Whether you’re a dedicated runner or are just looking for some active entertainment, plenty of races are designed to maximise fun and minimise struggle. Plus, many of these zany events raise some serious funds for worthy charities. Around the world, running race organisers have turned the standard racing formula on its head. Everything goes at these events, from decadent costumes to no clothes at all. Some events celebrate local specialities, seasonal events or cultural heritage. Others are sheer creativity, the brainchild of truly imaginative runners.
1. The Tofurkey Trot
The Tofurkey Trot in Portland, Oregon, is the city’s answer to the traditional Thanksgiving Day “Turkey Trot” found throughout U.S. cities. As the name suggests, this race benefits local charities themed around vegetarianism. In 2013, charities included a vegetarian-themed non-profit and a local wildlife sanctuary. Since Portland first hosted the event in 2012, other cities, including Charlottesville, VA, and Pasadena, CA, have started their own races. Along the course, runners can enjoy vegetarian or vegan snacks. The race takes place each year on Thanksgiving Day, the fourth Thursday of the month.
2. The NYC Pizza Run
The NYC Pizza Run lets runners celebrate the Big Apple’s culinary heritage while they race. Participants run two miles and eat three slices of pizza along the way. Since the first race in 2010, the run has devoted its proceeds to charities, such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF). The event takes place the second weekend of September in New York City’s Tompkins Square Park.
3. The Underwater Marathon
The Underwater Marathon takes place in Hershey, Pennsylvania, every September. Participants really do run underwater, using specialized underwater treadmills. The reasoning behind this odd event is simple: it’s a fundraiser to support rehabilitation programs for wounded military personnel. On race day, the same treadmills that are used for “restoration therapy” are put to use for recreation and fundraising. Since it’s much easier to run underwater, the marathon also makes it possible for less athletic individuals to really run a “marathon”.
4. 0.5K Stilleto Run
The annual 0.5K Stilleto Run has taken place in Buffalo, New York, every June since 2008. A fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, the race involves running half a kilometer in high heels. Runners are encouraged to wear 3″ heels throughout the race, meaning that many participants simply walk to the finish. At the end, all the “runners” are treated to a meal amid a street festival atmosphere.
5. Marathon du Medoc
At the Marathon du Medoc, wine-lovers and running enthusiasts meet. Held since 1985 in mid-September, the race involves a full marathon through the Medoc wine-growing region of France. Racers can stop to sample local wines and nibble on local delicacies, such as foie gras or cheese, along the way. Many racers wear colourful costumes for the event.
6. Nude Run of Finland
The Nude Run of Finland or Nakukymppi takes place in the lush forests of Finland’s lake region in mid-June. Participants may run for up to 10 kilometres, though you are welcome to run as much of the race as you wish. As the name suggests, runners go the course completely naked, except for footwear, socks and hats. Afterwards, all participants receive coffee and food, plus free access to saunas and swimming areas.
7. Perth Kilt Run
The Perth Kilt Run is a 5K race that celebrates Scottish heritage. Started in 2009 in Perth, Ontario, the event continues each year and has appeared in the Guinness Book of Records in 2010 as the largest race of kilted runners. Originally conceived to take place in autumn, the event is now held in June, but the exact date varies. In 2012, the event inspired a twin race in Perth, Scotland. Held in August, it coincides with the Perth Highland Games.
8. Skirt Chaser 5k
The Skirt Chaser 5k. is just what you might imagine from the name: women get a head-start, and then men try to catch up with them. The race could be called a dating run and has three concepts in mind – fun, flirting and festiveness. Participants can don on stickers with words to tease the other gender. The fun-spirited 5k race gives the female runners a three-minute head start. As a result, the chances of getting to the finish line first are leveled. The after-event party is a great opportunity to get to know the opposite sex. Since the event’s creation in 2007, the race has expanded to include locations throughout U.S., Canada and Australia.
9. Undie Run
The Undie Run is a slightly tamer variation of Finland’s Nude Run, started in San Diego in 2006. Since then, the race has become a nationwide event at college campuses throughout the United States. Students run in their underwear and donate funds to a range of charities. Typically, in line with the theme, participants make clothing donations to related charity groups. Since the event has taken off nationwide, race details vary and races may be held throughout the year.
10. Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon
The Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon takes place on the Saturday closest to Halloween in Voorheesville, New York. Named the “Best Costume Trail Race in America”, it combines wacky Halloween-themed costumes with a scenic route through Thacher State Park. A true trail race, it involves somewhat challenging terrain, including mud and rock. To keep up the “gorilla” theme, race organisers strew the path with bunches of bananas, so runners can recharge.
11. Urban Dare Run
Billed as “America’s Adventure Race”, the Urban Dare Run is a combination of a running race and a trivia competition. Running as teams, each group must answer questions, act out silly dares and take photos along the race course. The exact course is not determined at the start, so runners have to take their lead from clues. Events have taken place year-round in major U.S. cities ever since the original Urban Dare in Washington, D.C., in 2005.
12. Half-Wit Half Marathon
The Half-Wit Half Marathon is a high-spirited trail race that takes place each August in Reading, Pennsylvania. The runners must start out the race by reciting a silly “Oath of the Half-Wit”. Other quirky amusements along the way include beer stops and a polka band at the post-race party. At the end of the race, each participant receives a “horse’s ass award”, cast in the form of the animal’s buttocks.
13. New Year Midnight Run
The New Year Midnight Run takes runners through New York City on the most festive night of the year. Instead of gathering in Times Square, you can meet in Central Park for a four-mile race. Many participants wear costumes, and prizes are awarded to the three most creative get-ups. The race starts at 11:00 p.m. on December 31st, and midway through, runners get to toast with some non-alcoholic champagne. At the end, there’s a major party with live entertainment.
Which Is the Most Unique Race You Have Run?
When you know all of the unusual ways to cross the finish line, normal races may begin to seem a bit “vanilla”. With many of the events taking place around the world and year-round, only one question remains: which race will you try out first?