One of the wonderful things about the holiday season is the return of many cherished customs. Year after year, people eagerly look forward to seasonal traditions such as shopping, baking, decorating, visiting loved ones, and running.

Yes, running. It may come as a surprise, but holiday-themed races—from local half marathons to national 5Ks—take place all over the country during this time of year. These races provide runners with not only a welcome opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays but also a way to be active, bond with fellow runners—and help support worthy fund-raising causes to boot.

Miss Santa Holiday 5K

Place: Boston, MA
Race: 5K
Date: December 7, 2019

The Miss Santa race is one of several held throughout the year in Boston by RACE Cancer Foundation. For this holiday-themed run/walk, which winds along the scenic Charles River Esplanade, cancer survivors run free and 100 percent of the proceeds go to cancer charities.

Before the race begins, the top Miss Santa costume is chosen based on runner applause at the start line. After the race, participants enjoy an after-party and awards ceremony with awards given to the top three overall male and female finishers, as well as all age-group winners.

It’s a Wonderful Run 5K

Place: Seneca Falls, NY
Race: 5K
Date: December 14, 2019

If you like your holiday movie inspiration coming from a few decades back, this race may be for you. It’s held in Seneca Falls, a town that touts itself as “the real Bedford Falls” from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life and holds an annual film-inspired festival that includes screenings of the movie, tributes to Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart, and appearances by the movie’s actors.

The race, which takes place on the Saturday evening of the festival, begins with Karolyn Grimes, the child actress in the film, reciting her famous line, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings,” at the starting line at the Bridge Street Bridge—making it a wonderful race indeed.

A Christmas Story Run

Place: Cleveland, OH
Races: 5K, 10K
Date: December 7, 2019

This annual race, sponsored by A Christmas Story House & Museum, takes participants through the very streets where the iconic movie was filmed. Runners often dress as their favorite characters or objects from the film, including Ralphie in his bunny suit, grumpy elves, and, yes, even leg lamps. Plus, the Parkers’ mailbox serves as the finish line for the 5K; after the race, entrants can tour the iconic home for free. As a bonus, you can enjoy a Bumpus Hound Run by registering your favorite four-legged friend for the race. Proceeds go directly to neighborhood home improvements, with over $500,000 benefiting the area since 2013.

Santa to the Sea
Half Marathon
Place: Oxnard, CA
Races: Half marathon, 2-person relay, 5K, 1K kids race Date: December 8, 2019

Saving Santa and helping the community are at the heart of this event, which began over a decade ago after the race’s organizer saved and relocated “the world’s largest Santa Claus,” a half-century-old roadside statue, to its current location in Oxnard. (The statue serves as the race’s starting point.) It’s fun for participants of all ages (there’s even a “diaper dash” the day before), and since its inception, the event’s organizers have given tens of thousands of toys to underprivileged children and approximately 1,000 scholarships for people to attend local Oxnard College.

Jingle Bell Run

Places: Locally run across the country
Race: 5K (plus others at many events) Dates: Various throughout November and December Website:

Not all holiday-themed races are local, and the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run is one great example of a fun national event. True to its theme of “serious fun,” runners (and walkers) in cities and towns across America dress in festive costumes and tie bells to their shoelaces to make a symphony of jingling sounds—all in an effort to raise funds and create awareness of a disease that’s the country’s most common cause of disability. 2019 marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Jingle Bell Run. The previous year, over $6.8 million was raised through 103 races.

For many of us, the holidays are a time for giving. So, in addition to the usual gift-giving and well-wishing, sign up for a holiday race near you—and join the millions of people who literally go to great lengths to give hope to others.