Growing in popularity are novelty or theme events from which to choose that will surely add variety to one's race schedule. While a handful of runners will approach these solely for competitive purposes, fun is the emphasis for most of the participants.
Organizers tend to keep the distance short, oftentimes at 5K, to attract runners of all ability and experience levels. However, some races are longer in distance: 8K (4.97 miles), 10K (6.2 miles), 12K (7.45 miles), and beyond.
Many events are tied to holidays, and quite often the name of the race is a giveaway for the festive time of year being celebrated. Here's a small sampling from across the United States:
Midnight Run 4-miler held in New York on New Year's Eve
New Year's Day Resolution Run 5K in Seattle
Love the Run You're With 5K held on Valentine's Day in Arlington, Virginia
Shamrock Shuffle 8K held in Chicago on St. Patrick's Day
Firecracker 5K held on Independence Day in Little Rock, Arkansas
Turkey Day 5K held in Minneapolis on Thanksgiving
Reindeer Run held the first Saturday in December in Charleston, South Carolina, to celebrate the holiday season
Speaking of holidays, Halloween isn't the only time of the year when runners get to dress in costume. A perfect example is San Francisco's Bay to Breakers 12K, where it has been a tradition since 1965 for many participants to dress in elaborate costumes or compete as part of a tethered centipede team. Clothing seems to be optional for a handful of runners, as they streak through the streets wearing as little as running shoes and race numbers!
Similarly, the Stiletto Stampede is a national race series where runners, men and women alike, have the opportunity to make a fashion statement while at the same time raise awareness and support the fight against breast cancer. The rules are simple: Race 100 meters wearing stiletto heels that are at least 3 inches high!
Numerous races are associated with small-town festivals that are held in rural communities during harvest times where residents enthusiastically come out to support the runners. These events are popular for a variety of reasons: the opportunity to take a relaxed country drive, race a scenic course, and enjoy a festive atmosphere oftentimes featuring live music and crafts for sale. Best of all, everyone gets to eat the fruits, so to speak, of the harvest after the race!
For runners seeking additional challenges beyond completing the 5K distance at a fast clip to those in search of a very unique race experience, obstacle events are popping up around the country. Many are sponsored by branches of the armed services and are held at military bases. Participants run up and down slippery hills, navigate through tire obstacles and other obstructions, scale walls, crawl through tunnels and trenches, and trudge through large mud pits, all in the name of not-so-clean fun!