Does anyone else peruse potential athletic events like they’re picking a meal from a restaurant menu? That one looks fun! That one looks risky! That one looks adventurous! Should you stick with the tried-and-true? Or go for something new?
That is exactly what I did when I was weighing my options for the big athletic event I’d sign up for late last year.
I’m from Minnesota and my personal tried-and-true events are local road races. I had never run anywhere else or taken on a new climate. But then I discovered the Miami Half Marathon, which was happening in February 2022. It was a chance to not only get outside my racing comfort zone, but also escape the freezing Minnesota winter. So, I signed up, determined to both finish the race and enjoy a little warm-weather getaway — a.k.a. a race-cation! (You can read about how my training for that went here!)
Signing up for an athletic event and having it on the calendar months in advance motivates me to push hard. It allows me to prepare mentally and physically for the endurance needed to accomplish the task ahead of me.
If you’re reading this, maybe it’s a sign you’re ready to sign up for a new athletic challenge and start considering the menu of options. Haven’t traveled for a race before? Perhaps you start narrowing down potential races with a destination in mind. Have run a half marathon but not a full? Why not now?
Or maybe you’re an avid biker who’s ready to take on new distances and elevations. There’s a race for that!
We’ve compiled this guide to Life Time athletic events for 2023 to help you learn more about each of them from some of the experts who know them best. As a fellow racer, my hunch is you might just be inspired to put one of them on your calendar. (Psst: If you’re a Life Time member, you also get early access to registrations.)
Tropical 5K, Miami Half Marathon, and Miami Marathon
When: January 28–29, 2023
Where: Miami, Fla.
How to Register: Registration is now open, register here.
The 5K course runs along Miami Beach, which is also part of the course for the full and half marathons, which weave through the city of Miami and begin and end in the downtown metropolitan area.
“These races are known for their scenic, turquoise waterfront views, flat roads — which are great for setting a personal record — international flair, and high energy,” says Nicole Bostick, associate marketing director with Life Time. “Additionally, these events are a great way for runners to escape cold, winter temperatures where they may live and turn a race into a vacation.”
The Baptist Health 305 Half Marathon and 5K
When: March 5, 2023
Where: Miami, Fla.
How to Register: Registration is now open, register here.
These warm-weather running events typically host around 3,000 people, primarily Florida locals. “The entire event — the starting line, the course, and the finish line — is in Miami Beach, specifically South Beach,” says Bostick. “In fact, the finish festival takes place on the sands of the beach itself.”
The medals are a coveted component of Life Time’s races in Miami. “We make the best finisher medals in the business for the 305 Half Marathon and the 5K, as well as for the Miami Marathon races,” says Bostick. “In the past, for the 305 races, we’ve handed out a ‘3’ medal one year, a ‘0’ medal the next year, and then a ‘5’ medal on the third year. So, if someone runs three consecutive years, they form a complete set. People participate in these races just to get their hands on one of our medals!”
In addition to the fun swag, these road races are for people of all ages. “Our participants range from 8 to 100 years old, from first-timers to 50-state marathon streakers, and from walkers to elite speedsters,” says Bostick. “And our races are friendly to athletes with disabilities who may be wheeling.”
Sea Otter Classic
When: April 20–23, 2023
Where: Monterey, Calif.
How to Register: Registration opens on Oct. 25, 2022, for Life Time members and on Nov. 1, 2022, for the general public. Register here.
This world premier cycle festival, spanning across four days, is a monumental event in the biking industry. “The Sea Otter Classic started as a mountain bike race in 1991, and now there are multiple races ranging from as short as four miles up to 100 miles, and events and expos happen all weekend long,” explains Holly Colson, marketing director for the Sea Otter Classic.
“This is an opportunity for people to interact with favorite brands — in 2022, we had about 500 different vendors representing more than 1,000 different brands — test ride bikes, drink beer, eat food, and just take it all in. Of course, that’s in addition to competing in races,” says Colson. “It’s the only event in North America like this.”
Colson explains that when someone becomes a cyclist, they tend to immerse themselves in one type of riding. “Sea Otter is a great opportunity for people to see and try out other types of bikes. For example, if you’re only a roadie, but you think you’d like to try mountain or gravel biking, you can check out a demo bike — we have hundreds.”
All ages and abilities are welcome. “The Sea Otter Classic is extremely family-friendly and a great place for kids, whether they want to ride themselves or paint and color,” says Colson. There are even races for e-bikes, with the Sea Otter Classic being one of the first events to allow those bikes.
Chicago Spring Half Marathon and 10K, and the Chicago Half Marathon and 5K
When: May 21, 2023 and September 24, 2023, respectively
Where: Chicago, Ill.
How to Register: Registration for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon and 10K is now open, register here. Registration for the Chicago Half Marathon and 5K opens on Jan. 3, 2023, for Life Time members and on Jan. 10, 2023, for the general public. Register here.
The Life Time Chicago Spring Half Marathon and 10K is a great way to kick off the running season and is located in Maggie Daly Park on the north side of Grant Park, right in the heart of downtown Chicago.
“It’s the perfect event to train for coming off a long, cold winter,” says Allison Humbert Wilkinson, senior marketing manager for Life Time Athletic Events. “This event is all about the post-race party. I like to describe it as a spring-themed brunch with mimosas, beer, food, flowers, photo ops, and music.”
The Chicago Half Marathon and 5K in September offers a fun race in the beautiful south side of Jackson Park. “The views of Lake Michigan and the skyline are stunning — unlike any other race in the city,” says Humbert Wilkinson.
The events are accessible to all, with inclusive categories. “It’s fun to provide race distances that are less than a full marathon if people are wanting something shorter,” says Humbert Wilkinson.
Athletes who complete both the spring and fall half marathons are considered a part of the Life Time Chicago Half Marathon Series and receive a third medal to go along with their two traditional medals for completing the races.
When: June 1–4, 2023
Where: Emporia, Kan.
How to Register: This race uses a lottery system for all race distances (except the high-school race). Anyone can throw their name into the lottery, but a random selection process is used to determine who will be allowed to participate. Register here.
UNBOUND Gravel is the world’s premier gravel event that’s the weekend after Memorial Day. “This is a bucket-list event for many cyclists,” says Amanda Boyer, marketing manager for Life Time Events, Off-Road Cycling, and Trail Running. “We have more than 4,000 riders from all over the world traveling here to race the hilly, tire-shredding, sun-baked gravel we’re known for.”
This four-day event offers races in multiple distances — a high-school race of 25 miles (open to 7th through 12th graders), 25 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles, 200 miles, and 350 miles — in the Flint Hills. There’s also an expo, shakeout rides, after parties, and more fun activities.
“The town of Emporia is so involved with this race and they treat it like a celebration,” explains Boyer. “Even though it’s a super long race, the finish line is always full, and people are out there cheering every rider home — even the last rider at 3 a.m.!”
Leadville Heavy Half and Marathon
When: June 17, 2023
Where: Leadville, Colo.
How to Register: Registration opens on Jan. 3, 2023, for Life Time members and on Jan. 10, 2023, for the general public. Register here.
The Leadville Marathon and Heavy Half races are set on one of Life Time’s most unique courses. The race starts in Leadville at 10,152 feet of elevation and climbs the summit of Mosquito Pass, which reaches just over 13,000 feet — the highest elevation of any Life Time event.
“This race is on a visually striking and absolutely beautiful course that offers views of the Rocky Mountains and looks back on the town of Leadville,” says Ryan Cross, senior marketing manager at Life Time.
“Both the marathon and the Heavy Half are incredibly challenging,” emphasizes Cross. “The marathoners do another loop out through the mining terrain and up through Mosquito Pass before they descend back to town. For the Heavy Halfers, even though it’s a shorter distance, it’s actually mile-per-mile tougher because they’re going straight up the pass and then coming back to town.”
When: June 24, 2023
Where: Lutsen, Minn.
How to Register: Registration opens on Dec. 26, 2022, for Lifetime members and on Jan. 3, 2023, for the general public; open to anyone until the event reaches capacity. Register here.
The Lutsen 99er takes riders up to northern Minnesota to experience summer on the North Shore. “As cliché as this sounds, the Lutsen 99er is truly just full of good vibes and camaraderie,” says Boyer. “Everyone there is having a good time and celebrating their love for mountain biking.”
There are multiple distances offered at this event: a kids race, 25 miles, 49 miles, 69 miles, and 99 miles. The kids race has three sections dependent on age: the micro niner for kids under 7-years-old who race a 0.49 mile lap course; the mini niner for ages 8 to 10 who race a 0.9 mile lap course; and the junior niner for ages 11 to 13 who race a 1.9 mile lap course.
“This is also one of our Leadville Trail 100 MTB qualifiers,” explains Boyer, “So we get a lot of athletes who come to compete and earn a coveted spot at our iconic race in Leadville.
“The celebration continues long after the finish line and until the sun dips behind the trees,” she continues. “Everyone comes out for a beverage, to listen to live music, and to celebrate the awardees.”
Crusher in the Tushar
When: July 8, 2023
Where: Beaver, Utah
How to Register: Registration opens on Jan. 16, 2023, for Life Time members and on Jan. 23, 2023, for the general public; open to anyone until the event reaches capacity. Register here.
This 69-mile mountain bike race has athletes exploring the back country of the Tushar Mountains while climbing over 10,000 feet in elevation. “The Crusher in the Tushar is a tough one, but a fun one!” says Boyer. “There’s a lot of punch packed into each mile.
“Despite the crazy course, the atmosphere is very chill. Everyone’s just buzzing with nerves and excitement. The race finishes at a ski lodge on top of a mountain and our athletes love to hangout, enjoy beverages, eat food, listen to live music, and embrace the stunning views.”
Silver Rush 50 Run and Silver Rush 50 MTB
When: July 8–9, 2023
Where: Leadville, Colo.
How to Register: Registration opens on Jan. 3, 2023, for Life Time members and on Jan. 10, 2023, for the general public; open to anyone until the event reaches capacity. Register here for the Silver Rush 50 Run and register here for the Silver Rush 50 MTB.
“For the run, the mile-per-mile in this race is actually harder than the Leadville trail 100-mile race in Leadville because it has more climbing,” says Cross. “But where this one is unique is it shows off a whole different part of Leadville. The Silver Rush course goes through our east side mining terrain. Some of these mines are a couple hundred years old; they’re abandoned at this point, but they provide an epic and beautiful backdrop. The runners go right below a 14,000-foot peak — the view is just stunning.”
This is a unique event that combines the running and mountain biking audiences for a weekend-long endurance festival. “The two communities are mingling, staying in town together, going to restaurants, and hanging out at the finish festival. It’s really cool,” says Cross.
There’s also a competition for athletes who want to compete in both events. If someone wants to run the 50 miles on Saturday and bike the 50 miles on Sunday, there’s a challenge called the “Silver King” and “Silver Queen.”
There’s even a race for kids: Young athletes can participate in a 15-mile bike race or run to experience an endurance-festival-type of weekend at a young age — but at safe race distances for them.
When: July 15, 2023
Where: Truckee, Calif.
How to Register: Registration opens on Jan. 3, 2023, for Life Time members and on Jan. 10, 2023, for the general public; open to anyone until the event reaches capacity. Register here.
The Tahoe Trail offers a 50K and a 100K mountain bike race, and is located at Northstar California Resort in the prime time of summer.
“Many racers do the Tahoe Trail to prepare for Leadville because it has elevation and it’s a challenging course,” says Cross. “For me, I think the coolest part of this race is that you can make it a ‘race-cation’ destination. It’s the type of place where you can bring the whole family, you can stay at the Northstar Resort, there are great restaurants in this resort community. The Olympics were even hosted in this area back in the day, so it has great history.”
Leadville Trail 100 MTB
When: August 12, 2023
Where: Leadville, Colo.
How to Register: Registration opens on Dec. 8, 2022, for Life Time members and on Dec. 15, 2022, for the general public. Registration for this event is gained through a random selection lottery, or by attending one of our qualifier events (Silver Rush, Lutsen 99er, Stage Race, Tahoe Trail, or Austin Rattler) and gaining entry through your age group performance. You can also gain entry through a charity or coaching partner. Register here.
The Leadville Trail is a 100-mile mountain bike race that is a common bucket-list goal for many athletes. “Folks come from all over the world to compete in this race,” says Cross. “It’s this giant, grandeur-style event. The grit, the guts, and the determination that people will demonstrate to get there is unparalleled with any other endurance mountain bike race in the United States.
“For some, they check it off their list and it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever done. They get their belt buckle at the finish line, silver and gold plated, and they hang that up and look back on it for forever. Whether the rider completes Leadville one time, 10 times, or 20 times — we’ve even had finishers do it more than 20 times — it’s this absolutely amazing accomplishment that you can be proud of no matter what time you finish in. We always say we have more ‘completers’ than ‘competers.’”
Leadville Trail 100 Run
When: August 19, 2023
Where: Leadville, Colo.
How to Register: Registration opens on Dec. 8, 2022, for Life Time members and on Dec. 15, 2022, for the general public. Registration for this event is gained through a random selection lottery, or by attending one of our qualifier events (Leadville Trail Marathon, Silver Rush, or Austin Rattler) and gaining entry through your age group performance. You can also gain entry through a charity or coaching partner. Register here.
The Trail 100 Run was the first event in Leadville and the first event as part of the race series, starting in 1983. “This 100-mile-long race presents a totally unique and epic challenge in and of itself,” explains Cross. “The most iconic feature of the course is the Hope Pass climb where runners will go up and over the top and then descend to the halfway point of the race in the ghost town of Winfield before turning around and climbing Hope Pass again.”
One of the most unique elements of this Life Time event is the nature of the race being an out-and-back. “This aspect gives runners an opportunity to see other competitors, and there’s this camaraderie element that you don’t see at other events,” says Cross. “This race is extremely difficult and seeing other people that you’re sharing that endeavor with is encouraging.”
Chequamegon MTB Festival
When: September 16, 2023
Where: Chequamegon, Wis.
How to Register: Registration opens on Dec. 26, 2022, for Life Time members and on Jan. 3, 2023, for the general public; open to anyone until the event reaches capacity. Register here.
Founded in 1983, the Chequamegon MTB Festival is the oldest mountain bike race in the United States. “It’s a true off-road experience, and a fast and flowing race that goes from Hayward down to Cable in Wisconsin,” says Boyer. “There’s a surrounding family-friendly festival full of live music, vendors, food, and beverages — the entire community helps put it on!”
This bike race offers two distances, 16 miles and 40 miles, and a free kids race called Little Logger; this is a 15-minute continuous loop course that allows kids to race however far they want.
Big Sugar Gravel
When: October 21, 2023
Where: Bentonville, Ark.
How to Register: Registration opens on Feb. 22, 2023, for Life Time members and on March 1, 2023, for the general public; open to anyone until the event reaches capacity. Register here.
Big Sugar Gravel is one of the last events of the biking year and many athletes wind down their season with this race. There are two distances to choose from: 50 miles and 100 miles.
“It’s not a super easy course,” says Boyer. “There is chunky gravel and hills, but it’s very fun. Because this race is in October, it feels like you’re riding along a fall wonderland on a colorful, canopy-covered road!”
The most unique aspect on the course is the Whistling Springs Brewery. Athletes can stop here for an aid station, but many riders stop to socialize with friends over a beer. “The finish festival has a great party atmosphere, but the entire weekend is just full of energy,” says Boyer.
Austin Rattler MTB and Run
When: November 4, 2023
Where: Burnet, Texas
How to Register: Registration opens on Jan. 1, 2023, for Life Time members, and on Jan. 10, 2023, for the general public; open to anyone until the event reaches capacity. Register here for the Austin Rattler MTB and register here for the Austin Rattler Run.
The Austin Rattler races take place at Reveille Peak Ranch, a 1,300-acre adventure ranch in the Texas Hill Country for mountain biking, trail running, camping, and many other outdoor events. There are three distances for the bike races: 20 miles, 40 miles, and 60 miles, and three distances for the run: 10 miles, 20 miles, and a 50K.
This venue is a unique place, right outside of the hustle and bustle of Austin, Texas. Many athletes come and stay for the whole weekend — they camp, ride, and run, and some even bring the whole family.
“We host a Texas-style party afterward with BBQ, live music, and tons of Austin culture,” says Cross. “We encourage folks to stay a while, drink some beer, and just enjoy the experience all weekend long.”