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Running Wild

Plethora of Theme-Based Races Popping Up Throughout Colorado

All sorts of obstacles await participants of themed fun runs, which have become wildly popular throughout the United States and Colorado.

All sorts of obstacles await participants of themed fun runs, which have become wildly popular throughout the United States and Colorado.

Zombies, mud and clouds of colored dust...Those are just a few of the things you can find at an array of “fun runs” scattered throughout Colorado in 2014. Much like the rest of the country, Colorado’s race organizers in recent years have begun to vastly expand the specific themes associated with their events, and the public has responded.

A maddening craze of races has popped up in the United States the last five years or so, with people of all types, ages and athletic abilities flocking to the starting line to have a blast and perhaps get a little dirty while enjoying some outdoor exercise. From zombie runs – where volunteers dressed as zombies chase participants throughout the course – and mud-based obstacle course runs, to events where runners are showered with colored clouds of dust, the options are wide and varied.

“Whatever community we’re in, we strive to give locals a unique and challenging experience that they can enjoy once a year,” says Joey Dietz, director of sales for Active Life Events Inc., which will conduct the Survivor Mud Run in Berthoud on July 20. “Our goal is to make people say, ‘I can’t wait to do this again next year.’ And many people do.”

The general public has clamored for varying ways to exercise and participate in high-profile competitions that place more importance on having fun than clocking a fast time. William Cook, a marketing team specialist for the Color in Motion 5k organization, says fun is the chief goal for race organizers and participants alike.

“We don’t time our events. It’s just for fun, and everyone’s invited,” says Cook, whose organization will host the Colorado Springs Color in Motion 5k in Acacia Park on July 26. “It’s an event that everyone enjoys. Whether you’ve run 1,000 of these before or if it’s your first one, it’s fun for everybody.”

Participants range from avid outdoor enthusiasts who exercise regularly to couch potatoes who decide to tag along with a group of friends for a fun outing. Overall, it has become routine for runners to dress up in creative and sometimes hilarious outfits for the races, while others set the races as goals for getting back into shape.

“It’s something where people can set a goal for themselves,” says Chloe Swenson, race director for the inaugural Denver Zombie Run set for Aug. 2 at The Recess Factory in Erie. “People are always looking for ways to get out there and be active. Going out and running three miles by yourself is kind of fun, but somewhat boring.

“But if you get to be dressed up as a zombie or be sprayed with colors, then people are much more interested in it. They say, ‘I can go run in this with my friends or family, and we’ll all have a great time.’”

Cook says more than 2,500 people turned out for last year’s Colorado Springs Color in Motion 5k, with other fun runs also seeing burgeoning crowds of participants. The public’s willingness to sign up for the races should come as no surprise in a nation that is always looking for the newest and most exciting form of exercise.

“I think it’s the general awareness we’re getting as a culture to work out, and furthermore enjoy working out,” Cook says. “A lot of people we have coming to our races are extremely into fitness, and they’re looking for new ways to not only get fit - but stay fit.”

Dietz agrees.

“I think one of the reasons that these 5k runs have taken off is because I believe in general people are trying to involve themselves in a healthier lifestyle,” he says. “With these 5k fun runs, we are mixing entertainment with a healthy activity and challenging people to accomplish something that they can be proud of.”

Because of the variety of runs like these, there are plenty of ways for people to channel their inner Woodstock attendee and walk away completely covered in mud. In addition to the Survivor Mud Run, Colorado “mudders” can participate in The Dirty Dash in Colorado Springs on Aug. 16, one of 16 such events held under The Dirty Dash umbrella in North America in 2014.

Anyone in Snowmass Village on the weekend of Sept. 6-7 can test themselves by signing up for Tough Mudder, a 10- to 12-mile run through a daunting obstacle course where mud-covered participants are pushed to their limits before being rewarded with beer, a party and music afterward.

Just completing the test of tests is an accomplishment, according to Tough Mudder organizers.

“Completing our courses is a badge of honor – only 78 percent of participants actually make it to the finish line,” they say. “Running in a straight line for hours on end gets you busted knees and a medal you’ll never wear again. At Tough Mudder, we know that everyone has challenges they’d like to overcome, and whether it’s in life or on the course, Tough Mudder is able to help participants tackle challenges head on, and do it with the help of their fellow Mudder.”