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Get Down and Dirty

Get Down and Dirty
For many, running is no longer a solitary activity. Both new and regular runners are trading treadmill tedium for the fun and camaraderie of themed races. In 2012, more than 2 million people participated in nontraditional runs, ranging from colourful chaos to chocolate bliss.

Do it for fun!
Since most themed races cover shorter distances than marathons, both newbie and veteran runners can partake. Women account for much of the increase in participants, representing an all-time high of 56 percent of running-event finishers in the US.

Diane Chesla, creator and director of the Chocolate Race, has noticed a similar trend. “Women [are] driving race growth. I think that themed races appeal more to gals who pick a few goals and/or destination events to do a year. They want a great, fun experience that is geared to
the casual runner.”
The mix of fun and fitness seems to be a winning recipe for themed runs, many of which feature post-race festivals and parties. This is backed up by the most recent nationwide survey of sports participation, in which fun
and relaxation were ranked by Canadians as the most motivating benefits of physical activity.
The thrill of themed races goes beyond spicing up a bland workout routine. These events allow all sorts of individuals to reap the rewards of running, jogging, and walking, which can include
> better heart health
> improved mood
> lowered blood pressure
Research also shows that working out with others (such as in themed races) can boost the health benefits that the workout provides.
Giving back
Most races also partner with a charity. Color Me Rad Vancouver, for example, donated $75 to Keep A Breast in 2013 for every volunteer that the breast cancer awareness foundation recruited. Tanisha Bors, travelling
education coordinator at Keep A Breast, notes that such partnerships are mutually beneficial. Charities receive plenty of positive attention when volunteers enjoy themselves and “the event itself is so much fun.”
Freebies and discounts
Many themed races offer goodies that are included in the price of admission. ElectroDash riles up runners with glowing accessories, while colour runs provide packets of safe, eco-friendly cornstarch powder in a
rainbow of hues. Discount hunters can also sign up with a team or find promo codes online to save money on registration. According to Bors, some races—such

The mix of fun and fitness is a winning recipe for themed runs
many of which feature post-race festivals and parties.
as Color Me Rad—also reward volunteers with the opportunity to run for free.
Ready to lace up for a race? Grab some brave buddies, get costuming, and run for fun in one (or several) of these themed events.

There are only two rules for the untimed, noncompetitive Color Run: wear white; finish colourful. Since its modest debut of 600,000 runners in 2012, the Color Run has grown into a global spectacle of colour, costumes, and chaos that has captivated more than 1 million participants—at least 50 percent of whom had never run a 5 km race before.
Color Me Rad is another popular choice for those who crave a side of colour with their cardio course. Race director Jerrica Hall credits the runners with creating hype on race day. “What I love about our event is the involvement of the crowd,” she says. “We’re not just entertaining the participants; the participants make the atmosphere amazing.”
Finally, Run or Dye is a third option for dye-hard colour runners with a host of locations across our home and native land.

Canadian-born Mud Hero is the brainchild of Adam Ruppel and Ted McLeod, who drew from years of experience with mountain bike races. “Challenging yet fun is the overall goal for each of our obstacles,” says
McLeod, who adds that Mud Hero’s 6 km courses are gentler alternatives to more competitive events. Obstacles range from water slides to the titular mud pits. Mud Hero also adds an “extra bit of fun and ūavour”
to race day by constantly evolving; past events have involved live music and even parkour demonstrations.
Mud Hero is unique among obstacle events in that 60 percent of participants are women willing to try the good clean fun of a mud run. McLeod describes the natural terrain venues with enthusiasm, noting that
spectacular and spectator-friendly locations such as Red Deer’s river canyon are carefully selected.
If colour and mud sound too tame, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder may be challenges worthy o weekend warriors. These intense obstacle courses time participants, but teamwork is still emphasized over competition.
Ivana Dancova, a triathlete with four themed races under her belt, describes Spartan Race and Tough Mudder as “two diferent types of hard. Spartan Race was more challenging in that we had to literally run uphill in the snow … but Tough Mudder was more about endurance” because it featured a longer course.

Every kilometre of ElectroDash’s evening race is infused with music and neon lights to create an atmosphere that is more dance party than run. Jog,
walk, or breakdance, ElectroDash doesn’t care as long as you’re moving in glow motion.

“Since they were doing wine in France already (Marathon du Medoc), I decided on something just as sinfully indulgent—chocolate! And voila, the Chocolate
Race was born,” explains race creator Chesla. Her enviable position involves plenty of taste-testing, which she describes as “paradise.”
The Chocolate Race is a treat for those who sweat in anticipation of the sweets they’ll eat later.
Runners indulge in chocolate-covered strawberries and marshmallows throughout the course. After, they refuel with chocolate milk, taking advantage of the carbohydrate-to-protein ratio that makes for ideal (and
tasty!) post-workout fuel.
Chesla and her team wake up at 3 am on race day to ensure the best experience for runners (and “fight the notorious lake winds that line our course”). Their goal for the event is simple: “to create a group of giddy racers who Ũnd [the] same type of magical experience that the naughty (and nice) kids found in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”


There’s a themed race for every type of runner (or walker). Color Me Rad’s Jerrica Hall sums it up simply:
“A lot of people are intimidated by the idea of running and assume they are not capable,” she says. “Themed races provide an excellent gateway into the running world. Anyone can participate in a fun, noncompetitive
5K, whether they run or walk.”
All Fitness _ Colleen Grant
Alive 2014 _ Get Down and Dirty