From a challenging trail half-marathon to a Halloween-themed 10K to a flat 5K Turkey Trot, options abound for road races once the weather turns cool. So why race in the fall? The reason's pretty obvious.
"The weather's better. It's cooler," said Tom Maile, a former president and current board member for the Taconic Road Runners (www.runner.org). "Races in the heat of summer are difficult for a lot of people."
With dozens of races taking place in Westchester, Rockland and the Hudson Valley this fall, we ask running experts to pick their favorite races -- those that are particularly scenic or interesting or popular or just plain fun. Below are their picks, plus seven honorable mentions, with plenty of options for serious runners and newbies alike.
Sunday, Oct. 14: Be Healthy Run-Walk in Nyack
Like other races on this list, the 22nd annual Be Healthy 5K Run-Walk has recently undergone some changes. Before last year's event, the race was a challenging 10K. This time around, that length has been halved and the course is flat and fast.
Hosted by the Nyack Hospital Foundation, the net proceeds from the event go to the Blow Away Breast Cancer Drive, which promotes breast cancer awareness in the community and provides free screenings for the underserved.
About 200 to 300 people are expected to come out for the event, which starts and finishes on the grounds of Nyack Hospital. The post-run party will include snacks, bagels, prizes and more. The first 200 paid registrants will receive a T-shirt. Good to know: There will be a $250 prize for the club or the team that registers the largest number of their members.
"We want everyone to have a good time," said Jill Garland, the executive director of the Nyack Hospital Foundation, adding that "we feel strongly about the cause."
Start time: 9 a.m. run, 9:05 a.m. walk
Registration: $25 adult preregistration, $30 adult race day entry; $20 youth (under 17) preregistration, $25 youth race day entry; race day entry runs from 7:15 to 8:45 a.m.; preregistration is accepted online until Wednesday, Oct. 10; in-person registration from Oct. 11-13 at Modell's Sporting Goods in the Palisades Mall (5-8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11; 1-4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12; noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13)
Info: 160 N. Midland Ave., Nyack; 917-617-0142; www.events.org/behealthynyack/cpage.aspx?e=46582
Saturday, Oct. 20: Sleepy Hollow Halloween 10K
If you're looking for a fun event, the Sleepy Hollow Halloween 10K, which also offers a 1-mile fun run for kids, is your race. And it's not just fun. It's also challenging and scenic, with a course that passes Sleepy Hollow sites like the Headless Horseman Bridge, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Old Dutch Church and Kingsland Point Park.
The Halloween theme means that costumes are strongly encouraged for the 400 or so runners. In past years, runners have come as bumble bees, jailbirds, vampires and more, said Todd Ruppel, the vice president of Rivertown Runners, the group organizing the event (rivertownrunners.blogspot.com). This year there will be ghouls on the race course, too.
The course, which includes three water stations, starts and finishes near the Morse School parking lot. Parking is at Sleepy Hollow High School and by the Bridge View Tavern; the Metro North station is within walking distance of the event. Bib and race T-shirt pickup are from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. on race day or during business hours on Wednesday through Friday at Westchester Road Runner in White Plains.
The post-race party features live music, post-race beer tastings, raffle prizes and race awards. Some proceeds go to the RTR Outreach Fund, which in the past has supported a local food pantry and a local kids club.
Start time: 9 a.m. kids fun run (6 and older); 9:30 a.m. 10K start
Registration: $30 registration until Oct. 18, $35 race day registration; $5 registration for kids, which includes face painting, Halloween crafts and more ($5 fee for nonrunning kids, too, who want to take part in other activities)
Info: Morse School, 30 Pocantico St., Tarrytown; www.rivertownrunners.org/sleepy-hollow-10k
Sunday, Oct. 21: Harry Chapin Run Against Hunger
The 32nd annual Harry Chapin Run Against Hunger in Croton-on-Hudson, which includes a 10K race, a 5K walk and a 1-mile kids fun run, is a favorite among area runners.
Tom Maile of the Taconic Road Runners Club says that while it's a demanding course with plenty of hills, it's also "spectacular," as it heads over the New Croton Dam out to the Croton River and back (it starts and finishes at Croton-Harmon High School). Besides the event's scenic course, he appreciates that it raises money for a great cause -- about $30,000 in proceeds from the 2011 race supported the Cortlandt Emergency Food Bank, Caring for the Homeless of Peekskill and other charitable groups, local and international.
Todd Ruppel of Rivertown Runners similarly remarked on the beauty of the course. From atop the New Croton Dam, "some of the views are just awesome," he said. He also appreciates the later start time (the 10K starts at 12:45 p.m.), which allows racers to keep their mornings free but still "get it over to watch your football."
Of about 1,000 runners who come out annually for the event, some 600 are kids who take part in the fun run. It's "a big family event," said Jud Ramaker, the race director for the past 22 years. "We've long believed that the roots should be with the schools and here we are," he said, noting that the participation medals given out young runners certainly doesn't hurt the registration numbers.
There is ample parking at the Croton-Harmon High School and the race is just over a mile from the Metro-North Station. Post-race, there will be refreshments and a raffle, plus two local establishments selling burgers, hot dogs and other snacks.
Start time: 10:30 a.m. 5K walk; noon 1-mile fun run; 12:45 p.m. 10K race
Registration: $24 preregistration for the 10K, $29 race day; $20 preregistration for the 5K, $25 race day; $8 preregistration for the fun run for kids 15 and under, $10 for kids 16 and older ($10/$12 for race day); online preregistration is available through Oct. 19; in-person preregistration is available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 20, at Asbury United Methodist Church (17 Old Post Rd. South, Croton-on-Hudson); race day registration is from 9 a.m.to noon at Croton-Harmon High School
Info: Croton-Harmon High School, 36 Old Post Rd. South, Croton-on-Hudson; 914-552-0173; www.runagainsthunger.com
MORE GREAT RACES
Sunday, Sept. 30: Putnam County Fall Classic
The 19th annual Putnam County Fall Classic, which includes a half-marathon and a 5K race, is held on dirt roads in Brewster. Andy Kimerling of Westchester Road Runner commended the scenic beauty of the course.
Info: 50 Main St., Brewster; www.active.com/running/brewster-ny/19th-annual-putnam-county-fall-classic-half-marathon-and-5k-2012
Sunday, Oct. 7: Westchester Running Festival
The 8th annual Westchester Medical Center Running Festival includes a half-marathon, quarter-marathon and 1-mile kids fun run. The course starts from the Westchester County Center and runs along the Bronx River Parkway.
Info: Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave., White Plains; www.genesisadventures.com
Sunday, Oct. 14: Paine to Pain Trail Half-Marathon
The 5th annual Paine to Pain event takes off from the Thomas Paine Cottage in New Rochelle. The course takes runners deep into trails along the Hutchinson River Parkway and Saxon Woods Park, finishing around a track. "The race draws a nice crowd because it's unusual," said Andy Kimerling.
Info: Thomas Paine Cottage, New Rochelle; www.painetopain.com
Sunday, Oct. 21: Run the Farm at Muscoot Farm
The 3rd annual Run the Farm event includes a 5-mile trail race and a kids fun run at Muscoot Farm in Somers. Stop by the farmers market for a post-race snack.
Info: Muscoot Farm, 51 Route 100, Somers; runthefarm.org
Sunday, Nov. 18: Mamaroneck Turkey Trot
The 46th annual 5K Turkey Trot and 1-mile kids fun run in Mamaroneck is flat and fast. So much so that it's billed as the "flattest course in Westchester."
Info: Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck; 917-777-7784; www.village.mamaroneck.ny.us; www.active.com/running/mamaroneck-ny/46th-annual-mamaroneck-turkey-trot-2012
Thursday, Nov. 22: 5-Mile Turkey Trot at Rockland State Park
The 21st annual 5-mile Turkey Trot draws more than 3,000 participants annually (the Rivertown Runners even rent the Peekskill trolley to take runners to the race). After running five miles, you're free to eat whatever you want for Thanksgiving dinner, too.
Info: North Pool Parking Lot, Rockland Lake State Park; www.rocklandroadrunners.org/turkeytrot
Thursday, Nov. 22: Dutchess County Turkey Trot
The Mid-Hudson Road Runners put on this annual event, which includes at 25K, 5-mile run, 2-mile fun run and 1-mile kids fun run.
Info: Arlington High School, Route 55, Freedom Plains; www.mhrrc.org