 10K, and 21K races, the latter of which is the world championship of the 70-race XTERRA international race series.
Best Prize Purse
North Face Endurance Challenge
Dec. 1-2, Sausalito, California
This is the culminating event of a national series of trail festivals. Starting and ending in Sausalito and set in the rolling hills of the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco, the GORE-TEX 50-Mile Championship is one of the country's most competitive races, with many of the country's top trail runners vying for a piece of the $20,000 prize purse, one of the largest in the sport, with $10,000 each going to the men's and women's winners. But with a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon relay marathon, 50K, and 50-mile all on the same seaside trails, there are opportunities for trail runners of all abilities.
Best Trail Race in a National Park
Big Bend Ultra
Jan. 20, 2013, Rio Grande Village, Texas
There are only a handful of running races held in U.S. national parks and even fewer trail races. This event includes 10K, 25K and 50K distances on the gravel roads that cross the Chihuahuan Desert terrain of 800,000-acre Big Bend National Park, one of the largest, most remote, and least-visited national parks in the lower 48 states. In the 10K race, participants run within a stone's throw of the U.S.-Mexico border near the banks of the Rio Grande.
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