Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping quite like friendly competition. Which is why kids fun runs have become tremendously popular in recent years. Besides the obvious social and exercise benefits, these events give kids a sense of motivation and accomplishment (some events award prizes; others give all participants a T-shirt) and teach good sportsmanship. We’ve run through a list of local events to pick a few winners worth signing the kids up for now — even if the race is months away (beginners might need to train a bit). Ready. Set. Go.
ALLEN EAGLE RUN
Race in a festival-like setting, complete with running school mascots, cheerleaders and free food at the 11th annual Allen Eagle Run. Kiddos (all ages welcome) speed through the flat (and stroller-friendly) mile-long fun run or a 5K course. All proceeds benefit Allen ISD. Register online, $25-35 per person based on signup date.
When: March 2 at 8am for the fun run and 8:30am for the 5k
BAYLOR SUNNY KIDS TRI
Register kids interested in a step up from the fun run for the Baylor Sunny Kids Triathlon. Distances kid swim, bike and run are determined by age. Little athletes ages 6–10 swim 100 yards (in an indoor pool), bike three miles and run one kilometer; kids ages 11–15 swim 200 yards, bike six miles and run two kilometers. Register online; fees vary based on signup date, $45 per person by March 31; $55 per person until race day.
When: April 27 at 7:30am
Where: Baylor Tom Landry Health & Wellness Center, Dallas
DASH FOR THE BEADS
Choose from a 1 mile walk, 5K or 10K run at the 10th annual Dash for the Beads, a Mardi Gras-themed fun run in Oak Cliff. The USATF-certified course begins and ends on Canty Street near Kidd Springs Park. After the race, stick around to laissez les bon temps rouler at a festival, costume content and party that will last until the late afternoon. Register online until February 27 at noon.
When: March 2 at 9am (1 mile), 9:30am (10K) and 9:45 (5K)
Where: Canty Street, Dallas
DENTON COUNTY DASH
Kiddos lead by example in the Denton County Dash, a 5K race that gets hearts pumping to raise awareness for cardiovascular disease. Littles 6 and older run or walk this flat course through Railroad Park (about half of the course is unpaved). Register online, free.
When: April 6 at 9am
Where: Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park, Lewisville; 214/697-6922
Register tiny night owls for an illuminated run that starts at twilight. Runners are encouraged to dress in brightly colored costumes with flashing lights (for safety) and given LED arm bands, race bib and a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt for the race. The Firefly Run 5K is open to all ages, all speeds (yes, it’s OK to walk) and benefits Scottish Rite Hospital. Head to the family-friendly after-party for special performances by local dance groups, a costume contest and free snacks after your little receives a glow-in-the-dark finisher medal. Register online, $40 per person for 5K untimed, $50 per person for 10k timed.
When: March 23 at 6pm (registration opens)
Where: Oak Point Amphitheater, Plano
GREAT AMAZING RACE
Is your family fans of The Amazing Race? Modeled after the Emmy-winning TV show, the Great Amazing Race, hosted this spring in Little Elm and Fort Worth, pits two-person teams (ages 3 and up; competitions are among peers) against each other to compete in eight outdoor challenges in a 1-mile obstacle course. Unfortunately, winners here don’t take home a $1 million prize like on the show. Teams can be kid/kid, adult/child or adult/adult; challenges vary by location but consist of team-building physical exercises. Insider tip: Clue cards need to be read so littles who haven’t mastered the skill yet should be paired with an adult. Register early for $50 per team. Prices may increase closer to the event.
When: Little Elm, March 30 at 10am; Fort Worth, March 31 at 3pm
Where: Little Elm Stadium, Little Elm and Trinity Park, Fort Worth
Hopefully the luck of the Irish will be with those little athletes running the 11th annual Paddy Dash on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. Kids ages 10 and under jog the 50-yard-long Piddy Pat Dash for free. More serious competitors of any age register for the mile-long fun run or the 5K. After the photo finish, enjoy the entertainment: bounce houses, and free food and drinks. Register online, $15 per person for the 1 mile, $35 per person for the 5K until February 1; $20 for the 1 mile, $40 for the 5K after February 1.
When: March 16 at 8am
Where: Frisco Square, Frisco, 214-619-2246
TRINITY RIVER LEVEE RUN
Jump at the chance to run — or walk — across the iconic Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and over the Trinity River during the 15th annual Trinity River Levee Run that’s open to all ages. Choose between options to do a 5K or 10K course or participate in the half marathon. Once the family has crossed the finish line, spend the rest of the day at the fitness festival with kid-friendly activities such as an obstacle course. Or just enjoy the views—the bridge is pedestrian-only all day. Register online, registration starts a $30 per person.
When: March 2 at 8am
Where: Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas
This article was originally published on February 2, 2016; it was updated with additional reporting by Alexis Manrodt on January 4, 2019. Photo: Dash for the Beads by In the Cliff Photography.