Take the tediousness out of training
By Mara Betsch
Hitting the treadmill every morning is boring, we know. Good thing Health.com found more than 30 races that are more party than workout, with runs that involve beer, bikinis, and even Beethoven! Get inspired by signing up for one of these fun runs today—there are options for every season and every region.
Booze and cruise
South Boston celebrates chilly December weather with the annual Santa Speedo Run (pictured). The morning begins with "libations" followed by a 1.25-mile jog, all for the sake of charity: Each runner must raise $250 for the chance to bring a little ho-ho holiday cheer to those less fortunate. Or try the Central Park 1.7-mile Underwear Run, part of July's Nautica New York City Triathlon weekend. In 2009, with 448 skivvy-clad runners, it broke the world record for the greatest number of people gathered in their underwear.
No shirt, no shoes, no problem
If you're comfortable with your body (or just want to recreate the infamous Will Ferrell scene from Old School), there are a plethora of races that don't require clothes at all.
Oaklake Trails Naturist Resort hosts a clothing-optional Trail of Tears 5K every May along paths in Depew, Okla., or there's the September Roadkill Run 5K at the nudist Armadillo Resort in Poolville, Texas. Sound like fun? Just don't forget your sunscreen (and Bodyglide).
Dress to impress
You may feel like Superman after you finish a race, but in the Superhero 5K (pictured at left) you can actually sport an "S" through the entire course. Held in Asheville, N.C., each November, this race is the perfect excuse to get some more use out of that old Halloween costume. And wouldn't you love to see a fight to the finish between Wonder Woman and Batman?
If superheroes aren't your forte, you can always join the annual ING Bay to Breakers (pictured at right) 12K in San Francisco. The May run and costume contest brings out competitors dressed like Elvis, Starship Troopers, and even certain parts of the female anatomy.
Get down and dirty
Were you the type of kid who played in puddles? If so, there's a run for whatever is left of that messy child. The RunAmuck Mud Run is a 5K that takes you over hills, through tires and rivers, and into plenty of wet, sloppy mud. Taking place in both Rockville, Md., and Sebago Beach, N.Y. (and in Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, and Philadelphia in 2010), this race allows you to compete individually, as a couple, or with a four-person team. Choose the costumed category or the open one, which has no restrictions on attire or footwear.
Take Toto along
Your faithful four-legged running partner puts in the time and the training with you—so doesn't he deserve to compete too? Dog Run Dog has begun hosting 5K and 10K events nationwide for dogs and their owners. Even if you're not a runner, your pooch may be the perfect motivation to pound the pavement.
For more options, check out these nine other dog jogs across the country. But remember to bring a scooper—each man or woman is responsible for their best friend's droppings.
A race for every holiday
After your Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, speed into 2010 with Tulsa's annual Race into the New Year—you'll literally start this 5K in one year and finish in the next. Or run in the Hair of the Dog 5K on January 1 in Virginia Beach, Va. No time to change into running clothes? Enter the formalwear division (pictured), so you can race in your New Year's Eve dress or tux.
Come February, you and your sweetie can run either 3.7 or 5 miles in the Bradford Valentine Road Race's couples competition in Bradford, Mass. And in March, bring your green along to Savannah, Ga.'s March of Dimes 5K Shamrock Run or (free beer at the end!) Virginia Beach's Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, half-marathon, or 8K.
At Christmastime, don your five-piece Santa costume and suit up for Las Vegas' Great Santa 5K, which aims to break the world record for having the most Santas in the same place at the same time.
Love a good night run? These Halloween-themed October events have got you covered.
Fans of The Blair Witch Project will love Into the Darkness (pictured), a four-mile trail run near Roanoke, Va.'s Explore Park that takes you through twisty trails and rolling hills, all by the light of a headlamp.
Love a good night run? These Halloween-themed October events have got you covered.
Channel your inner Ichabod Crane by donning a creepy costume and running in Howell, Mich.'s Headless Horseman 5K. Scared of the dark? Don't worry—glow sticks are included.
Though the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K and 5K are a bit more competitive than normal costume races, they're no less spooky. Run through the deserted streets of Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Fla., and end at the Hollywood Tower Hotel, while picking up mystery clues along the course.
If you're all about the scenery
If you like a little natural inspiration, be sure to check out the beautiful Cooper River Bridge Run held every March in Charleston, S.C. For cool-weather fans, there's the Lake Tahoe Fresh Tracks 5K Snowshoe Race every February at the Historic Camp Richardson Resort. Snow may be on the ground, but it will be warmer than April's North Pole Marathon.
The Little Grand Canyon Marathon (pictured) takes you through the Red Rocks region of eastern Utah—where you can actually see dinosaur footprints! And if you don't mind traveling, head across the Pacific to participate in Hawaii's Maui Marathon and half-marathon for a scenic race and great excuse to spend some time at the beach in September. Too bad the Kilauea Volcano Run is a thing of the past!
Move to the music
Ditch your iPod for a little live music. There's the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series in cities all over the country, with our personal pick being February's New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon. Garth Brooks fans should plan a trip to Nashville for April's Country Music Marathon, where live local music can be heard from 27 stages.
If classical is more your style, try a Beat Beethoven Run. The original race began in Ontario, with runners trying to finish an 8K (a little less than five miles) before a live orchestra can play 50 minutes of Beethoven selections. The idea spread to Fairbanks, Alaska. (pictured), where 5K finishers in April receive free symphony concert tickets, and to other cities across North America.
Running is usually an individual sport—but if you like the team aspect, try these challenging relays. Participate in September's Reach the Beach (pictured), the longest distance-running relay in the United States, where 12-person teams run more than 200 miles through the New Hampshire countryside in 24 hours. Each runner runs three legs of anywhere between between two and nine miles to total 36 legs. Sound daunting? Read what one editor thought of the event.
The Wild West Relay, which touts the tagline "Get your a$$ over the pass," is a similar 200-mile relay race held every August through the beautiful foothills of Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Or try the largest relay in the world: August's Hood to Coast Relay, which is 197 miles from Mt. Hood, Wash., to the Pacific Ocean.
Red, white, and blue races
Patriotic runs don't just happen on the Fourth of July. Each October, some 30,000 participants gather in and around Washington, D.C., for the Marine Corps Marathon (pictured)—also known as The People's Marathon because there's no prize money, and anyone can sign up without first qualifying in a previous race. Think of it as a 26-mile boot camp, with uniformed servicemen and women manning the water stations and shouting encouragement the whole way.
In New York City every September, tourists and city residents join firefighters, policemen, and EMS workers in the Tunnel to Towers 5K run/walk, recreating the journey that fallen hero and off-duty firefighter Stephen Stiller took from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. And Memorial Day weekend in Wheeling, W.V., is celebrated with the Ogden Newspapers 20K and six-mile Torch Relay, the latter in which veterans of all ages and their families participate for free.
Run for a reason
Races are a perfect way to raise money for charities and nonprofits. The Dow Live Earth Run for Water is no different—except that it's not one race, but a series of 6Ks held in 192 countries over a period of 24 hours in April (plus, you can sign up to create your own race). The 6K, which is symbolic of the average distance many women and children must walk to secure drinking water each day (pictured), is meant to raise awareness for the need for a worldwide effort to solve the water crisis.
Another awareness-raising (and thirst-quenching) race for a cause is the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer's Lemon Run 5K and two-mile family fun walk in October. While the official race is held in Media, Pa., you can also sign up as a virtual participant and complete your own course.