For a lot of people, running is a way of life. It dictates their social calendar, their travel plans, their vacation time. Running is who they are. That’s great. For others, it’s simply a bit of contemplative alone time; a stress-busting moving meditation that resets the attitude and outlook. That’s great, too. No matter your relationship with running, it’s an undeniably simple activity, even if it can be hard to get motivated sometimes. Boston has one of the most storied of running histories among American cities and a vibrant running culture that supports hundreds of events every year. Check out these eight annual Boston running (and running-based – i.e. obstacle course) events. This isn’t an exhaustive list – not even close – but rather a starting point from which you to explore the options on your own.
Here’s a bit of motivation for the starting line.
“Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Steve Prefontaine
“Yeah, I’m lazy. There’s no doubt about that.” – Usain Bolt
RELATED: Need more motivation? 5 running tips from the pros
March 16, 11 a.m., Somerville
Disregard the bias implied by my last name for a second. This is a cool race. Starting and ending in Davis Square, it’s really all about celebrating community, spring (regardless of the actually weather), and well, yes, Irish heritage. Oh, and it’s on St. Patrick’s Day, of course, which means at least three other things: leave your pet snakes at home, wear green, and be ready for a pint. In just eight years since it’s inception, Ras na hEireann has emerged as a local gem (emerald?).
Little known fact: The oldest records of competitive running races date back to 1829 BCE... in Ireland. Just for reference, the first Olympic Games in Greece didn’t start until nine centuries later.
Good for: All levels
April 6, 10:30 a.m., Cambridge
Looking for new kicks? Ask any Boston-area runner, and most will recommend the reigning champion of “Best of Boston” awards (with 14! – more than any other business ever), Marathon Sports, as the place to go for running shoes and gear. Shoe shoppers at any of the seven Boston-area locations will get a careful, exacting, complimentary gait analysis to help determine which shoes would be best for them. This pioneering process, which they call “The Right Fit,” helps reduce injury and has become the standard among specialty running shoe shops nationally. This race will be well-organized, scenic, fun, and bring out runners/walkers across the spectrum of ability, age, and sneaker-type. Oh, and if you’re one of the first 1,000 to sign up, you’ll get a free T-shirt.
Good for: All levels
Random Trivia Question: How long was the first Boston Marathon?*
May 4, 9 a.m., Amherst
This is a well-organized race that threads out along the Mt. Holyoke Range in western Massachusetts. Six miles out and six back along a single track. Racers will need to be able to reach the turnaround point by noon in order to continue. All proceeds from this race are donated to “Friends of Mt. Holyoke Range," a non-profit that helps the state purchase and preserve land surrounding the Mt. Holyoke Range State Park. Refreshments will be provided at the finish line.
Good for: Experienced trail runners. (I ran a 10-mile trail run as a newbie one time. It was a beautiful route, and I survived, but it was much more difficult that I’d anticipated because of the hills. If you’re new to running, definitely practice on plenty of hills before entering this race).
May 11, 9 a.m., South Boston
This event brings together Boston’s Finest, fittest, and er, funnest in a run that celebrates and supports the men and women in uniform that protect us. Thousands of runners participate and it’s a great way to support the Semper Fi Society and the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation which has awarded more than $40 million in scholarships and bonds to children of Marine Corps and law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. It’s also a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the view along Carson Beach in South Boston.
Did you know that “The Crucible” is the mind-numbing 54-hour field test for Marine Corps boot camp that, among many other incredible challenges, includes 48 miles of marching?
Good for: All levels
June 1, 8 a.m., Gloucester
This is a great event for both novice runners and seasoned veterans. Beautiful route along the coast in Gloucester, relatively flat and fast, and very well-organized.
Good for: The one-mile race is great for kids. The half marathon is good for runners who have trained.
July 13, 8 a.m., Easton
When you see that a beer company is hosting a running event, you should go. Beer, food, live music, events for the whole family, and three great race options.
Good for: All levels
Aug. 9 and 10, 8 a.m., Amesbury
Shorter than its big brother, the Spartan Sprint is just three miles, but you can bet that there will be some pretty challenging obstacles along the way. But it’s not impossible. It’s difficult, for sure, but there’s an element of teamwork and camaraderie here that you don’t see in other running events. This is all about getting through it and that means helping each other out.
Good for: Small groups and teams. Newbies and weekend warriors should be OK in this event. The highly-trained Obstacle Course Race (OCR) pros will be way out ahead, pushing themselves to the max. Which it's good for all levels, you’ll want to be mentally prepared to do a lot more than just run – e.g. climb, jump, pull, crawl, roll, maybe even swim.
Sept. 14, 2014, Brewster
This race looks like a blast for anyone. Who doesn’t like running on the beach? It’s either five or 10 kilometers along the sandflats of Cape Cod Bay. Trophies are awarded to winners, there are team awards, and parking and overnight accommodations are available. And, most importantly, they’re going for the largest Barefoot running event in the world. The current record is a mere 416 people. The race organizers in Brewster think they can beat that. I’m inclined to agree, and might make an effort to help them by competing myself this fall.
Good for: All levels, but probably best if you’ve got at least a little experience/familiarity with running barefoot. Could be fun with kids if you plan to take it slow.
*A: The first Boston Marathon (in 1897) was 24.5 miles. Twenty-seven years later (in 1924) the course was lengthened to 26.2 miles.
[Photo: Essras M Suarez/Globe Staff]