Photo by Molly Ressler
Whether you’ve been training for months, are a casual weekend jogger, or like to wear a brightly colored tutu with your Nike’s, there’s a race with your name on it in Santa Cruz County. Prefer running as a spectator sport? We’re known for hosting races that are highly entertaining from the sidelines. Starting in February, there’s a race (or two or three) nearly every month through December and each one features Instagram-worthy scenery every sweaty step of the way.
We’ve put together a guide to some of the most unique and fun races across the county with landscapes so beautiful you’ll have to pause and catch your breath. These races also have a celebratory festival (or at least a medal and a hearty high-five) once you cross the finish line.
Photo by @runsurferpath
Surfer’s Path 10K/5K, Feb 24 and Surfer’s Path Marathon, May 19
Named for its endless views of some of the world’s most famous surf breaks, the Surfer’s Path promises ocean views and fresh sea air for nearly the entire race. Get a taste of the race with the 5K or 10K in February and then commit to the full or half marathon in May. The full course starts at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and takes you along East Cliff where world-class surfers dominate the lineup. Pay your respects to the late Jack O’Neill as you pass by his Pleasure Point home built into the cliffs directly above the surf. Then jog down into the charming streets of Capitola Village and take in the colorful Mediterranean resort town before looping back along the coast towards the Boardwalk and West Cliff Drive. The race continues past Natural Bridges State Beach, through Wilder Ranch State Park, and ends at Cowell’s Beach below the Dream Inn.
Photo by @rideepiccenter
She Is Beautiful: The Pinkest 10K and 5K, March 23
Ladies, this one’s for you. With a mission to empower women and girls through movement and community, the She Is Beautiful race will push you to achieve your personal best. Stretching along West Cliff Drive with expansive views of the coastline, the race finishes with a festival at Lighthouse Point. Enjoy a hard-earned meal from one of several food trucks, stretch out your hamstrings with ocean-view yoga, and capture your runner’s high on camera at one of the photo booths. Did we mention pink attire is encouraged? (This is one race where you can pull out that tutu …)
Photo by Sara Kurth
Berry Creek Falls Trail Run, June 1
Looking to get off the pavement and into the forest? The Berry Creek Falls trail run takes you through redwood canyons and along burbling creeks to a stunning 65-foot waterfall all within Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Listen to the soft crunch of redwood duff beneath your feet as you pass beneath the soaring canopy of towering ancients on a 10K, 15K, or 25K nature excursion. Don’t forget to BYOB to this event. The state park is trying to reduce waste by asking runners to bring their own water bottle or cup.
Photo by @christina_betty
San Lorenzo River Trail Run, June 22
For the adventurous looking to add the extra element of mother nature to their race, the San Lorenzo River trail run is part marathon, part outdoor obstacle course. Besides dodging the expected tree roots, this course has multiple river crossings. Prepare to get your feet wet or your entire lower half depending on water levels. You’ll be sweating so much in this race though those river crossings will be a welcome cool-off. When you’re not fording the San Lorenzo, enjoy dirt trails winding beneath coastal redwoods, through open meadows and along chaparral covered ridges.
Photo by @jakeschmitt
Wharf to Wharf, July 28
A rite of passage for both dedicated foot racers and casual weekend joggers, the six-mile Wharf to Wharf attracts thousands of runners and nearly as many spectators. Elite international athletes race side by side (at least for the first few steps) with groups of race-rookies donning flamboyant tutus and themed costumes from Disney characters to jellyfish. By far the most popular race in Santa Cruz County, the entire community comes out to cheer on the runners and enjoy the countless bands, singers, drummers, and dancers that line the scenic route. Known as the best little road race in California, the Wharf to Wharf usually sells out months in advance. Fortunately, even if you miss your chance to race, there’s plenty of action happening along the sidelines.
Photo by @eat_lift_bemarried
Other Upcoming Races:
Santa Cruz Half Marathon, March 3
Mother’s Day Run, May 12
Dip & Dash Swim-Run and Team Challenge, June 30
Santa Cruz Firecracker 10K, July 4
Tri Santa Cruz, August 11
Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz, September 8
Superkid Triathlon, September 15
Santa Cruz Triathlon, September 22