Mud, Sweat and Tears

If your new year’s resolution is to get in better shape, here’s a twofer – get in better shape AND run a marathon. Below is a comprehensive list of races in the Bay Area, from colorful courses to serious sprints.

Family Fun Run

When: Saturday, January 12, 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 a.m.

Where: Community Center (Mill Valley)

What: Strap on your tennis shoes, unfold your strollers and make a bet with Dad that you’ll beat him at this all ages event. There’s something for everyone – a timed two-mile run, a one mile fun run/walk and a toddler mad dash (with parental supervision, of course).

McInnis Mini Mudder

When: Saturday, January 26, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Where: McInnis Park (San Rafael)

What: The kiddy version of Tough Mudder – a two-mile adventure race for kids ages 5-14. Course includes grass, mud, wood and obstacles. Proceeds donated to the Stafford Lake Bike Park.

Kaiser Permanente 5k (Marathon/Half Marathon)

When: February 3, 8 a.m.

Where: Golden Gate Park, John F. Kennedy Drive east of Stow Lake Drive (SF)

What: If joining an acclaimed race through our urban park that’s been in existence for 30 years isn’t motivation enough, check out the website for an entire page devoted to “Finding Your Motivation.”

The YMCA Chinese New Year Run

When: February 17

Where: Chinatown, Grand Avenue and Sacramento Street (SF)

What: A 5k and 10k run/walk to benefit Chinatown YMCA’s Physical Education Program and Community Center. Post-event activities, awards and refreshments occur after at Portsmouth Square. Random fun fact – prizes awarded for the best dressed snake (in honor of the year of the snake, of course).

The Color Run

When: March 2, 10 a.m.

Where: Candlestick Park (SF)

What: This one's for all you people less enthusiastic about running and more thrilled about getting dirty. It’s a 5k race you can run solo or with a “color team” of four or more of your friends. Oh, did I mention that at each kilometer of the race, you’ll be doused with a different color? Don’t worry, it’s not toxic paint. Everything is all natural and safe – you can even eat it if you work up an appetite, though it’s rumored to be quite caloric and chalky.

Jog for Jill

When: Sunday, March 10, 11 a.m.

Where: UC Berkeley (Kroeber Fountain)

What: A fourth annual 5k walk/run hosted by Jill’s Legacy to raise money and awareness for lung cancer. Jill’s Legacy, a subsidiary of the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, is a group of young professionals created in memorial of Jillian Costello, a 22-year-old athlete at UC Berkeley who lost her battle with lung cancer in 2010.

Emerald Across the Bay 12k

When: March 17, 8:30 a.m.

Where: East Fort Baker (Sausalito)

What: A certified 12k race across the Golden Gate Bridge to Aquatic Park, benefiting Edgewood Center for Children and Families. If you make it through and feel like celebrating the activity that’s exhausted you, there’s a post-race celebration called “Celebration of Running” with live music, food, vendors and an awards ceremony.

Marin County Half Marathon/10k/5k/Kids Fun Run

When: March 30, 6 a.m.

Where: McNear’s Beach Park (San Rafael)

What: Take a running tour through China Camp State Park, Turtle Back Trail, Back Ranch Meadows, the Shoreline Trail, Weber Point and Hammer Hill. Choose your monster: the all-mighty half marathon, the impressive 10k, the great 5k or the less strenuous kids fun run.

Golden Gate Headlands 7 mile/Half Marathon/Marathon

When: April 6, 9 a.m.

Where: Golden Gate Headlands (Rodeo Beach)

What: Be careful of the gorgeous view as your reach the course’s summit – you might find yourself so distracted you could trip, crash into someone else or worse! But if you’re particularly adept at multi-tasking, this may be the race for you. Register early – the event is limited to 400 participants and it sells out every year.

Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco Half Marathon

When: April 7

Where: Waterfront (SF)

What: The good news: it’s a run for charities, including Lazarex Cancer Foundation and Groundwork Opportunities. The bad news: it’s already sold out. Catch it next year!

Ruth Anderson 100k

When: April 20, 6:30 a.m.

Where: Lake Merced Blvd and Sunset Blvd (SF)

What: This race is called an ultramarathon – an ultramarathon. If you’ve never run a marathon, perhaps you should start with something…smaller. But hey, no harm in making this your goal!

Zippy 5k

When: April 21, 9 a.m.

Where: Brisbane Park (Brisbane)

What: Run to support running! Proceeds donated to the track and field program at Lowell High School in San Francisco.

Bay to Breakers

When: May 18-20, 7 a.m.

Where: Embarcadero (SF)

What: It’s in the name – Bay (San Francisco Bay) to Breakers (Ocean Beach). There are more than a few surprising sights along the way – crazy costumes (is nudity a costume?), live music, floats and alcohol (though neither are allowed). For most, it’s more of a massive party than a serious race.


When: June 9, 8:30 a.m.

Where: Mill Valley

What: Who HASN’T heard of the Dipsea race? It is deemed the oldest trail race in the country after it first began in 1995. The 7.4-mile course runs from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach with stairs and steep terrain thrown in. If you’re local, you’re lucky; the race is limited to 1,500 participants and entries are favored (a little) toward local contestants. The handicap encourages all ages to join. If you want to know how much time you’ve got to train, check out the website for a countdown. At the exact moment I’m typing this, you have exactly 148 days, 18 hours, 52 minutes and 1 second! So hurry and lace up your shoes – five seconds have already passed you by!

Worth the Hurt 52.4 Ultramarathon

When: June 16, 12 a.m.

Where: Embarcadero and Mission (SF).

What: Forget the midnight snack. How about a midnight ultramarathon? In order to qualify, you need to raise at least $1,500 as a member of a Worth the Hurt Athlete Team.

The Wipro San Francisco Marathon

When: Sunday, June 16

Where: The Embarcadero (SF)

What: Choose between a full marathon, two half marathons or a 5k and progressive marathon. You’ll see the iconic places of San Francisco along the loop that runs through Fisherman’s Warf, the Marina, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. If you finish the race in less than six hours (and are still hungry for more), you are eligible to participate in the Boston Marathon.

The San Francisco Giant Race

When: August 4, 8 a.m.

Where: Pier 48 (SF)

What: Run a half marathon, 10k or 5k along the waterfront past the Ferry Building and Pier 39. Looking for something less strenuous? Register for the kids race and family relay at AT&T Park. But wait – here’s the fun part. Last year The Olympic Club challenged local running clubs to a “racefight” (think Drumline face-off with no drums and a lot more motion). These teams competed against one another in The Giant Race Half Marathon. The prize? A Field Visit prior to a Giants game AND an engraved Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Let’s hope the losers seek revenge in 2013.

Turkey Trail Trot

When: Thanksgiving, 8 a.m.

Where: Polo Field, Golden Gate Park (SF)

What: Burn off the gravy-drenched turkey, cream-soaked mashed potatoes and butter-infused pies with this Thanksgiving Day cross country style race. You have a choice between a five-mile run, three-mile walk or a 100-meter kid’s gobbler chase. Awards include Sports Basement gift certificates, food (turkey, pumpkin pie) and wine.

Men’s Health Urbanthlon

When: TBA

Where: Fisherman’s Warf (SF)

What: If simple running isn’t enough, how about a kumho tire stutter step? Or maybe a Subaru crawl, marine hurdles or police barricade? Fun distractions or kill-me-now complications? Find out by running this 9.5 or 11 mile endurance race. After the race, join the Urbanathlon Festival with food, music and vendors.