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8 races in South Central Pennsylvania that you should run

Frozen Foot Race participants start one of the races last winter.
On any given weekend, runners in South Central Pennsylvania can get their racing fix with a 5K to support a nonprofit or a good cause. And there’s a full range of races of various other distances throughout the year. We’ve assembled a list of 10, not because this is the end-all, be-all list of the best races in the area, but because they have a good reputation or offer a unique experience.

Hershey Half Marathon – Oct. 17
This race seems sells out every year, part of the Chocolatetown Challenges that raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, and there’s good reason why. It’s in Hershey, which seems to have the magic touch for great events thanks to the folks at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. You and about 5,000 other people run through Hersheypark and the beautiful campus of the Milton Hershey School. Get in your hill training, though, because they keep rolling through most of the course. As of this writing, there were still spots available for the 2015 race.

Red Rose Run
 – June
The 39th annual edition of this 5-mile race that starts and ends in downtown Lancaster attracted 1,000 runners on June 6. The Lancaster Office of Promotion directs the event, which this year featured live music at various points along the route. The signature of this race is the Duke Street hill, which runners encounter as they exit Lancaster County Central Park. LNP, Lancaster’s newspaper, described the hill as a “daunting uphill grind.” For those of us at Applied Race Management who have raced here, we would agree with that assessment.

Capital 10-miler
 – March
This area has a handful of races between the 5K and half marathon and marathon distances, and this is one of the best of them. A fundraiser for thre arts community in Harrisburg, this race brings several hundered runners to the start on City Island where they run a mostly flat course along the Susquehanna River. If you run because you enjoy the sights, nothing beats the return trip across the Harvey Taylor Bridge with the state Capitol and downtown Harrisburg in front of you.

Garden Spot Village Marathon
 – April 19, 2016
You don’t have to travel too far to find a marathon in South Central Pennsylvania (e.g. Harrisburg has a spring event that is a Boston qualifier, and there’s the Gettysburg North-South Marathon). We like the Garden Spot Village Marathon because it’s in the heart of Lancaster County, where the course takes you through rolling hills and the beautiful Amish countryside. The marathon is USATF certified and is also a Boston qualifier. Of course, how could you not like a marathon where you’re eligible for the Road Apple Award if you run the Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon in the fall (which is sold out this year) and Garden Spot in April.

Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon
 – Sept. 11 (sold out)
Aside from the partnership with Garden Spot, the Bird-in-Hand Half is an event to take in, if the video highlights from 2014 are any indication. For starters, it’s part of a weekend of events that includes a cycling, a 5K, a hot air balloon launch and an Amish pasta and pizza party the night before the race. This half marathon ranks right up there with must-run events to check off your running bucket list.

Frozen Foot Race 5k series
 – January, February and March
There’s nothing wrong with a little self promotion, right? The Frozen Foot Series is Applied Race Management’s signature event and is held every winter in January, February and March. It starts and ends on the campus of Elizabethtown College and is the only 5K series in the region over the winter. For those people who  have made New Year’s resolutions, the series is ideal to stay motivated to run through the winter. If the weather cooperates (and it can be cold, snowy and icy, even in March), the races can attract 500 or more runners, who enjoy a cup of chicken corn soup after the race.

Hershey 10K
 – April
We return to Hershey because the Hershey 10K is simply a good race. Like the Hershey Half, the course makes its way through Hersheypark and past some of the park’s key attractions, such as Fahrenheit and the Great Bear and other roller coasters. Those could distract you from some of the hills in the park, which aren’t insignificant. With 2,500 runners, the race has a big feel to it, and the organizers do an excellent job making sure things go as smoothly as possible.

Stoudts Brewing Distance Classic
 – Oct. 24
This year is the 11th anniversary of this unique race that offers runners a challenging 12K (7.45 miles) course that starts and finishes at Stoudts Brewery in Adamstown. The course description talks about gentle downhills, slow climbs and winding downhill descents. If that isn’t enticing, maybe the free beer coupon in your race packet (for those of age) will motivate you. Age group award winners receive a mix of 6 Stoudts beers in a custom/handmade reclaimed wood, 6-pack carrier from Refined Pallets. (Under age 21, will receive 6 bottles of soda pop.) Winners must be 21 years old.