group of runners competing in a race

Fun & Fearless: Test Your Mettle with Waco’s Annual Races

group of runners competing in a race
Nov 08, 2023

Fitness buffs and fun runners, you’ll find plenty to do in Waco. From fundraising 5ks to Ironman competitions, exercise becomes a joy with these annual local races that will get your heart pumping and help you stay healthy.

Go for the gold, set a new PR, or just enjoy a weekend morning outdoors with other active Texans!

Tip: Make sure to check each race’s website carefully, as details may change from year to year. 

Huaco Cuatro Trail Run Series

Trail runners will love the Huaco Cuatro series, hosted by the Waco Striders Running Club. The series includes four trail runs sprinkled throughout the year, providing an opportunity to experience Waco’s beautiful parks each season. The races are:

  • Cross-Country Trail Run (February) – a 2-mile hike or 5-mile run through mostly flat and winding trails in the south end of Cameron Park
  • Down ‘n Dirty Trail Run (April) – a 3k hike or 8k trail run in Cameron Park on a challenging trail with lots of turns and elevation changes, starting and ending at the Northern Gateway Pavilion
  • Tuff Enuff Trail Run (August) – a mostly flat 5k or 10k trail run through Woodway Park along Lake Waco
  • Chupacabra Trail Run (October) – a challenging 5k or 15k trail run through Cameron Park that combines elevation changes, rough terrain, and plenty of twists and turns

Each trail is well-marked to keep runners on their paths. You can sign up for just one race, or complete all four to earn a special plaque to display your quartet of finisher’s medals.

Toughest ‘N Texas Trail Runs

If the Huaco Cuatro trail runs are a bit short for your liking—or if you just can’t get enough of Cameron Park—the Toughest ‘N Texas Trail Runs should be on your race calendar. This April event has races from the approachable all the way to the ultra.

You can sign up for 5k, 10k, 10-mile, 20-mile, or 50k races. The course will take you through lovely Cameron Park, along the banks of the Brazos and Bosque Rivers. The terrain is hilly and rocky—so it will never be boring.

After the race, celebrate the Texas way with breakfast tacos, fajitas, beer, and Texas tea.

The Best 5k on the Brazos

Long runs are great, but a short 5k is a fun, breezy distance that leaves plenty of day for other activities. The Best 5k on the Brazos each May follows a flat, scenic course through Indian Spring Park along the Brazos River, finishing just across the Waco Suspension Bridge. The easy terrain makes this a great race for setting a PR!

Badass Texas Half Marathon

It may have a serious name, but the Badass Texas Half Marathon is plenty of fun. This May event includes a 5k, 10k, and half marathon, starting at Heritage Square in downtown Waco. The courses run along the Brazos, through Cameron Park, East Brazos Park, and across the Washington Bridge.

Enjoy lovely views of Waco while you run with a blend of nature, urban, and suburban scenery to keep things interesting. The half marathon course has some challenging hills, so you’ll feel particularly accomplished after you’re done! At the finish line, a DJ and beer garden set the stage for the after party.

Race tip: Coming in from out of town? Past races have arranged group rates with local hotels like Aloft Hotel and Candlewood Suites. Check the race details on their website to find the best rates at these or other great area hotels.

XTERRA Cameron Park Triathlon

When a run just isn’t enough, why not add a bike ride and a swim to the mix? The XTERRA Cameron Park Triathlon each June is a three-part off-road race that takes you through some of Cameron Park’s more rugged trails.

The race starts with a 1,000 meter swim in the Brazos River. Then hop onto your bike for 27k over rocks, roots, and turns. Finally, run 10k on a course that makes you climb Jacob’s Ladder—twice.

If that sounds a bit much, you can also do the sprint triathlon which includes all three events at half the distance: a 500m swim, 13k bike ride, and 5k run. Or if you prefer to stay on dry land, try the duathlon—a 3k run, 13k bike ride, and then another 5k run.

XTERRA Cameron Park Trail Run

The conventional wisdom in running communities is that trail running is tougher than road running. The uneven terrain requires more balance and exertion than running on a flat surface, like a road or track.

So if you’re looking for a steeper challenge, the XTERRA Cameron Park Trail Run may be for you. This June half marathon through Cameron Park will take you over rocks and roots, through turns, up and down hills, and across bridges. You can choose the right distance for your fitness level from 5k, 10k, and 21k races.

TriWaco Sprint & Olympic Triathlons

The “standard triathlon” is always a swim, bike ride, and run. But the distances of each leg can vary. At the TriWaco Triathlons each June, you can choose from either a shorter sprint or longer Olympic-distance race.

These events are sanctioned by USA Triathlon (USAT), the governing body of American triathlons and duathlons. That means that athletes must have an annual membership to USAT, or they can purchase a one-day USAT pass in order to participate ($15 as of August 2023).

The TriWaco Olympic Triathlon starts with a 1500-meter swim on the Brazos, continues with a 40k bike ride out and back along M.L.K. Jr. Blvd, and ends with a 10k run along the River Walk. The sprint event includes a 400-meter swim, 16-mile bike ride, and 5k run along the same basic route as the Olympic event.

Race tip: In past years, hotels including Aloft Hotel, Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Waco, and Residence Inn Waco have offered premium rates for TriWaco participants. Check the race website’s accommodations page for updated information on possible group rates.

The Skittles Waco Wild West Bicycle Tour

Since 1985, the Waco Wild West Bicycle Tour has been encouraging people to get out and ride for a good cause. With the help of Skittles, this September race has raised funds for local nonprofits, veterans, Be the Match, and many more great causes. If you start a fundraising team and meet your fundraising goal, you will get free entry into the race!

There are four different routes in this race, with options suitable for families, hobby cyclists, and intense riders:

  • 6-mile ride: This family ride along the Riverwalk will take you from the Washington Avenue Bridge to Cameron Park East and back. It’s great for families, including kids of all ages.
  • 26-mile ride: This route is mostly flat, and heads out to the countryside northwest of Waco. Pass the Lake Waco Dam before looping back to the city.
  • 54-mile ride: This route for more serious bikers heads out through Rock Creek and China Spring, skirts the Lake Waco Wetlands, and loops through Willow Grove.
  • 65-mile ride (100k): The longest route! This ride follows the same basic path as the 54-mile ride, with a wider final loop to add the additional miles.

People ride all sorts of bikes for this fun event, from hand cycles to recumbent bikes to tandem bikes to mountain bikes to standard road bikes. After you cross the finish line, you can fill a bag with candy as a sweet reward.

Beast of the Brazos

If your favorite part of a triathlon is the swimming portion, then the Beast of the Brazos is for you. This race is an open-water swim down the Brazos in downtown Waco, taking place each September. There are both 1.2-mile and 2.4-mile routes, and you may sign up to race with or without a wetsuit.

Proceeds from this fun event benefit the Greater Waco Sports Commission, which is dedicated to providing more opportunities for sport and exercise in Waco and McLennan County.

Race tip: At past races, the Greater Waco Sports Commission arranged hotel blocks for out-of-town participants, with special rates at local hotels including the Comfort Suites North. Check the race website for any details on possible hotel savings!

Ironman 70.3 Waco

The Ironman 70.3 Waco just may be the toughest event on the entire calendar. Like the other local triathlons, this race includes a swim, bike ride, and a run. But the distances you’ll cover here separate this October challenge from the rest.

First, you’ll swim 1.2 miles in the Brazos, starting at Pecan Bottom and ending at Indian Spring Park. Then, you’ll hop on your bike and pedal 56 miles through Waco and the surrounding countryside. Back downtown, you’ll run a half marathon (13.1 miles) through downtown Waco, mostly along the Brazos, crossing several bridges along the way.

All in all, you’ll cover 70.3 miles during this race—half the distance of a full Ironman. And while this is considered a fast course (great for setting a new PR!), that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

Race tip: If you’re coming in from out of town, check their website for special group rates at local hotels. Past races have offered group rates at Hilton Waco, Hampton Inn & Suites Waco South, Homewood Suites Waco, TownePlace Suite Waco South, and Camp Fimfo.

H-E-B Cameron Park Zoo Stampede

For a truly one-of-a-kind race experience, the H-E-B Cameron Park Zoo Stampede is a must. Each November, Cameron Park Zoo opens its doors to the running crowd for a 1k walk and 5k or 10k runs among the animal enclosures. The race takes runners through both the zoo and Cameron Park, and includes some hilly terrain.

Hosted by HEB and powered by Reliant, this event raises funds for the Cameron Park Zoological and Botanical Society to support animal care, provide animal enrichment programs, and support the zoo’s worldwide conservation efforts. So go wild—it’s a run for a good cause.

Contact the Waco TPID

Waco Tourism Public Improvement District Corporation

424 Clay Avenue, Suite 2343
Waco, TX 76706
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