The next few months are packed with Florida's best races — just in time for cooler weather. Whether you stay close to home or head farther afield, there's something for just about every race aficionado.
Looking to jump-start a workout regimen, get exercise or simply socialize? Events such as the Komen Florida Suncoast Race for the Cure and the Women's Half Marathon combine both fun and run. And though they're female-centric, you'll see lots of men along the course, joining in or just cheering along the runners.
For the toughest athletes, there are the merciless Spartan Challenge and the down and dirty MudBash. For families, the Times Turkey Trot and the whimsical Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend offer all-ages challenges. And for the regular athlete just looking to work out while having fun, the Dirthead Trail-Triathlon and Duathlon or Beach Palooza could be the ticket.
Whether you're a world-class runner or making your race debut, you'll need preparation to conquer these races, so pull out your calendar and make a plan. You'll find lots of help from local running clubs, or from online gurus.
Here's a look at leading races on the calendar so you can start training. We've included a few events taking place today for you early risers; even if you can't make the starting time, you can cheer on the competitors.
Note that most races offer discounts to early registrants, another reason to commit sooner rather than later. And many events are also important fundraisers for many worthy causes. If you collect donations from family and friends for your race's charity, your training commitment will be even stronger.
Times staff writer Kelly Stefani contributed to this report.
One Step Closer to the Cure: All proceeds from this 5K, 1-mile run and walk go to the Celma Mastry Ovarian Cancer Foundation. 7:30 a.m., Albert Whitted Park, 107 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. www.ovariancancerfoundation.org/onestep
Walk to End Alzheimer's: St. Petersburg: Participants walk up to 3 miles, starting at 9 a.m. at The Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 578-2558.
Moving Towards A Cure: Benefit combines cycling (25K, 50K and 100K) with run/walks (5K or one-mile). Choose your event(s). Registration at 6 a.m. Proceeds benefit Miles For Hope to fight brain tumors. Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. (727) 781-4673. www.MilesForHope.org
Komen Florida Suncoast Race for the Cure: More than 10,000 runners and walkers, including hundreds of teams, are expected to join in this breast cancer fundraising extravaganza at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg. It will benefit breast cancer research, with 75 percent of the money raised staying in the Tampa Bay area. Look for the runners in special pink shirts. Those are the breast cancer survivors running for a cure. Register online through midnight Wednesday. Event starts 6 a.m., Vinoy Park, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. $10-$40. Toll-free 1-877-506-6927. www.komensuncoast.org
Spartan Challenge: Think you're tough? Then check out the University of Tampa's Spartan Challenge — running through tires, jumping over bales of hay, crawling under a cargo net and more on a 5K race across UT's historic campus. All proceeds benefit UT Cross Country Scholarships. 8 a.m., University of Tampa Pepin Stadium, 401 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. $20 until Sept. 30, $25 until Oct. 13, $30 race day registration on Oct. 15, $5 discount for students, ROTC, active duty military, UT alumni, faculty and staff. Go to www.ut.edu/spartan5K for information.
SPCA Tampa Bay 3K Pet Walk: Bring your four-legged friends along for a walk through downtown St. Petersburg. The 21st annual fundraiser also features an adoptable pet parade, agility course, dressed pet competition, food and more. 9 a.m., South Straub Park, downtown St. Petersburg. $25. Register at www.3KPetWalk.org.
The Highlander: Wear your kilts and Viking horns to this outrageous race with two course lengths of 3 and 6 miles of grass, dirt, mud, water, a water slide and other natural and manmade obstacles. Best costume wins a Highlander battle-axe. Non-racers can watch their friends from the hilltop spectators platform. 7 a.m., The Highlander Course, 4500 Cox Road, Bartow. $65-$75. (407) 467-4397. Go to www.RockOnAdventures.com for information.
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer: Breast cancer walk to celebrate survivors, express hope and raise funds for breast cancer research. Register online. 9 a.m., St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $35-$150. (813) 254-3630. makingstrides.acsevents.org.
Dirthead Trail-Triathlon and Duathlon: The Dirthead is an off-road triathlon and duathlon that takes place at Croom in the Withlacoochee Forest in Hernando County. The running and mountain biking are mainly on the single-track trails. The paddling takes competitors to the Withlacoochee River. Triathletes must provide their own boats. A limited number of kayaks/canoes are available for rental. 8 a.m., Croom Trails, 26416 Croom Road, Brooksville. $40-$85. (813) 232-5200. www.thedirthead.com
Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure: This 60-mile, three-day walk raises funds and awareness to fight breast cancer. Participants raise a minimum of $2,300. Register online. See website for details. 7:30 a.m., Sand Key Park, 1060 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater. $90. Toll-free 1-800-996-3329. www.the3day.org
Gobble Wobble Run and Stroller Stride: 5K, 1-mile family fun run and social stroller stride. The 5K and 1-mile course includes a 70-foot inflatable athletic obstacle challenge. The 5K is at 8 a.m., the family run begins at 9 a.m. and the stroller stride begins at 9:05 a.m. Register online. 7 a.m., Lakeshore Ranch, 29730 Sundance Blvd., Land O'Lakes. $20-$25. (813) 833-7518. www.active.com.
Hustle in the Harbor 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run: The 5K course takes you on a scenic journey through the woods of Palm Harbor University High School. All proceeds benefit five community organizations. 7:45 a.m., Palm Harbor Community Activity Center, 1500 16th St., Palm Harbor. $10-$25. (727) 771-6000. www.hustleintheharbor.com
The Great West Chase: Organized by the World of Westchase to benefit Just Elementary School. Register online. 8 a.m., West Park Village, 10116 Montague St., Tampa. $10-$30. www.westchasewow.com/thegreatwestchase
Florida Halloween Halfathon and 5K Race: Both races start with a 5K loop, then the halfathoners continue on a 10-mile out-and-back tour of Fort De Soto Park. There are awards for best costumes and a post-race party. 5:30 a.m., Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde. $50-$80 advance, $80 day of (halfathon); $20-$30 online, $35 day of (5K). (727) 347-4440. www.floridahalloweenhalfathon.com
Purple Stride: A 5K run along the downtown waterfront area with a 1-mile family walk and a kids dash. There will also be music, kids games, and entertainment. Benefits the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. 6:30 a.m., Albert Whitted Park, 107 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. $25, $10 kids dash, $25 virtual participant, survivors free. Toll-free 1-877-272-6226.
MudBash: Conquer the 3-mile obstacle course and celebrate with live music, food and beer. Racers must be at least 14. Proceeds benefit the Save the Ta Tas Foundation for breast cancer research. 9 a.m., MudBash Race Field, 15212 State Road 52, Land O'Lakes. $54-$79. (772) 260-6080. www.championsmudbash.com
Beach Palooza: Suit up in your best beach bum attire for this 5K run with beach-themed obstacles — including running in the sand. Leashed dogs welcome. Stick around for the Coast Roast with a bonfire and sand dance. Participants must be 14 or older. 11 a.m., St. Pete Beach Access, 4700 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach. $45-$55. (312) 980-9983. www.BeachPalooza.com
Raccoon Run: This 5K run and 1-mile run/walk takes place at the 245-acre Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, part of the annual Art Arbor Festival, a fundraiser for the Friends of Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Register online. 9 a.m., Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, 1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg. $15 5K, $12 1-mile. (727) 893-7326. www.active.com.
Women Helping Others Succeed 5K Race: Run along Tampa's scenic Bayshore Boulevard with a turnaround at Bay to Bay Boulevard and return to Hyde Park Village for a party. Register online. 7:30 p.m., Old Hyde Park Village, 1622 W Snow Ave., Tampa. $25-$30. (813) 784-2266. www.active.com.
5150 Triathlon: Clearwater is hosting the series finale for this new 5150 race series projected to bring up to 2,000 athletes to the area. The largest international distance triathlon series in the world, it offers a competitive platform for professional and amateur athletes alike, competing for $1 million in prize money. The race consists of a 1.5K swim, 40K bike and 10K run. 6:45 a.m., Pier 60, 10 Pier 60 Drive, Clearwater Beach. $150, $175 until Oct. 31 (individual); $200 relay. (727) 462-6466. 5150clearwater.com.
Walk to Cure Psoriasis. 1K and 5K courses along Tampa's scenic Bayshore Boulevard. Registration is free; fundraising goals for individuals and teams suggested on website. 8 a.m. at Fred Ball Park, 2621 Bayshore Blvd. Toll-free 1-877-825-9255. walk.psoriasis.org (click Tampa).
GoRuck Challenge: Inspired by the elite training of Special Forces soldiers and led by Green Berets, the GoRuck Challenge is a team event. Participants carry rucksacks weighted down with bricks. The challenge is billed as an eight- to 10-hour, 15- to 20-mile guided tour of the city, but the route and distance are unknown to participants. Headlamps are required. Exact start point announced the week of the event. Proceeds benefits the Green Beret Foundation. Two races — one starting at 1 a.m., the other at 10 p.m., in the area of Yuengling Brewing Company, 11111 N 30th St., Tampa. $140 (through today); $160 (Sunday to race date). (202) 683-9902. goruckchallenge.com/events/tampa.
Women's Half Marathon: This is the third year for this 13.1-mile race (and there's also a 5K), which drew 6,500 runners and walkers last year to the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Register online. 7 a.m., Albert Whitted Park, 107 Eighth Ave. SE, St. Petersburg. $100. (727) 502-9202, ext. 300. www.womenshalfmarathon.com/stpetersburg.
X-Country Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K: Features rolling hills with sweeping views and wide grassy/dirt paths that are easy on the body. Register online. 7:30 a.m., Alafia River State Park, 14502 C.R. 39 S, Lithia. $27-$60. (813) 232-5200. www.tamparaces.com/X-Country/index.htm.
Times Turkey Trot, Wingding, Fun Run and Gobbler: Make room for the big feast. Most races begin at Keene Road just south of Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. and end in Jack White Stadium at Clearwater High School. 7 a.m., Wingding 5K; 7:30 a.m., Fun Run 5K; 8:30 a.m., Gobbler 1-mile; and 8:45 a.m., Turkey Trot 10K. Proceeds donated to local charities. Canned goods and nonperishable food items collected for Religious Community Services. 540 S Hercules Ave., Clearwater. $12-$20. (727) 562-4700. www.tampabay.com/turkeytrot.
Red Ribbon Run: Held on World AIDS Day. 3k fun run/1-mile walk/virtual run. Register online. 5 p.m., Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. Team of four: $100 ($125 after Nov. 1) Individuals: $25 ($30 after Nov. 1) Students with Student ID: $10 ($15 after Nov. 1). (813) 935-8552. www.tampabayredribbonrun.org.
Tough Mudder: The website warns this race "is 3-4 times longer and much tougher than a typical mud run." Features 10 to 12 miles of obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces. 9 a.m., Little Everglades Ranch, 17951 Hamilton Road, Dade City. $110-$180 (racers); $15-$40 (spectators). (917) 338-2135. toughmudder.com/events/florida.
Moving Towards a Cure 5K Run/Walk: Proceeds will fund brain tumor research and provide travel assistance to brain cancer patients. Post-event celebration. 9 a.m.-noon, Al Lopez Park, 4810 N Himes Ave., Tampa. $20-$25. (727) 781-4673. www.braintumorevents.org/tampa2011.
Florida Holiday Halfathon: Dress like Santa or an elf for a festive run through residential areas, along the Pinellas Trail and through shaded public parks. Ends at Taylor Park in Largo. Report at 5:30 a.m. to the starting point at, 150th Avenue and Gulf Boulevard, Madeira Beach. $50-$80. (727) 347-4440. www.floridaholidayhalfathon.com
Boley Centers' Annual Jingle Bell Run: Walkers and runners don bells and neon necklaces for 3-mile and 1-mile routes along St. Petersburg's downtown waterfront. Luminaria light the way and musicians play holiday tunes. 5:30 p.m., The Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 821-4819.
Jan. 5-8, 2012
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: Features a health and fitness expo and races including a marathon taking runners through all four theme parks. New this year: Marathon Relay. Register online. Walt Disney World, 1515 N Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. $10-$350. (407) 938-3398. espnwwos.disney.go.com/events/rundisney/wdw-marathon
Jan. 22, 2012
Clearwater Halfathon, 5-Miler and 5K Fitness Walk: Athletes of all abilities get the challenge of multiple bridge ascents, rewarded by spectacular views of Clearwater Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico. 5:30 a.m., Coachman Park, 301 Drew St., Clearwater. $50-$80 advance, $80 day of (halfathon); $25-$30 advance, $35 day of (5-miler or 5K). (727) 347-4440. www.clearwaterrunning.com
Feb. 12, 2012
Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon: This is St. Petersburg's first installment of this popular national series. Live, local bands and cheerleaders motivate runners along the 13.1-mile course. Register online. Tropicana Field, 1 Stadium Drive, St. Petersburg. $80-$125. (858) 450-6510. www.runrocknroll.competitor.com/st-petersburg
Feb. 18, 2012
I Will Inspire 5K and 1-Mile Fun Run: Athletes of all abilities and experiences, from first-time runners to recovering veterans are invited. Register online. 8 a.m., Florida Orthopedic Institute, 13294 Telecom Park Drive, Temple Terrace. $10-$25. www.active.com.
March 3-4, 2012
Gasparilla Distance Classic: One of Tampa's best-known road races regularly attracts elite runners and first-timers alike. The chief attraction is the 15K on Saturday, which takes runners along an out-and-back course from downtown Tampa, out just across Gandy Boulevard and back again alongside the mansions and water views of Bayshore Boulevard. The half-marathon is held on Sunday. Check website for specific start times. 7 a.m., Downtown Tampa, Intersection of Twiggs and Tampa streets, Tampa. $25-$60, depending on race. www.tampabayrun.com/
March 18, 2012
Florida Beach Halfathon and 5K: Both races start with a 5K loop, then halfathoners continue on the 10-mile out-and-back tour of Fort De Soto Park. Post-race party. 6 a.m., Fort De Soto Park, 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde. $50-$80 advance, $80 day of (halfathon); $25-$30 advance, $35 day of (5K). (727) 347-4440. www.floridabeachhalfathon.com
March 24, 2012
Fight For Air Climb: This American Lung Association fundraiser has racers climb from the basement to the 42nd floor of Tampa's tallest building. Each participant raises a minimum of $100. The bank building will be open for training for registered participants. 7 a.m., Bank of America Plaza (Tampa), 101 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. $15-$35. (727) 347-6133 . www.lungusa.org/pledge-events/fl/tampa-climb-fy12
April 29, 2012
St. Anthony's Triathlon: World-class athletes and Olympians annually participate in this 5150 Triathlon Series race, marking its 30th year on St. Petersburg's waterfront. Festivities include a sports and fitness expo, clinics, live music, a Meek and Mighty Triathlon and the main event race. Courses and distances are yet to be announced. Registration opens Dec. 1, and some races sell out fast. 6:45 a.m., Vinoy Park, 501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. TBA. (727) 820-7790. satriathlon.com
June 3, 2012
Madeira Beach Mad Dog Triathlon: Swim, run and bike like a "mad dog" in this USAT membership-required triathlon. Dive into the Gulf of Mexico for a half-mile swim followed by a 15-mile bike and finishing with a 3.1-mile run. 6:45 a.m., Archibald Park, 15100 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach. (727) 580-1896. www.madbeachtriathlon.com/601.html