“Lookin' for adventure -
And whatever comes our way.”
- Steppenwolf, “Born to be Wild”
Running is perhaps the oldest organized sport in the history of civilization … but sometimes tradition isn’t what runners are looking for. In fact, there’s a rapidly increasing trend among recreational runners to leave traditional races behind in favor of exploring their wilder side.
Over the past few years, participation in so-called “adventure events” has exploded. They attract runners who are tired of regular 5K and 10Ks, and those who are more interested in having fun than by displaying raw speed or winning age group awards.
Races like Big Sur’s annual Mud Run include obstacle courses where racers climb over walls, crawl through mud pits, or jump over various barriers. The mud theme is a common one, as evidenced by national race series called Muddy Buddy and Tough Mudder, and another event called the Muddy Pig Run. By all accounts, the dirtier you get, the better the experience.
Military elements are common as well, and Big Sur’s Mud Run includes drill sergeants who make competitors do activities like pushups and knee lifts. There’s also a series of Army Boot Camp Experience races, and if you want to go old-school military, you can enter the nationwide Spartan Races where you’ll crawl under barbed wire and leap across obstacles of fire – you know, just like the Ancient Greeks did.
You can do “hero runs” put on by companies of firefighters that involve navigating smoke filled mazes, scaling roofs, dragging massive fire hoses, climbing ladders, and busting through windows. If imaginary heroes are more your liking, there are a handful of races that encourage participation in super hero costumes or Disney princess outfits.
At the other end of the respectability spectrum is a series called Zombie Runs where you “Run for your life” by starting the obstacle course with a belt of green flags, and try to prevent the many on-course zombies from taking your flags. According to the race website, if you lose all your flags, you die and the zombies eat your brains. We swear we’re not making this up.
Do you like your adventure with a side order of exhibitionism? How about running naked! This has been a tradition at San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers race for years, but now there are more than a dozen “clothing optional” runs nationwide. Make sure to pack extra sunscreen.
If you want to put your intellectual skills to work, look for urban adventure runs. These are elaborate scavenger hunts where participants run through big cities following directions and searching for clues at local landmarks. Course rules often require bringing back specific items or taking cell phone pictures of your team at selected locations.
Nowadays, you don’t even have to wait until after the race to eat or drink the junk food you love. At the Krispy Kreme Challenge, you run two miles, eat a dozen doughnuts, then race back while trying to keep the food on the inside. Other 5Ks offer doughnuts at each mile marker, with time increments deducted for each one eaten; the lowest combined time wins, regardless of who crosses the line first. If your tastes are more grown-up, look for the multitude of beer or wine runs that require downing a bottle or glass at regular intervals before continuing on the course. Who says running has to be healthy?
Nowadays there’s no reason to get bored by your race schedule; if you find yourself lacking motivation, go looking for adventure!