The Inland Northwest offers a ton of running races each year: trail runs, glow-in-the dark runs, obstacle courses and plenty of old-fashioned road races. If you’re ready to race but not sure where to start, look for a race that allows you to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and keeps additional challenges – like hills, terrain or mud pits – to a minimum.

At just a hair over 3 miles long, the 5K makes a great gateway to racing. New runners can experience the excitement of a competition, get some swag and enjoy the after-party without facing a daunting mileage challenge. The Inland Northwest suffers no shortage of 5K events, most either family-friendly “fun runs” or shorter versions of a main event like a marathon or half. Even if you’re training for a longer run, with adequate preparation, you can rock it the first time around.

Negative Split Half Marathon, 10K & 5K // April 10

Running a “negative split” means finishing stronger than you started. No pressure – the name is a metaphor for life, not a requirement for the race. If you’ve trained for your foray into racing around central Spokane, Negative Split may just follow your regular routes through Kendall Yards, Browne’s Addition, Peaceful Valley, Riverfront Park and along the river. Nsplit.com

Bloomsday 12K // May 1 

If anything makes a tough 7.47-mile course easier, it’s 50,000 very excited people, some of whom are wearing tutus. Bloomsday’s popularity means it draws all kinds of participants – runners, walkers, run-walkers, shufflers and everything in between – all out there to see what they’re made of. Whoever you are, you’ll fit right in. Bloomsdayrun.org

Sweet Feet 5K Fun Run // May 30

Founded as a senior project last year by local student Elizabeth McNally, the Sweet Feet 5K benefits McNally’s alma mater, On Track Academy. The course loops through the Hillyard neighborhood with no major hills and ends at Harmon-Shipley Park with a family-friendly celebration. Sweetfeet5k.com

Windermere Marathon & Half // June 5

When you take on 26.2 miles, or 13.1 miles for that matter, all seasoned marathoners will probably give you this advice: Make finishing your only goal the first time around. That means letting go of a time goal. It’s also wise to choose a course with few extra challenges. Windermere Marathon fits the bill with a fairly flat, scenic and uncomplicated route you can even practice on training runs: After a 7-mile loop through Liberty Lake neighborhoods, the marathon course follows the Centennial Trail from Liberty Lake to downtown Spokane. The half starts at Mirabeau Park in Spokane Valley. The elevation drops 200 feet over the full course, which ends in Riverfront Park with a beer garden, food and music. Windermeremarathon.com

Title 9K & 5K // June 11

This all-woman jaunt through downtown Spokane and the U-District makes for a perfect step up from a first 5K. The small race attracts a range of women, from elite to stroller-pushing – and even the occasional, admirable elite-pace stroller pusher. Hosted by Title Nine, a women’s athletic clothing retailer, the event’s swag and t-shirts are on point. Titlenine.com //

Try These Other Spring 5Ks and 5 Milers 

Trail Maniacs State Park Series

All of the Trail Maniacs running club State Park series trail runs include 5-mile options and are a great way to ease into trail running. Try the Farragut State Park race May 7 or Heyburn State Park run on June 11. This popular series continues all summer long. Trailmaniacs.com/sps

Priest Lake Spring Festival Run (May 29)

Choose between half marathon and 10k and 5k distances (and a free kid’s dash). Whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong since you’ll be running on a mix of pavement and gravel through the forest surrounding Priest Lake. Priestlakerace.com

June Bug Fun Run (June 4)

A three or five mile run or walk along the Spokane River near Spokane Community College. All proceeds benefit Lutheran Community Services NW’s work to care for abused and neglected children in our community. Lcsnw.org/junebugrun // (OTM)