Forget dozing on the couch, navigating party-going crowds or gorging on exorbitant prix fixe menus while paying for an expensive hotel room or babysitter. Fast-approaching 2013 deserves a better welcome, a hybrid New Year's Eve soiree that features good-time essentials like friends, family, fireworks, champagne, and -- wait for it -- running. Midnight road races and fun runs practically guarantee a good-mood inducing experience. Across the continent, these road races offer unique New Year's Eve spins in booming metropolises and small towns alike.
In Toronto, runner Jimmy Semes saw last year's Midnite Run as an opportunity to squeeze another race into a competitive year. The 5K race -- held in the hip Liberty Village neighborhood -- was his 68th in 2011, and he is proud to have taken third to Canadian Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet, who won the race. Although Semes didn't take any Jaeger shots from an after-party ice sculpture, he took advantage of on-site shower facilities to change into his party clothes. (The party promises to stay popping until 3 a.m. this year.)
Whether you race all-out or take in the scene at a leisurely pace, a New Year's road race provides built-in camaraderie, endorphins and exercise. Plus, you get in your first run of 2013 -- tipsy, maybe, but definitely un-hungover.
End the year in style and start the new year off right with these events on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day (all times local):
Commitment Day 5K, 25 U.S. cities
5K races begin at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, in 25 U.S. cities
Billed as a pledge for individuals to start the year off on the right foot, Commitment Day is a nationwide celebration of health and fitness centered on a series of 5K races that will start simultaneously in 25 cities across the U.S. The mission behind the event is to help individuals ditch their annual New Year's resolutions for practical, achievable goals. Instead of making a typical list of things you hope to change in the new year, the idea is that you'll develop a commitment to living a healthier lifestyle. Registration: $39 for non-Life Time members; $34 for Life Time members. (Use the code "CORP0598" at registration to get $5 off registration this week.)
Emerald Nuts Midnight Run, New York City
4-mile race starts at 11:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31, in Central Park
This hilly first run of the year boasts fireworks, a costume parade and, most importantly, on-course champagne. Post-race, dance with fellow racers or join the masses in Times Square. Registration: $60 non-NYRR members ($55 members, $65 race day).
Party starts at 10 p.m., Monday, Dec. 31; 5K and 1.5-mile run races start at midnight
This decades-old tradition draws 1,000 participants to a festive scene and flat out-and-back course along the Willamette River. The top three finishers earn giant holiday cookie baskets -- and beat lines for beer and wine at the after-party. Savor music and dancing until 2 a.m., then hop on Portland's light rail MAX line for a safe ride home. Registration: $35 ($40 race day).
New Year's One Day Run, San Francisco
6-, 12- and 24-hour races begin at 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 31
Everyone with un-met milage goals for 2012: head to San Fran to log 'em. These endurance races consist of 1.061-mile flat laps around the Crissy Field lagoon with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay. Aid stations every mile and a spectator-friendly course provide fuel and inspiration for the New Year. Registration: $60, $80, or $165 (more after 12/17: $75, $95, or $190).
New Year's Eve Midnight Run, Philadelphia
5K race begins at 11:59 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31
Philly's premier run-party starts at 10 p.m. Although there's no dress code, eveningwear is encouraged: bridesmaid's dresses, wedding gowns, tuxes and, yes, running shoes. Participants earn novel race sweatshirts, and the fastest fancily dressed racers earn cash. The party, with a limited open bar, continues to 2 a.m.; families can find non-alcoholic in the on-site arcade and bowling alley. Registration: $50, or $45 for individuals in groups of four or more.
Toronto Midnite New Year's Eve Run, Toronto
5K race begins at midnight Tuesday, Jan. 1
With views of the city skyline and spontaneous on-course fireworks, Toronto's Midnite Run provides urban revelry. All finishers earn a glass of champagne, free finger food, party favors and access to post-race pre-party shower facilities. Creative costumes are encouraged. Registration: run and party $95 (as available).
Resolution 5K, Denver
5K race begins at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31
Early birds and families, rejoice: running the Mile High City's 28th annual NYE road race doesn't require burning the midnight oil. Circle Denver's historic Washington Park, enjoy a post-race pasta party, and bid 2012 adieu. Registration: $25 adults, $20 children 17 and under ($30/25 race day).
Polar Bear Dip and Dash, Portland, Maine
5K run begins 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 31
This fun run/walk followed by polar plunge into Atlantic Ocean at East End Beach. Sign up for this run and cold swim, and you'll support the Natural Resources Council of Maine's work to curb global warming. With prizes for the best polar bear costume, this altruistic New Year's Eve day event provides killer goodies: a water bottle, Van Morrison album, and hand-knit polar bear beanies to dip participants. Registration: $30.
And a few more to consider:
Las Vegas GoRuck Challenge adventure race, 1 a.m. or 10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31, Las Vegas, Nev.
Peanut Island 24, 6-, 12- and 24-hour races, Monday, Dec. 31, Riveria Beach, Fla.
Brazen New Year's Day Runs, 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon, 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, Lake Chabot, Calif.
Chicago New Year's Day 5K, 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, Chicago.
Fat Ass 50K, 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, Vancouver, British Columnbia.