There's something soulful, primal, and downright animal-like about running alone in the woods or on a marathon course with thousands of other racers. It sure as hell beats running on the treadmill. So we considered a large number of America's foot races – trail runs, marathons, ultras, obstacle courses, local races – and picked the best 15. What makes these the best? In each case it's different. They range from the most prestigious (Boston) to the most difficult (Badwater) to the most-likely-to-include-nude-runners (Bay to Breakers), and everything in between. Whether you're an accomplished ultrarunner or simply training for your first marathon, this list has something for everyone who thinks running is more than just exercise. Launch Gallery >>
McKenzie River Trail Run (Eugene, OR)
As ultra-distance runs go, the McKenzie River Trail Run is less masochistic and punishing than other races. (Those who've been to nearby Eugene might have guessed that.) What it is instead is a 31- or 50-mile race along the Willamette National Forests' McKenzie River Trail, a single-track path through the old-growth forests, next to waterfalls, and over rough patches of lava rock – making for a course that's as beautiful as it is technical.
If you're staying in Eugene, get your morning coffee the next day at The Last Stand Coffee Co on Blair Boulevard. The owner's as committed to coffee as you are to running: He serves hard-to-find Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, cooked right there in the shop in a custom hand-crank roaster.
More Information: Anyone can register for the run through Ultra Signup, but there's a cap at 100 runners for each race distance. [Early September; mrtr.org]
Credit: Micael Lebowitz / Long Run Picture Co.