Red Bull 400, Photo: Red Bull Media House
You ran a holiday 10K while sporting a Santa hat? Wild stuff, but it might take a little more than that to make an impression at this collection of unusual events. From a humans-vs.-equestrians adventure in the Arizona high country to high times at the 420-themed pot-awareness games, these contests offer serious, and not-so-serious, running fun. Now get on out there, you crazy kids.
Murder Mystery 5K
Jan. 7, San Diego
March 18, San Francisco
Ever do one of those murder mystery dinners? In this unique event in downtown San Diego, you’ll have to solve a mystery as you navigate 3 to 4 miles around the crime scene gathering clues. This team event involves solving riddles and collecting information around the route, and dares must be accomplished if you’re unable to decode a riddle.
Insane Inflatable 5K, Photo: Courtesy of Insane Inflatable 5K
Insane Inflatable 5K
March 4, Sarasota, Fla. (plus 120 locations nationwide)
Get more bounce to the ounce with these 5K runs featuring numerous inflatable obstacles. The emphasis is definitely on fun more than competition for these un-timed “races,” but with multiple climbs and sliding descents your heart will still be pumping.
April 1, Santa Monica, Calif.
July 15, Denver
Aug. 26, San Francisco
The 420 Games promote the healthy and responsible use of cannabis. In 2016, events were held in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington—something must have worked because pot-friendly legislation at the state level is on the rise. The festivities include a 4.2-mile run course, as well as educational speeches and music.
Bronx Zoo Run for the Wild
April 29, New York City
In the heart of New York City’s concrete jungle, the Bronx Zoo hosts this annual fundraiser event for the Wildlife Conservation Society. The popular celebration also features a silent disco, face painting, an artificial rock climbing wall and a beer garden.
Legacy Health Starlight Run
June 3, Portland, Ore.
There’s a great satification to running for a cause and having fun doing it. This Portland 5K combines a small-town feel with a big-time emphasis on costumes and fun. The charitable beneficiary, Playworks, is a nonprofit that reaches kids throughout the region and makes a perfect match for this family-friendly event.
Burning Man 50K
Aug. 28, Black Rock City, Nev.
If the thought of running an ultra in the desert in the middle of a world-famous festival while occasionally being chased by partiers waving bottles of whisky seems appealing, then this is your race. The event is free but you will need to purchase a ticket to Burning Man.
Beat the Blerch, Photo: Courtesy of Beat the Blerch
Beat the Blerch
Sept. 16–17, Carnation, Wash.
Inspired by a comic about running, Beat The Blerch features 10K, half- and full-marathon distances. The Snoqualmie Valley trail is a great running venue, and the races feature plenty of unusual features, such as aid stations that serve cake and multiple couches placed along the course.
Red Bull 400
Sept. 27, Park City, Utah
A 400-meter race is usually a full-on sprint … but not when it sends runners straight up a ski jump. There are other Red Bull 400s events, but this one, held in a facility where Olympic ski jumpers train, has the added distinction of being the highest, with the start line at 6,870 feet. It’s a near-vertical and flat-out grueling.
Man Against Horse, Photo: John Kordish/AZ Cowgirl Photography
Man Against Horse
Oct. 7, Prescott, Ariz.
Can you outrun a horse? This is your chance to find out. This longstanding event pits horses and their mounts against runners on looped courses of 50, 25 and 12 miles. Most of the course is on mountainous trails and back roads through the tall pines of Mingus Mountain, with racers reaching a highpoint of 7,600 feet.
Denver Gorilla Run
Oct. 23, Denver
Now it its 14th year, this is a 5K race in which everybody dresses up in gorilla (or banana) costumes in a fun event that raises money for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund. Don’t have a costume? Don’t worry, the race provides them for everyone and you get to keep it when it’s over. You can register as an individual, a team or a family and everyone is invited to the Silverback After Party.
Swim Run NC
Oct. 29, Hanging Rock, N.C.
New to the U.S. in 2016, swim and run racing includes teams of two (for safety and camaraderie) racing together and carrying all the gear they need for the duration of the event that includes a variety of segments in water and on land. Enjoy the magic and challenge of about 14 miles of running and 3k of swimming broken up into 11 runs and 9 swims, plus a lot of elevation gain for some added fun.
Nov. 5, Chicago
Welcome to vertical running. In this event, you’ll sprint, jog or walk fast to the top of Willis Tower in the world’s highest indoor stair-climbing race. From the start line, you’re just 2,109 steps and 103 floors away from SkyDeck Chicago, which features amazing views of the city and panoramic views of up to four states on a clear day.
A Christmas Story 5K/10K
Dec. 25, Cleveland
A must-do for enthusiasts of the classic “A Christmas Story” movie, this charity race uses the featured Higbees Department Store building and a museum dedicated to the movie to demarcate the (roughly) 5K and 10K distances. Look for costumed “leg lamp” and bunny suits among the homages.