Branded and themed runs and obstacle races are gaining popularity, with hardcore series like Tough Mudder, and the ultra-messy Color Run drawing maximum crowds. Of course the general increase in the number of people running races has also made an impact, with the total number of road race finishers in the USA alone growing from a mere 4.8-million in 1990, to 14-million in 2011. But mostly, say the researchers, more and more people are group running for fun rather than running competitively to win; and many who enter theme runs have never road raced in their lives before.
There are so many new and exciting theme runs, and themed races are so varied, you’ll have to do some research to make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. For instance you might find yourself being chased by “zombies”; you might have to run in underwear; or you might get to eat Twinkies, chocolate or hot dogs, all as part of the run. Start by asking friends if they have run a particular race before: there’s nothing better than personal recommendation. And if you hear that the organizers have a charity partner, or are donating profits to a charity, find out more about the cause and make sure you know just how much they will benefit.
Most importantly, don’t forget to train. Even “fun” runs require some physical exertion—and may even prove more challenging than traditional road races, given that the obstacles you face can require your body to move in unfamiliar ways. Don’t be afraid to run on a treadmill or get your heart rate up on an elliptical trainer well before race day.
Thinking of training for a 2014 event? Here are a few of the most popular runs and obstacle races to consider:
- Tough Mudder, an obstacle run that is billed as the toughest event on the planet, and designed to test stamina, strength, mental grit and camaraderie – and to have fun (You’re going to need buddies to get you over fences and through mud tunnels). With more than 50 events held annually worldwide, the event has already raised more than $5-million for the Wounded Warrior Project.
- Spartan Race, a series of different epic sprint obstacle runs that are held worldwide. Expect mud runs and trail races that will test your strength, ingenuity and animal instinct, and give you the adrenalin rush of your life. This one’s as competitive as Tough Mudder is non-competitive.
- Warrior Dash is billed as the world’s largest obstacle race series. Held on rugged terrain in more than 50 places across the globe, warriors who conquer the battleground celebrate with food, beer and live music in a post-race party to end all parties. To date these events have raised more than $8-million for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
- The Color Run is quite different to those mentioned above, and focuses on happiness, healthiness and individuality. Like Tough Mudder it is untimed, but those who finish get sprayed with wonderful color at the finish line. Also an international event, this run has raised money for more than 80 charities since 2012.
Learn more about theme races and similar challenges by checking out the Race Finder page at www.RunnersWorld.com.