7 Crazy Races You've Gotta Read About (and Maybe Even Do!)

Mud, foam, graffiti and… zombies? Switch up your running routine with these wacky races.
Beginner’s Guide to Fun Runs

There are many things to love about running: the sense of accomplishment, the runner’s high, the activity PointsPlus values. But hitting the same pavement for every workout can get monotonous. Participating in fun runs like mud races and destination relays can help you avoid a fitness rut.

“Having a race on your calendar is a great way to stay motivated,” says John Honerkamp, manager of runner products and services for New York Road Runners. Honerkamp launched NYRR’s online training program for half- and full-marathons. “I’ve seen so many people do races like this just for fun and afterwards they say, ‘I can do better than that!’”

But races aren’t just for seasoned athletes. “These types of races are great for beginners and reluctant runners,” Honerkamp says. “Because many of these races aren’t timed, it alleviates the pressure that comes along with more traditional races.”

Alex Patterson, chief culture officer for Tough Mudder, a nationwide race that involves trudging through — you guessed it — mud, agrees. “People are looking for a good workout that’s also fun and social," Patterson says. Traditional 10Ks and half-marathons are performance-oriented and individually-focused; even if you’re with a group, you all may have different paces and goals for a finish time. “During a fun run, you’re trying to make memories, not your personal record,” he says.

Before you sign up and suit up, do your research. Many of these runs include obstacles that can test more than just endurance. “Watch video clips of the races online to know exactly what you’re getting yourself into,” Honerkamp suggests.

And don’t forget to train, because every little bit helps. “The more you prepare for a race, the more fun you’ll have and the less sore you’ll get,” Honerkamp says. “You’re going to get dirty and it’s going to hurt a little bit, but you’re going to have fun.”

Whether you consider yourself a competitive runner or a newbie, these races offer something for everyone.

If you…

…want to get down and dirty.
If you’re tired of the same old 5K road races, one of these mud runs is sure to satisfy the adventure-seeker in you. (Germ-o-phobes need not apply.) Army-crawl under barbed wire, climb over walls, dive through mud pits and even jump through fire on these wild courses. Our favorites are The Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Dirty Girl, Tough Mudder and Mudderella. For a course that incorporates mud, water slides and foam, check out Foam Fest.

…are down for messy, but are anti-mud.
Races like The Color Run, Color Me Rad, The Graffiti Run, and Run or Dye are all about having fun. You wear all white and along the 5k course you get cornstarch-based colored powder thrown at you from all angles. These races aren’t timed so they’re great for those intimidated by a stopwatch, and the haphazard (non-permanent) colors make for a good photo opp.

…like to party.
You’ll feel like you’re running through a nightclub with the Firefly Run, Illuminite Run and Electric Run. The 5k races start after dark and end with a dance party. Neon and glow-in-the-dark costumes are encouraged.

…are a team player.
Gather 11 friends (and some volunteer van drivers) to participate in a 200-mile, two-day (and overnight) Ragnar Relay. With 15 races nationwide, you can turn your fitness goal into a mini-vacation. Courses include running through the Florida Keys from Miami to Key West, running the length of Cape Cod and running from San Francisco to Napa Valley.

…need motivation around the holidays.
The winter holidays can be an easy time to stray off-Plan. But with a race on the calendar you’re more likely to stick to your training schedule. Many cities across the country host Turkey Trots around Thanksgiving and midnight runs on New Year’s Eve. One national race is the Jingle Bell Run to benefit The Arthritis Foundation with dates throughout December.

…are a foodie.
Yes, running sometimes goes hand-in-hand with eating and drinking. Our favorite food-centric race is the Hot Chocolate 15k/5k that takes place in 13 cities around the country. Post-race, you’re handed a hot chocolate and chocolate fondue along with a (nutritious!) banana and other dippable treats. Talk about motivation to cross the finish line! Investigate in your community: other regional races involve beer, Twinkies, pizza, doughnuts and burritos. (Just be sure to budget your PointsPlus values for the celebration.)

…are really into zombies.
Yep, there’s a run for that. Zombie Race is a 5K obstacle course where costumed and bloodied-up zombies chase you towards the finish line. Complete the race with at least one of your three flags (think flag football) and you’ve survived. Cross with none of your flags and your race medal will read, “Infected.” Want to do the chasing? You can also sign up to be a zombie!


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