By Peter Koch
The Active Times
Why do people sign up for road races? Is it to test themselves in the heat of competition? Sometimes. To set a personal best and, perhaps, snag an age group medal? Less often. Or is it for the ill-fitting T-shirt (the necks are never big enough!), bottled water and free banana that come with the entry fee? Almost never.
More often than not, we think it's the fun and camaraderie of running a big race that bring people out. Doing the sport you're passionate about with a group of like-minded people allows you to feed off their energy and, in a solo sport like distance running, remind you that you're not alone out there. And there's plenty of energy to feed off of (and Twinkies, in one case) in these 13 fun runs, which are about as crazy fun as they get. We're talking about amazing events that mix a traditional foot race with elements of wild dance parties, belly-busting eating contests, over-the-top costume parades, bar crawls and the zombie apocalypse.
And who doesn't want an excuse to party? At these runs, you can forget about your finishing time, and just worry about finishing (you know, when you get around to it). And there's something for every type of runner, from the wino with a running problem to elite athletes who like their races with a heaping side of eccentricity. Try knocking back a glass of wine (or 20) during a picture-perfect marathon, mushing a shopping cart through an urban bar crawl, joining an electro-dance party or stripping down to your skivvies for charity. Lace up your shoes, and join us for the run of a lifetime!
In this uniquely San Francisco 12K -- that’s roughly 7.5 miles -- a handful of world-class runners mix (but only briefly) with 50,000 weekend warriors, walkers and devil-may-care costumed participants. With twice that number of spectators and live bands interspersed along the route, it's a rollicking party that spans the city from San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Next Race: May 2014
The urban take on Alaska's famed Iditarod replaces sled dogs with people, snow gear with wacky costumes and sleds with shopping carts. It's no 1,000-mile epic, but there’s definitely a challenge to finding the five checkpoint bars, participating in secret challenges (which, in the past, have included pole dancing and bowling), chugging beers and running in the cold of a New England March day, all the while filling your cart with non-perishable goods for a food drive. Next Race: March 2014
Participants in this 5K start dressed in head-to-toe white, but finish looking as vivid and paint-splattered as a Jackson Pollock painting. At regular intervals along the route, volunteers douse runners with colored powder (yellow, blue, green pink and -- at the finish line -- a "color extravaganza”). It's all about fun and positive energy at this race in which more than 60 percent of entrants are first-timers. Next Race: August 2013.
Where: Dallas, Texas
Before gorging yourself on turkey, why not dress up like one and burn a bunch of calories? That’s the thinking behind the Turkey Trot, an annual Thanksgiving morning tradition in hundreds of cities across America. While you’ll always find your fair share of runners dressed as gobblers, Pilgrims and Natives Americans, it was at the 2011 Dallas event that they set the world record for biggest turkey dressing -- 661 people wore turkey costumes for the big day. Next Race: November 2013
With high-energy DJ mixes blasting and bright lights flashing over the course, this fun run could just as well be called a 5K rave. Neon-bedecked runners (and, yes, dancers) make for a living light show that ends with a finish-line dance party. Next Race: August 2013
Where: Raleigh, North Carolina
This nearly decade-old race was one of the first to combine binge-eating with running (funny it took so long to think of!). Nearly 8,000 runners cruise 2.5 miles out on the course, eat a dozen original glazed doughnuts (glad it’s not chocolate custard-filled), then waddle, walk or crawl back to the starting line at North Carolina State University’s bell tower. It's no doubt, as organizers claim, “a test of physical fitness and gastrointestinal fortitude." Next Race: February 2014
Where: Medoc wine region, France.
This run is more moveable feast than serious marathon. Costumed competitors weave their way through storybook chateaux and vineyards, stopping to sip some of the world’s finest wines (Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Château Grand Puy Lacoste are among them) at 20-plus drinking stations and sample rich local delicacies like foie gras, oysters, sausage, steak, cheese and fruit. It’s an entirely French approach to distance running, and it only gets easier with every glass of red. Vive la France! Next Race: September 2013
The gut-busting challenge of this fun run is to complete 2.25 miles while scarfing three slices of New York's finest thin-crust pizza. Last year's male winner, triathlete Jonathan Blyer, followed a strict training regimen of chewing soda crackers without water for three weeks in advance of the race. Brutal. Next Race: September 2013
For the complete slideshow of the Crazy Fun Runs That Are Really An Excuse to Party, go to TheActiveTimes.com.
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