April 18, 2018

Sparta Area Running Events

Posted by: Jennifer

Sparta Area Running Events

Sparta may be most famous as a bike-friendly town but we are also a town of runners. Spartans love to get outdoors and break a sweat, whether that means biking, hiking, walking, or going on a nice jog. There are many great running routes and races in the region. The Driftless region of Southwest Wisconsin is an especially lovely place to go on a run. You’ll pass through rolling farmland, scenic rivers, rushing rivers and streams, striking limestone bluffs, and so much more. Whether you are a casual runner looking for a scenic 5k or a serious runner training for that big marathon, you will find a local running event perfect for you. Here are our favorites:

Grandad Half Marathon

La Crosse

May 4th and 5th

The Grandad Half Marathon is one of the best ways to explore the beautiful Coulee region on two feet. The route takes you along the Mississippi River up to the stunning Grandad Bluff, the highest point in the region. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with unbeatable views of La Crosse, the lush Mississippi River Valley, and three states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. If you aren’t up for a half marathon, there will also be relays, 5K runs and walks, and special races just for the kids. The Bluff Time Trial is the only running time trial in the Midwest, held in conjunction with the Cycling Time Trial. It climbs 500 feet over 1.5 miles. If you really want to push yourself, try the Grandad Challenge, a unique two part even taking place on Friday, May 4th and Saturday May 5th. On Friday, participants race up the bluff and then descend back down for a half marathon Saturday morning.

Three Rivers 5K

La Crosse

May 19th

The Three Rivers 5K, also known as the “River to Ridge” run, kicks off at on the banks of Mississippi River at historic Riverside Park and then winds through the La Crosse River Marsh Trails. The race ends at the top of the beautiful Hixon Forest Bluff, offering an unbeatable view of the verdant Mississippi River Valley. After the race, treat yourself good food (meat or veggie burgers), refreshments, and live music at the post-race party.

Firecracker 4 Mile

La Crosse

July 4th

Nothing says 4th of July like a nice 4-mile run, right? The Firecracker 4 Mile is a great way to get fired up for an evening of fireworks, beer, hot dogs, and pie. You can choose from a 4 mile or 1 mile run. The 1 mile consists of two loops through Riverside Park along the Mississippi River. For the 4 miler, you’ll start at Riverside Park then follow the the Cass Bridge to Pettibone Island and back.




Rails to Trails Races


October 7th

The Rails to Trails Races are one of the best ways to explore the scenic stretches of Wisconsin's famous Rails to Trails project, in which abandoned railway lines were converted into well-maintained trails for walking, biking, and running. The trail for this route was originally constructed in 1873 as the main line for the Chicago and North Western Railway. Along the way, you’ll pass lovely tree-lined roads, historic tunnels, and beautiful farmland. The Rails to Trails Race is a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon, but you can also participate in a half marathon, 5K, and 1 mile dash.


Sparta Half Marathon


October 13th

The Sparta Half Marathon also takes place along the beautiful and historic Elroy-Sparta Trail. There is no better way to experience the fresh air and vibrant changing colors of fall. The race is part of Sparta’s beloved Fall Fest Celebration. Run the half marathon in the morning and then join up with the festivities by the afternoon. Located in historic downtown, the Fall Fest features arts & crafts booths, a pie contest, farmers market, live music, face painting, beer tastings, and so much more.

The Festival Foods Turkey Trot

La Crosse

November 22nd

Running a race on Thanksgiving morning is the perfect way to get a workout before the big meal. That way you won’t feel so bad about gorging on all that turkey, pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and rolls you’ll be eating later. At the Festival Foods Turkey Trot, you can either participate in a timed 5 mile run or an untimed 2 mile walk. You can even bring your furry friend along for the 2-mile dog jog! At the finish line, enjoy live music, free coffee and pie, and high-quality long sleeved t-shirts.

The Ugly Sweater 5K

La Crosse

December 7th

Nothing says Christmas quite like a group of Wisconsinites running through La Crosse in their favorite ugly holiday sweaters. The Ugly Sweater 5K is quite the sight to see. Even if you don’t participate in the run, you’ll love to see all the crazy and colorful treasures people unearth from their closets. The race begins at Myrick Park at 3:00 pm and ends at the beautiful Tunnel of Lights in La Crosse’s famous Riverside Park. And yes, Santa does participate in the run. After the run, head into the heated tent for a tasty cup of hot chocolate before the awards ceremony. The Ugly Sweater 5K is sponsored by the local Rotary Club and benefits local health and education programs.


Planning a trip to Sparta, Wisconsin? Book a stay at the historic Franklin Victorian Bed & Breakfast for warm service and close proximity to the region’s best running and biking trails.


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