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Experience California's Most Popular Competitions

Jul. 27, 2017

While California features an abundance of community 5Ks and niche races, the state is also home to marquee events that attract athletes, participants and spectators from around the world. Below are just a few of the most popular competitions that visitors can partake in or watch in the Golden State.



Amgen Tour of California

Each spring, the Amgen Tour of California – a Tour de France-style cycling road race – brings together the world’s top professional cycling teams to compete along a demanding course that encompasses hundreds of miles of California’s iconic highways, byways and coastlines. The teams chosen to participate have included Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and World Champions. Over 100,000 hotel rooms have been booked as a result of this race since 2006 and annually, more than 2 million people travel to the Golden State from across the globe to watch this iconic competition.


The Sea Otter Classic

A four-day "Celebration of Cycling," the Subaru Sea Otter Classic powered by SRAM is regarded as the world's largest cycling festival. Part recreational biking, part competitive event, part festival, part expo and 100 percent fun, the Sea Otter Classic returns to Monterey, California, from April 19 - 22, 2018. This action-packed cycling extravaganza features amateur and pro cycling events as well as family activities for all ages, attracting 71,000 fans from around the world. The Sea Otter Classic also plays host to one of the largest consumer bike expos in the world.




The San Francisco Half Marathon

Don’t let the hills scare you! Runner’s World deemed San Francisco as the #1 Best Running City in America, hills and all! While there are endless options to choose from, The San Francisco Marathon is perhaps one of the most popular races, drawing more than 27,000 participants and 80,000 spectators to the City during its 40th installment in July 2017. Participants have four options to choose from including the Full Marathon, 1st Half Marathon, 2nd Half Marathon, 5K and Ultramarathon.


The US Bank OC Marathon and Half Marathon

The US Bank OC Marathon began in 2004 in Orange County and includes a full marathon, half-marathon, 5K and kids’ one-mile run. The full course begins in Newport Beach and passes through Santa Ana, Irvine and finishes in Costa Mesa. Held the first weekend of May for the past several years, the OC Marathon raises money through donations to give back to various charitable organizations throughout Orange County. The U.S. Bank OC Marathon races draw more than 20,000 participants from 43 states and 20 countries. This includes nearly 10,000 students from 115 schools in Orange County who participate in Kids Run the OC.




Vans US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach

Nearly 500,000 people come to watch over 300 world-class compete in the Vans US Open of Surfing every year. The event takes place at the famed southsideSouthside of the Huntington Beach Pier and lasts nine days, including four World Surf League (WSL) events. In addition to surfing, this iconic event also includes skateboarding and BMX competitions at the beach. When not watching competitions, spectators can enjoy a myriad of events that celebrate surfing and surf culture, including exhibits, outdoor movie screenings, athlete meet and greets, musical performances, and more.


Paul Mitchell Neon Supergirl Surf Pro in Oceanside

Oceanside, located in North Shore San Diego, is home to the world’s largest women’s surf event and festival – the Paul Mitchell Neon Supergirl Surf Pro. The event was established in 2007, celebrating female strength, independence and empowerment. Over 125,000 people come to watch the competition annually, in addition to more than 2 million TV viewers. The Supergirl Surf Pro is a 6-Star WSL sanctioned all-girls surf contest, and welcomes more than 250 top female surfers to Oceanside every year.




Spartan Beast and  Ultra Beast in North Lake Tahoe

From the lake to the mountains, North Lake Tahoe is the host site to a myriad of competitions that challenge athletes in a uniquely stunning high-altitude venue. For obstacle course daredevils, the Spartan Beast and Ultra Beast races push athletes through 30+ features over 12-26+ grueling miles and attract Spartans from around the country. The fastest Beast time is three hours and the fastest recorded Ultra Beast time is seven hours. The latter also has the distinction of being the only Spartan even featuring strict time cutoffs that must be met, meaning that not everyone who signs up for the race will actually finish. In addition to being televised live and edited for NBC to air later, a couple thousand spectators come to watch these elite athletes push their bodies to the limit.


Iron Man in Sonoma Wine Country

Two races draw thousands of triathletes to compete amid the winding roads, rolling hills, and gorgeous vineyards of Sonoma Wine Country — the Ironman 70.3 (formerly known as the Ironman Vineman) in May and the Ironman Santa Rosa. These competitions appeal not to just triathletes, but also to their wine- and food-loving family and support crews, who come back every year. Long established in Sonoma County, in 2017 the Ironman Vineman (a half triathlon) relocated to Santa Rosa, just a few miles from its original location, and the Ironman Santa Rosa (a full triathlon) was added to the lineup. Both races offer qualifying spots for the annual Ironman World Championships. Their routes include swimming in calm, clean Lake Sonoma; biking through vineyards and charming small towns; and running along the Santa Rosa Creek Trail and finishing downtown in the new Courthouse Square.