About the Sunburst Races

About Sunburst Races

Sunburst Races is one of the premier regional running events in the Midwest. Held each year in South Bend, Indiana, the race begins in downtown South Bend and finishes on the field of the venerable University of Notre Dame football stadium. The race, owned and managed by Beacon Health System, coincides with the University of Notre Dame’s Reunion Weekend, which is frequently the first weekend in June. The race typically attracts nearly 10,000 participants and has an economic impact on the local economy that approaches $750,000 annually. The 2015 race will mark the 32nd running of the Sunburst Races.

Six different events make up Sunburst Races. On Friday evening, a Family Walk meanders through downtown South Bend that attracts roughly 500 young children and their families each year. Race Day events include a Fun Walk, 5K run, 10K run, Half Marathon and Marathon. The Sunburst Marathon is a Boston-qualifier; both the marathon and the half marathon are certified by the United States of America Track & Field (USATF) governing body. Proceeds from Sunburst Races benefit the Child Life Endowment at Memorial Children’s Hospital.

The Beginning

Sunburst has its origins in a local American Lung Association event that preceded Sunburst in the community. The first Sunburst marathon was June 2, 1984, and was organized by a group of dedicated marathoners who wanted to host an Indiana marathon in South Bend. As it happens, this very first race also marks the hottest Sunburst Races race day on record. In its first year, 2,000 people participated.

The Course

The marathon and half marathon provide a beautiful course along the scenic St. Joseph River; the marathon also includes parts of Mishawaka, Indiana. Parts of the course include “out and back” elements, meaning that runners go out, and then return along the same route in some instances. With a relatively flat course and an elevation in South Bend of approximately 725 feet, the Sunburst Races are an ideal venue for setting personal records or qualifying for specific races.

One exception to the flat nature of the course is “Hallelujah Hill,” located on Niles Avenue. While not particularly long, this hill is steep and, at about Mile 23, reaching the top of it is truly a “Hallelujah” moment for many runners! Another short, steep hill also appears around Mile 11, though that one allows for plenty of recovery time coming as early as it does in the race.

Packet Pick-Up Day

Packet pick-up is from Noon – 8 p.m. the Friday before the race, and is also the last opportunity to register for any of the events. This fun, festive atmosphere serves as a kick-off to summer in Michiana as local crowds join runners and their friends and families to enjoy the vendors, a DJ, and the Friday Night Family Walk.

Charity Programs

Memorial Children's Hospital is the official charity partner of Sunburst Races. In 2009, Race Director Molly Sullivan and Sunburst Races Committee Chair Alan Loyd approached the senior leadership of Beacon Health System's Memorial Hospital about making Sunburst Races a fundraiser to support the Memorial Children’s Hospital. The support for this decision from the community was tremendous, and the impact that Sunburst Races has had on the children’s hospital has grown each year. Visit our Charity Programs page to learn more.

Volunteers & Sponsors

In every sense of the word, Sunburst Races is truly a community event. Each year, over 700 volunteers dedicate their time and energy throughout the year to welcome runners to our community while providing them with a safe, enjoyable memory that will last a lifetime.

The community’s commitment to Sunburst Races is reflected not just in the hundreds of volunteers who give their time and talents each year, but also in the long-standing sponsor relationships that have developed over the years. Sunburst Races truly depends on these sponsors, and we’re most grateful for their continued support. Learn more about the sponsors and companies that have supported Sunburst so passionately over the years.