So you head out for a race early on a Saturday morning with hundreds of other runners, line up with your expected minute-per-mile group (cheating only a bit), finish the 5K with a time that makes you happy, grab a banana, chat it up with other runners for a little while — and go home.
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You’re not colorfully covered in powdered dye? You’re not taking a selfie in your crazy costume? Nobody downed Twinkies or hot dogs along the way? And you left before the dance party?
Nowadays, a plain old footrace is sounding a little blah.
“I was wicked proud of myself,” says the multi-colored Jennifer Crooks of Greenwood after the recent Run or Dye 5K in the West Bottoms. “I ran more of it than I thought I could.”
Crooks and friend Sara Mayes of Grain Valley loved getting doused with a dye rainbow — they were first-timers in that regard.
Mayes has been running about a year, and she’s getting ready for her first 10K race, 6.2 miles, in May. Crooks was a newbie 5k-er. She really liked how it felt to complete the 3.1-mile event, even if she walked some of it. She definitely wants to exercise more and eat better.
“Today is a catalyst,” she proclaims.
In the universe of themed races, color is big. Color Foam is coming up in May, and so is the Color Run, the daddy of all painted races, which started way back in 2012. But it’s not only about color.
On the way: Semi-grueling obstacle races Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder. And nighttime races with glow sticks and, actually, glow everything. And races that honor mothers, fathers, the South Pacific, daisy dukes and monsters.
What’s a running purist to do?
Let it go, some say.
In the olden days, the run was the event, a gathering of like-minded and passionate people stoked on camaraderie, coffee and carbs, loving the energy of just being together.
The focus was running-related. Did I train enough? Can I hit a personal best? Will I at least finish honorably in my age group?
“There’s a part of me,” says running coach Eladio Valdez about the wacky races, “that says, Really? You need to be jumping through hoops to get motivated?”
But Valdez of the Runner’s Edge program is OK with the new normal, and he even sees some benefits.
“It’s ‘exertainment,’” Valdez says, “exercise and entertainment. If it gets new people and novice runners out, ultimately it’s a good thing.”
He has quizzed his newer running clients about the rise of themed events, and many are thrilled: “It’s just more fun to run now,” they say.
Even for those who sign up for a race with no notion of starting a running routine, the experience can be part wake-up call, part inspiration. More than a few notice they really can’t jog three miles, and they wonder what that would be like.
They realize it’s not a video game, Valdez says. It’s real. And the hoopla doesn’t shorten the course.
“That’s you out there, and once you’ve gotten halfway, you have to figure out how to get back,” he says. “You still have to go from point A to point B.”
Indeed, says Steve Blew of KC Running Co., which manages a series of themed 5K events in the Kansas City area, the new or curious runner is a target of the races, plus families and kids.
“We see a lot of people running their first 5K,” Blew says.
And while some people will complete the 5K in an unhurried walk, the KC Running Company events are timed races that also attract the speedy, Blew says. In the recent Diva Dash, a 5K for women only, the winner finished in under 18 minutes.
“I would call myself a purist, but we’ve found a way to incorporate everybody,” he says.
Plus, he says, with sometimes four or five 5K events every weekend during the warmer months, the themed races are a way to stand out. If the petting zoo and pony rides get folks to the Boots ’n Daisy Dukes 5K on June 1, what’s wrong with that?
Just like well-known footraces around the country, exertainment events inspire road trips. And some of these are gaining legend status.
Like the Krispie Kreme Challenge in Raleigh, N.C., where runners eat a dozen doughnuts at the race’s mid-point. It’s too late for this year, but you might pencil that one in for 2015. Prefer Twinkies while running? There’s the Twinkie Run on April 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
At the New York Hot Dog Challenge early in the year, runners are required to eat 10 dogs, including buns. This does not go well for many a runner, as you can imagine.
If pushing a shopping cart while racing is your thing, plan to visit Chicago for the Chiditarod or Boston for the Urban Iditarod, both in March.
Nude running? Absolutely. Take a look at this sample of upcoming wacky and fun-themed 5Ks and other events, with a few possible road trips thrown in.
For more 2014 events, including those sans themes, the KC Running Co. keeps a list of races on its website, [www.kcrunningcompany.com](http://www.kcrunningcompany.com/).
Big upside: Most of the events benefit charitable organizations, so you can honestly say you’re doing it all for a good cause.
This 3.1-mile obstacle course has everything: mud pits, barbed wire, trenches, fire, sheer walls, chains and more. Swag includes a Viking-style warrior helmet and one beer. Yes, there’s a party.
Location: Circle S Ranch & Country Inn, 3325 Circle S Lane, Lawrence. Prices started at $65 and go up as the dash gets closer. Go to [warriordash.com](http://www.warriordash.com/).
*CALIENTE BARE DARE*
Let’s say you have a hankering to run naked. Guessing maybe you’re more likely to pull the trigger if it’s an out-of-town event.
This 5K event at a clothing-optional resort near Tampa, Fla., draws runners from all over the country. While you’re not *required* to run in the nude, more than 80 percent do.
Organizers highly recommend sunscreen, and shoes are fine. No photography or videos are allowed, and, ahem, use a towel under your tush if you’re going to sit down somewhere. They insist running in the nude does not hurt. “Running nude is natural!”
Location: Caliente Club & Resorts, Land O’ Lakes, Fla. Price is $30. Go to [nuderaces.com](http://nuderaces.com/).
**May 3 and 4**
Besides the horrifying obstacles, you get the ominous slogans, such as, “There will be mud” and “Your fears aren’t going anywhere until you face them.” Maybe you fear the “electroshocks”? You probably should.
It’s worth mentioning that 78 percent of participants complete the course, which of course means 22 percent don’t. Have fun!
Location: Heartland Park Topeka raceway, 7530 S.W. Topeka Blvd., Topeka, Kan. Price is $175. Go to [toughmudder.com](http://www.toughmudder.com/).
We do love our colors. This 5K event sports “color cannons” and a foam wall so that, if you wear white, it will look like you “rode a unicorn through a rainbow and fought off elves with a paintball gun,” organizers say. Sort of irresistible when you put it that way.
They also say the colors are eco-friendly and safe, but it won’t hurt to bring a hand towel to wipe your face. This is an untimed race. Some people like that.
Location: Grounds of Kemper Arena, 1800 Genessee St., in the West Bottoms. Price is $46. Go to [colorfoam5k.com](http://colorfoam5k.com/).
*RUN MOM RUN*
No foam or obstacles, although there is a mud bath in the kid’s “mini-rukus” area. (What is it with the mud?)
This is Mother’s Day weekend, and the 5K event is all about saying thanks and honoring moms. “They are the wind in our sails and our calm port in the storm,” organizers say. “They give us life and show us how to live it.”
There’s also a 1-mile walk. Or just go for the $7 breakfast. To be a part of the website’s tribute slideshow, send a mom photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location: 51st and Main streets. 5K prices start at $30. The 1-mile walk is $25. Go to [runmomrun.net](http://runmomrun.net/).
*THE COLOR RUN*
You may have heard: This is the “Happiest 5K on the planet.” That’s because participants get suffused with powdered colors along the way, so that at the end they become a tie-dye painting. There’s a pre-party and a finish festival, with music and more “color throws.”
This is another race without a stopwatch, so have fun. Organizers say typically about half the participants have never entered a 5K event.
Location: Around the stadiums at the Truman Sports Complex. Prices start at $35. Go to [thecolorrun.com](http://www.thecolorrun.com/).
*BOOTS ’N DAISY DUKES*
We sort of wish this 5K had a boots and daisy dukes dress code, but no. That said, there are no rules against it, either!
So whoop it up on a country-themed course, and take the youngsters on the Lil’ Critter Fun Run. This is the one with the petting zoo and pony rides, so if you have kids or know some, bring them along. As the organizers say, “Time to kick up some dust, y’all!”
Location: Bass Pro Shops, 18001 Bass Pro Drive, Independence. Prices start at $27. Go to [bootsndaisydukes5k.com](http://www.bootsndaisydukes5k.com/)
If you’ve already been painted while running, it might be time to glow. This is a 5K nighttime event, and you’ll want to bust open the provided glow pack with various glow-y things to attach to yourself. Try the “glow Zumba” warm-up.
There are blacklight zones and a finish line chute that glows, plus lots of music along the way and outfit awards for top “glow man” and “glow woman.” Organizers promise it will be “one of the best glow experiences of your life,” including the after-party, which is all about dancing while glowing.
Location: Arrowhead Stadium. Prices start at $32. Go to [glowrun5K.com](http://glowrun5k.com/).
*KEVIN GRAY FATHER’S DAY RUN*
A 5k run that celebrates dads and affords this awesome opportunity: You get to run triumphantly into Sporting Park to cross the finish line.
Check at [sportkc.org](http://www.sportkc.org/) for the opportunity, coming soon, to submit photos of your father and family. Organizers say the photos will be displayed on race day. The event also celebrates the life of Kevin Gray, father, advocate of all Kansas City sports and former president of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission.
Location: Sporting Park, 1 Sporting Way, Kansas City, Kan. Prices start at $31. Go to [sportkc.org](http://www.sportkc.org/).
It’s a 5K, too, but, obviously, you’ll be running away from 200 zombies. And you’ll be doing so over natural and manmade obstacles. The zombies are marketed as “flesh-eating,” but they’re mostly trying to terrify you and grab your flag.
Or, if you prefer chasing to being chased, sign up to be a zombie for this event up in Lincoln, Neb. It’s just $35. Be ready to endure the makeup at the “zombie transformation center.”
Location: Lancaster Event Center in Lincoln, Neb. Prices start at $45. Go to [zombierun.com](http://zombierun.com/).
*SKIRT CHASER 5K*
As the name implies, women go first. The men are unleashed three minutes later. This makes for a race that’s “fun, flirty and festive,” organizers say.
This is an evening event in the Denver area. Expect to see “catch me if you can” graphics.
Question: Beer garden and pool party? Answer: Yes.
Location: Lakeshore Athletic Club, Broomfield, Colo. Prices start at $35. Go to [skirtchaser5k.com](http://skirtchaser5k.com/).
*ALOHA TRIATHLON & QUINTATHLON*
The Hawaii theme sounds awful fun — organizers say “aloha” means everyone is welcome! Well, everyone who’s ready to swim, bike *and* run, which requires more training than a regular old 5K, of course. You don’t want to get out in the lake if you’re not ready to swim.
The good news is that a sprint or short-course triathlon features very doable distances. This one is a 400-meter swim, a 10-mile bike course and a 5K run.
For even more fun, give the “quintathlon” a shot. That’s right: swim, bike, run, bike, run. It only seems redundant. The distances are a bit tougher: 800-meter swim, 17-mile bike course, 5K run, 10-mile bike course and a 2K run.
If you get through all that, you definitely want to hang for the South Pacific-style after-party. Bring on the shaved ice!
Location: Longview Lake, 11101 Raytown Road. Prices start at $65. Go to [alohatriseries.com](http://www.alohatriseries.com/).
If you want to get costumed up for a 5K run, this race, five days before Halloween, is it. We’re thinking some monsters and a lot of superhero outfits. Have you set a personal record dressed like Spider-Man or not?
Note that, in the spirit of trick-or-treating (and there will be trick-or-treating), the race is later, at 7 p.m. And, of course, costume awards!
Location: City Market in Kansas City. Prices start at $20 for individuals. Go to kcmonsterdash.com.