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 >>
Mt. Washington Road Race (Pinkham Notch, NH)
Outside of New Hampshire, people don't often think of Mt. Washington with any sense of awe. It's 6,288 feet at the summit, not much compared to the 14,000-footers in California, Colorado, and Washington state – except that it's home to some of the most volatile weather on the planet. Until 2010, Mt. Washington had the highest wind speed measured on Earth at 231 mph.
Not a bad place for a jog. Each summer, runners line up at the base of the mountain for a 7.6-mile race up the Auto Road to the summit. The Auto Road averages a very steep 12 percent uphill grade. In 2012 the race doubled as the USA Track & Field Mountain Running Championships. The rest of the 1,200 competitors were selected by lottery. [Mid-June; mountwashingtonroadrace.com]
Credit: Gil Talbot / AP