Lengthy marathons used to be the domain of elite athletes, but now it seems like everyone with a pair of Nikes is in it for the long haul. If logging serious miles is starting to get stale, though, it's time to embrace the newest trend in running and sign up for one of these wacky races. From a 5K that’ll have you downing donuts to a run that has you trading in sneakers for stilettos, the biggest challenge of these races is containing your laughter long enough to cross the finish line.
The Outhouse Classic
Where: Trenary, Michigan
This winter race pits crafty runners against each other in a contest of both strength and construction skills: Teams must build an outhouse out of wood, cardboard, plastic, tape, and more, which is then strapped onto skis and pushed down the street, one team at a time, by two runners. Cash prizes are awarded to the fastest potties, with additional prizes reserved for creativity and construction.
Krispy Kreme Challenge
Where: Raleigh, North Carolina
Distance: 5 miles
Runners in this annual charity event must run for several miles to a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts shop, inhale a dozen pastries (for a total of 2,400 calories), and then run back to the starting line within an hour. Named one of the "102 More Things You Gotta Do Before You Graduate" by Sports Illustrated: On Campus, the turnout for this race is huge (so register early), and so far the organizers have donated more than $550,000 to the North Carolina Children's Hospital.
The Zombie Run
Where: Philadelphia/Scranton, Pennsylvania
Distance: 3.1 miles
One way to motivate yourself to make it to the finish line? Having a brain-eating zombie on your tail. In this race, running isn't about winning, it's about survival, as "human" runners dash for the finish with three flags around their waists that zombie runners—who get a movie-quality undead makeover—try to steal. Choose from the Extreme obstacle race or the Black Ops nighttime course, which includes mud, fire, smoke, and "zombie-infested" darkness.
Where: Newry, Maine
Distance: 278 yards
This race pits husband-and-wife teams against each other as they race over log hurdles, sand traps, and the "widow-maker" water hazard for a shot at competing at the world championships in Finland. The catch? Men must carry their wives for the duration of the race. (A popular method is the "Estonian carry," where the female holds the male around his waist and tightens her legs around his neck, freeing up his hands.) The winning couple takes home the wife's weight in beer and five times her weight in cash.
The High Heel Dash
Where: Omaha, Nebraska
Distance: 50 meters
The fashion savvy may have the advantage in this fancy-footwear race, where participants dash for 50 meters wearing their highest heels. All heels must be at least 2 inches high, and prizes are awarded for the most unique heel and best costume—and, to keep it all fair, men have their own division.
Kona Underpants Run
Where: Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Distance: 1.2 miles
In 1998, three runners started this revealing run as a protest against people wearing Speedos in inappropriate places (like stores and restaurants), and it quickly evolved into an Ironman tradition and local fundraiser, raising more than $100,000 for local charities over the past 16 years. Ironman athletes take to the streets of the island wearing little more than a pair of briefs and run for fun the Thursday before the big race. That's what we call a warm-up.
The Idiotarod NYC
Where: Brooklyn, New York
This spoof of the legendary Alaskan dogsled race replaces dogs with human runners, sleds with shopping carts, and the frozen tundra of the north with the streets of New York City. Each cart must be decorated with a creative theme, and the location of the race is kept secret until the night before. Runners are held at checkpoints along the route for special challenges that must be completed before they can advance.
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