Best 2017 races for runners this fall in Columbia, SC

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You can jog all year long in Columbia, but for runners, fall in the capital city is like photography’s golden hour: perfect. In fact, it’s so perfect that it can be hard to choose from the dozens of 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, full marathons and other races timed to take advantage of the city’s runner-friendly fall weather.

To help you choose, we’ve created a cheat sheet of local races, ranking them by course interest, time of day, what sets the race apart from the others and, of course, the coolness factor of the T-shirt. All you need to do is register.

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 15

DISTANCE: 5K

START TIME: 6:30 p.m.

COURSE INTEREST: This run packs a lot into a short distance – you’ll run over both the Gervais Street and Blossom Street bridges – at sunset, no less.

LOCATION: Race begins and ends on Lincoln Street in the Vista.

T-SHIRT COOLNESS FACTOR: Patriotic plus modern earns it four sneakers.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Talk about convenience: Not only does this race offer drive-through packet pickup, but a 6:30 p.m. start means you can sleep in and still participate. Even better, founded to honor Stephen Siller, a New York City fireman killed on 9/11 (after running through gridlocked traffic from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers), the race honors and supports first responders and service members.

INFO: www.t2trunsc.org

Lake Murray Dam Run

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 16

DISTANCE: 10K run, plus a 5K wilderness run

START TIME: 7:30 a.m. for the 10K; 7:50 a.m. for the 5K

COURSE INTEREST: You won’t have a chance to see much of the 10K course – it’s been re-routed to be super fast, with fewer turns and hills. The 5K runs through the shady paths of Saluda Shoals Park.

LOCATION: Race begins at the dam and ends at Saluda Shoals Park.

T-SHIRT COOLNESS FACTOR: A stylish new logo replaces a design that had been around since the ’80s, earning this T-shirt five sneakers.

WHY WE LIKE IT: The speedy 10K course will give serious runners bragging rights on a new personal best time; the wilderness run’s gravel paths are easy on older joints. The race supports the Rotary Club of St. Andrews-Columbia.

INFO: www.strictlyrunning.com

Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 14

DISTANCE: Half-marathon, 10K, 5K

START TIME: 7:15 a.m. for the half-marathon; 7:45 a.m. for the 10K, 5K and walks

COURSE INTEREST: If you’ve wanted to check out the new Spirit Communications Park, now’s your chance: The race begins and ends there. Along the way, you’ll pass through some of Columbia’s notable landmarks and parks – and the tunnel at Spirit Communications Park!

LOCATION: Race begins and ends at Spirit Communications Park.

T-SHIRT COOLNESS FACTOR: Palmetto Health Foundation partnered with ByFarr Graphic Design to create a shirt that symbolized the support of thousands of Columbia-area women (and men) who are fighting breast cancer. They succeeded; five sneakers.

WHY WE LIKE IT: Besides the fact that this run raises funds for Palmetto Health Breast Center, we like that the half-marathon (as well as the shorter races) is open to walkers as well as runners.

INFO: www.walkforlifecolumbia.org

Ray Tanner Home Run

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 21

DISTANCE: 12K, 5K, 1-mile fun run

START TIME:7:45 a.m. for the 12K; 8 a.m. for the 5K; 8:15 a.m. for the fun run.

COURSE INTEREST: The 12K is literally a “Tour de Columbia” covering both bridges, West Columbia, Cayce and the Vista.

LOCATION: Race begins and ends at Founders Park – the Carolina baseball stadium.

T-SHIRT COOLNESS FACTOR: The logo is small, understated and printed in one color; still; each race has its own Under Armour shirt, and the 12K women’s shirt has a V-neck; four sneakers.

WHY WE LIKE IT: At right around 7.5 miles, 12 kilometers will challenge 10K-ers and give half-marathoners a chance to go for a new personal best. The Ray Tanner Foundation supports all sorts of family-related projects in Columbia like providing free bikes for kids and opening a Columbia-area location of the Miracle League, a fall baseball league for kids and adults with unique abilities.

INFO: www.raytannerfoundation.org

Run for our Troops

WHEN: Postponed from Monday, Sept. 11; watch for a new date to be announced

DISTANCE: 5K

COURSE INTEREST: If you haven’t seen what’s going on in West Columbia, this is your chance.

LOCATION: Race begins and ends on State Street in West Columbia, near the Riverwalk Amphitheater.

T-SHIRT COOLNESS FACTOR: Patriotic plus modern earns it four sneakers.

WHY WE LIKE IT: If you’re gone for the weekend, you can still participate: Run for our Troops will be on a Monday. It’s after work, too. Proceeds support Battle Buddies (battlebuddiessc.org), which provides therapy dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD.

INFO: www.runforourtroops.com

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