Call us biased, but we think there are a lot of reasons to love living and running in the 717 area. York, Lancaster, and surrounding communities have a lot to offer runners, including some really great races. Whether you’re looking to try trail racing for the first time, break 2-hours in the half-marathon, or quality for Boston, the 717 area has you covered.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite road and trail races in Lancaster County, York County, and beyond. Races made this list because they either offer a unique racing opportunity or location, are incredibly well organized, or offer awesome pre- and post-race amenities. Some made the list because you can’t call yourself a 717 runner until you’ve completed them.
Whatever your reason for racing, this list gets you started toward your goal.
January Road & Trail Races
Usually taking place in mid-January, the first race of the Frozen Foot series helps kick off the new year and bust some racing rust. The event offers a 5k and 10k (double loop on the 5k course) and is run by Applied Race Management. If you don’t stay for the chicken noodle soup at the end you’re doing it wrong.
This event is not for the faint of heart. The 8.3 and 13.5-mile courses challenge runners (a term we use loosely here) of all abilities. The short-course option hands out over 3,000 feet of elevation, while the long-course option nearly doubles it, coming in at 5,800 feet. Not to mention the technical terrain, freezing temperature, and ice. Proceed with caution.
February Road & Trail Races
Usually taking place in mid-February, the second race of the Frozen Foot series builds on the first if you’re racing the whole series. The event offers a 5k and 10k (double loop on the 5k course) and is run by Applied Race Management. If you don’t stay for the chicken noodle soup at the end you’re doing it wrong.
A winter trail race with a creek crossing? Sign us up. The 13-mile race is hosted at Gifford Pinchot State Park and offers a semi-flat course with short runnable climbs. Remember February weather can change semi-easy trail conditions into challenging ankle-deep mud. We also love this race because it’s affordable and a great way to test out winter racing!
March Road & Trail Races
Don’t let the name scare you. This race is the 20/40 mile option of the series, named to indicate its “no-frills” style finisher perks. Looping around Blue Marsh Lake, this course is runnable and a great first-ultra for runners. See December and April for the other two races in the series.
Usually taking place in mid-March, the second race of the Frozen Foot series builds on the first if you’re racing the whole series. The event offers a 5k and 10k (double loop on the 5k course) and is run by Applied Race Management. If you don’t stay for the chicken noodle soup at the end you’re doing it wrong.
Organized by the Junior League of Lancaster, this 4-mile run is fun, festive, and competitive. The School Lane Hills neighborhood where this race takes place offers gently rolling hills and great crowd support. Wear your green and enjoy a festive, fast 4 miler.
One of the un-official “Amish County Races,” this half marathon has been a bucket list race of runners for more than a decade. And for good reason. The course weaves through bucolic farmland and past one-room schoolhouses. Many aid stations are staffed by local Amish families, and the post-race amenities are second to none. The course is rolling but, after a redesign in 2018, is less hilly than in previous years. Complete this race and the fall Bird-in-Hand half and be eligible for the coveted “Road Apple” award.
On a lollipop course, runners are treated to scenic backroads outside of downtown Chambersburg. Rolling hills and spring chill keep runners honest about their spring fitness. This course is open to traffic, so be prepared to share the road. Prize money is awarded to the top three finishers overall (male and female) and the top three masters runners (male and female).
April Road & Trail Races
Typically held on the first Saturday in April, this 10-mile race starts and finished on City Island, and takes runners across several Susquehanna River bridges, down Riverfront Park and onto the Capital Area Greenbelt. If the fast, flat course isn’t enough to entice you, perhaps the race’s philanthropic nature will–the race benefits local art’s based non-profits.
The final race in the “Naked” series organized by Uberendurancesports. Choose between 26.2 miles and 50 miles of trail running at Blue Marsh Lake. Runners can expect well-stocked aid stations and friendly volunteers. And probably a little mud.
A spring trail running rite of passage. This 13-mile course in Michaux State Forest offers everything great about Pennsylvania trail running–climbing, rocks, roots, water crossings, and great views. They also offer a 5k race for those wanting to dip a toe in the water of trail racing.
If you’re looking for a community-building 5k race–this is it. Run through historic downtown Lancaster City, this race benefits the work of the YWCA. Run with a team, run solo, meet a neighbor, and cruise through downtown streets in celebration of spring. This is a local favorite race.
May Road & Trail Races
This late spring racing event is hosted by Manor Township and offers a half marathon, 10k, and 5k. As with most rural races in Lancaster County, this course provides plenty of rolling hills and farm views.
Both the half marathon and the full marathon offer runners a fast, flat course to reach for a new personal best. The races start in the City of York and head towards the York Heritage Trail. The Heritage trail is packed, crushed stone, a point to make note of during your training.
Starting and Finishing at Kelly’s Run Nature Preserve, runners get the chance to experience a portion of the Conestoga Trail at this 10k trail race. Runners will be subject to 1,256 feet of vertical elevation–so bring your climbing legs, because the view at the Pinnacle is worth it. Creek crossings, rocks, mud, sore muscles, and feelings of badassery are guaranteed.
Ever run a race in the dark? This is your chance. With glow bracelets and necklaces handed out in race packets, runners take off in a blur of neon in this evening race. A flat and fast course through residential neighborhoods and into downtown Manheim, this event is fun for the whole family. Arrive early and stay late to enjoy Manehim’s downtown district on full display.
June Road & Trail Races
Hosted by the Visitors Bureau for the City of Lancaster, this 5-mile race is a right of passage among Lancaster County locals. Despite being downtown, the course is far from easy. A net downhill in the first half leaves runners climbing back to the finish line for the second half. If you want to race against the fastest local runners, you can find them at the Red Rose Run.
Looking for a unique way to let dad know you love him this Father’s Day? Challenge him to a footrace at Smith’s Challenge. This race is more than 30 years young and always promises to settle rivalries. Choose from a 5-mile race or a 10-mile race (running the same course twice) around Lancaster County Central Park and through the Conestoga River.
July Road & Trail Races
This patriotic race is a favorite among locals. Runners can expect a deep field of local fasties and a lot of local participation from stroller-bound toddlers to grandparents. Modest price money is offered to first and second place in the overall male and female categories, $100 & $50, respectively. And $50 is offered to overall male and female masters winners. An undisclosed award is also given to the “best patriotic costume.”
What happened to the woman who lived in a shoe? She ran away from her problems. And you can too! The Shoe House 5 miler loops runners past The Haines Shoe House, a well-known tourist attraction in York County. Don’t miss this one-of-a-kind race.
August Road & Trail Races
This point-to-point race, nearly entirely on the York Heritage Trail, takes runners on a one-way journey along the scenic York Heritage Trail. After the race, enjoy the “11th Mile” celebration with post-race food and drinks. Limited space is available on a bus back to the start line after the post-race celebration.
September Road & Trail Races
A sister race to the Garden Spot Village Half, this fall race offers a unique view into old-world Amish customs and communities. Runners should be prepared for warm temperatures, rolling hills, and the best-darn baked goods in the county. If you’ve already run Garden Spot Half this year, completing this race will earn you a “Road Apple” award.
A trail race… on a farm? Yes. The Sasquatch is a mix of cross-country terrain and single-track, taking runners across varied terrain and elevation on a preserved farm, and through woods, meadows and streams. Runners be warned, the 10K has some steep climbs, including over the historic Howard Tunnel/Rail Trail.
Just like the website says, it’s “Ten tough miles.” The Conestoga Trail is Lancaster’s proving ground for tough trail runners. Boasting steep climbs, technical descents, rocks, roots, and creek crossings galore, the Conestoga tests the limits of even the strongest runners. You’ve been warned. Are you up to the challenge?
A race organized BY runners, FOR runners. A staple event of the York Road Runners, this race starts and finishes downtown, with just a short piece on the York Heritage Trail. A fun and fast course, this race is a great way to add some speedwork during fall marathon training or a way to meet runners in your community.
October Road & Trail Races
You might think Hartz prepares their clients for this race all year by the starting lineup. This community-focused 5k brings the competitive heat in a friendly competition. The course runs through residential neighborhoods and on a paved walking path to offer a flat, fast race. After the race, explore Lititz–one of the coolest small towns in the US.
This first-year race offers the only distance race in Strasburg, PA. Enjoy historic downtown Strasburg and its surrounding farmland during a time when the leaves, and the crops, are changing. Runners can expect rolling hills, farmers at work, and plenty of fun at the post-race celebration.
November Road & Trail Races
Billed as the oldest race in Lancaster, this 5k is surely a staple of most runners’ holiday traditions. Whether you’re looking to participate in a friendly, competitive 5k, or you want to work up an appetite for later in the day, this local Turkey Trot is your destination.
December Road & Trail Races
Ugly sweaters, running, and holiday cookies? Sign us up. This 5k course is almost entirely on grass or dirt–a true cross-country experience! Plus, overall and age group winners earn plates of homemade cookies. It’s a Christmas miracle!
Need a little extra holiday spending money? The Chambersburg Cash Dash could have your back. Runners choose their own bib, each one contains a special scratch-off area that reveals a possible dollar amount ranging from $100 to $1,000 each. More than $4,000 is eligible to be won just from finishing the race–no matter your time.
The first race of the “naked” series. Runners are expected to arrive clothed, the “naked” is in reference to this no-frills race that doesn’t offer finisher medals, participant shirts, or the like. This race, and its counterparts, offer a low-cost entry fee and the chance to push yourself to a new personal best over a runable course.
Did we miss your favorite 717 area race? Send us a note, including the race name, typical date, and what makes it a great race. If we agree, we’ll add it to the list!
If you’re ready to sign up for a goal race and want help getting to the start line prepared, RUN 717 Coaching can help. Our custom online coaching or training plans will let you safely work towards your goals, give you insight into your training, and connect you with a network of peers and experts. Contact us today for a free consultation.