Race for the Winter Sun

When the temperatures start to drop, the rain starts to fall and snow begins to dust the mountains and trails in the Pacific Northwest. It’s easy to put the racing gear away and hunker down for a few months before the next training cycle begins. What if, this year, you plan a trip to somewhere warm and dry during the winter months to participate in a race that keeps your racing edge sharp?


The annual Honolulu Marathon takes place on Sunday, December 12, 2021. Participants can register for the marathon, 10K race day walk or Kalakaua Merrie Mile. According to the website, www.honolulumarathon.org, the marathon attracts more than 30,000 runners, making it the fourth largest in the United States. This year the event offers both in-person and virtual options. The marathon starts on Ala Moana Boulevard, or “path by the ocean,” and takes runners through Waikiki, the suburban communities of Honolulu, and then curves around Diamond Head, passing the Waikiki Aquarium, and finishing at the Kapiolani Park.

If the December marathon date is too soon, plan ahead for the annual Hawaii Half Marathon (The Hapalua) on April 10, 2022. This out-and-back race in Waikiki starts at 6am, allowing participants to get an early start before the heat kicks in. The course includes famous landmarks, like the ‘Iolani Palace and Diamond Head.

The Big Island International Marathon (Hilo Marathon) is ideal for a spring family destination race. Taking place on Sunday, March 20, 2022, the race offers a full marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K. Unlike the races on Oahu, the Big Island event offers more scenic views of waterfalls, tropical rainforests and sugarcane fields.


While not as warm as Hawaii in the winter months, Moab, Utah, casts scenery of a different beauty, making it a great winter race destination.

“Moab boasts some of the most amazing scenery in the country, and with a plethora of outdoor activities available, this is the perfect place for a runner’s destination race,” said Ranna Bieschke, President/Owner of Moab Half Marathon, Inc. “Mountain biking, hiking, climbing, and river rafting are just some of the many opportunities for the adventurous runner. Moab in winter is also a bit more quiet which means trails will be less crowded, giving visitors more time to explore the area.”

Bieschke’s group puts on four races, including the Arches Ultra on January 29, 2022, and the Canyonlands Half Marathon on March 19, 2022.

The Canyonlands Half Marathon and 5-Miler offer a completely different view of Utah. The USATF-certified course follows the Colorado River through red rock canyons. The first Canyonlands Half Marathon was run on May 1, 1976 had just 22 finishers. Today, thousands of runners come together in March to enjoy this Moab event.

“The magnificent red rock/river scenery along a traffic-free course, and Taiko drummers that provide timely inspiration, make it unique,” said Bieschke of the Canyonlands race.


Travel further south to Arizona where there is a plethora of races to choose from during the winter. There are road and trail races of all distances. The Aravaipa Running group organizes 28 desert and mountain races each year, including The Javelina Jundred (October 30-31, 2021), McDowell Mountain Frenzy (December 4, 2021), San Tan Scramble (January 8, 2022) and the Black Canyon Ultras (February 12-13, 2022).

“The Javelina Jundred began in 2003 and was adopted by Aravaipa Running in 2008,” said Jubilee Paige of Aravaipa Running. “Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest 100-mile and 100K events in the nation with over 600 entrants migrating to the desert each year for the wildest “Jalloween” run party the desert has to offer.” The JJ100 course is comprised of five loops in the McDowell Mountain Regional Park on the Sonoran Desert Trails.

A month later, the McDowell Mountain Frenzy takes participants of all race distances on different trails in the park. The Frenzy includes a 50K, 50-mile, 25K, 10-mile and 5-mile options, all with winding single-track trails and short, but steep hills.

For the more dedicated ultramarathon runners, try the Black Canyon Ultras.  “A grueling point-to-point desert ultra, the Black Canyon 100K is now a Western States 100 qualifier with the top finishers earning the coveted golden ticket,” said Paige. “The historic Black Canyon trail is of national significance, following a route used by early Native American travelers and traders.”


In Northern California, the Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon is a great excuse to run and drink wine in warmer weather. This year’s race takes place on December 12, 2021, and half marathon runners get free admission into the wine festival at Sonoma Plaza post race. There is also a 5K on Saturday. Spectators of Sunday’s event can purchase wine festival tickets independently and 5K runners will receive discounted festival entry.

Head south along the coast to Carlsbad for the Carlsbad Marathon, Half Marathon, Surf Sun Run 5K on Sunday, January 16, 2022. Events for the weekend include the marathon, half marathon and Kids Marathon Mile at Legoland. The marathon and half marathon are out-and-back races mostly along the Pacific Ocean, starting at the Shoppes at Carlsbad.

Links and Other Winter Races: