Anyone Can Run Cross Country

A cross country team runs a race

A list of must-do cross country races

Fall is on the horizon, which means cross country season! While the sport may seem like it’s just for students, you might be surprised at the number of races across the country that are open to runners of all ages. If you want to bring back those high school memories, or just love to race on grass and trail, here are some opportunities to lace up your dust-collecting spikes and test your grittiness. Many of these races have divisions for the whole family, and are held in parks and fields, making them more spectator-friendly than your typical road race.

Mud Mountain 5K Classic and Mile Fun Run

Date: July 28, 2018

Location: Edwardsville, IL

Info: This challenging, mostly grass course is NCAA-certified and used regularly by the local college and high school. The 5K offers competitive divisions for all ages over 18, 12- to 18-year-olds and kids under 11. Team races and one-mile fun runs are also part of the mix. The race supports the local middle and high school track and cross-country teams.

Mike Foley Memorial Classic 5K

Date: August 11, 2018

Location: Spartanburg, SC

Info: The entirely grass, hilly Milliken Arboretum course is an upstate SC favorite that’s been used for multiple national cross-country championships. The 2018 race is renamed to honor the event’s late founder, Mike Foley, who devoted much of his life to promoting and growing the SC running scene (it was formerly called Ready For Fall? 5K). It’s open to runners of all ages, and is a common preseason rust-buster for local high school and college runners.

Bill Heideman Cross Country Series

Dates: The first three weeks of August

Location: Akron, OH

Info: The Bill Heideman cross-country series takes place Thursday nights throughout the month of August. Days one and three are held at Goodyear Metro Park, while the second take place in Norton, about 20 miles away. The whole series is open to the public.

Can’t make a Thursday night? Check out the Matt Kauffman Memorial 5K and One-Mile Run is held on Saturday, August 11. It’s not part of the Bill Heiderman series, but it is on the same course. The Saturday race raises funds for a scholarship in memory of runner Matt Kauffman, who passed away during his sophomore year at The Ohio State University.

Middle Georgia Toys for Tots XC 5K

Date: August 11, 2018

Location: For Valley, GA

Info: The 5K runs through the peach orchards of Lane Orchards in Fort Valley, GA. It’s a single race, open to the public and supports the US Marine Corps Toys for Tots program in middle GA.

New York Road Runners XC Series

Dates: One weekend per month from September till December 2018

Sunday, September 16, 2018 NYRR Kurt Steiner Cross Country 5K

Sunday, October 7, 2018 NYRR Harry Murphy Cross Country 5K

Sunday, November 18, 2018NYRR Fred Lebow Cross Country Championships 5K

Sunday, December 2, 2018 NYRR Pete McArdle Cross Country 15K

Location: The Bronx, NY

Info: The New York Road Runners offer an abundance of cross-country racing opportunities in the fall. All events have open races for men and women, and utilize the same trail in Van Cortlandt Park (including the Pete McArdle 15K, which loops the course three times). Entry fees are $13 or less, depending on NYRR membership status, making this series an easy choice for New Yorkers and visitors alike.

Jekyll Island Cross Country Invitational

Date: September 1, 2018

Location: Jekyll Island, GA

Info: If you want to explore beautiful coastal GA, by way of a coastal golf course, here’s your chance! While the Jekyll Island Cross Country Invitational is primarily a race for high school runners, there is an open event at 7 a.m. to beat the heat before the late-morning varsity and junior varsity races. Proceeds benefit the Brunswick High School and Glynn Academy cross country programs.

Bare As you Dare 5K

Date: September 15, 2018

Location: Alvord, TX

Info: Ever wanted to go to a nudist resort and run a race? Now is your chance! The Bare As You Dare 5K is just what it sounds like: a clothing optional race, held at Bluebonnet Naturist Resort in Alvord, TX. The course is described as challenging trail and gravel so, even if you “bare it all” consider at least wearing a pair of trail-running shoes (don’t worry; no cameras are allowed). You will receive a t-shirt to commemorate the experience … but you don’t have to wear it!

Willow Hills Cross Country Open

Date: October 14, 2018

Location: Folsom, Cali.

Info: The Sunday race is held on the grounds of Folsom High School and the neighboring Willow Hill Reservoir Community Park. The course is dirt, grass and wood chips. Separate races for open women, men and masters men are run with $50 bonuses for breaking a course record.

Boston Mayor’s Cup Cross Country

Date: TBD (traditionally late October) 2018

Location: Boston, MA

Info: (Men’s Championship 8K, Women’s Championship 5K, Youth race and Open 5K) The USATF event has been a tradition since 1990. The championship races are for runners anticipating running under 30 minutes for the men’s 8K and under 21 minutes for the momen’s 5K. It offers prize money for individuals five deep and place bonuses for US citizens. Have a local racing team? Team races also offer prize money for the top three. Not in it to win it? The open 5K (called the Franklin Park 5K) has no time standards and takes place shortly after the championship event on the same course as the Women’s Championship 5K.

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.