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9 Of The Craziest Races In The World
By Josh Lew,
Mother Nature Network, 7 May 2015.

On your mark...

Jogging enthusiasts don't have to go far to find a 5K to help them get in shape or to benefit a cause. But a few races have achieved cult status - and it's not because of the prize money. The races' claims to fame are unusual themes and the strange things that runners do while competing.

In some, runners dress up (or, in a few cases, get dirty, like in the Dirty Girl Mud Run featured here). Some require the participants to gorge themselves with food before starting, while others call for other, ill-advised practices. The one thing that all these offbeat events have in common is a sense of fun - the idea that simply participating and enjoying yourself is more far important than crossing the finish line first. Here are nine of the strangest (and funniest) races on Earth.


1. Krispy Kreme Challenge

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Photo: Krispy Kreme Challenge/Facebook

The Krispy Kreme Challenge is one of the most famous themed races on Earth. Simply participating is far more important than being the first to cross the finish line in this Raleigh, North Carolina event. Participants run 2.5 miles to a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. Once there, they eat a dozen doughnuts before running back along the same route to the finish line. Though there are records for the fastest time and some spectators are on hand to see who wins, the goal of all racers is to complete the challenge in less than an hour.

The race is organized by a group from North Carolina State University. All proceeds from the race are donated to the local children's hospital. The 10th annual event took place in 2014, when 8,000 runners participated and runners raised was more than US$200,000. Several other schools have copied the Krispy Kreme Challenge idea, hosting one-off or annual eating-and-running events to benefit a local charity.


2. CHIditarod

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Photo: katiebordner/Flickr

The CHIditarod gets its name from the famous Alaska sled dog race. But instead of sleds and barking huskies, this Chicago race features shopping carts and costumed runners. Five-person/one-cart teams must declare a theme and dress accordingly. Proceeds benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository and the race's foundation, which provides grants to food-centred charities in the Chicago area.

The CHIditarod, which is held annually in March, draws a number of spectators as well as participants. However, there is no set route. Instead, each group has to reach different checkpoints. There are prizes for the first three teams to finish. However, win, place and show awards are only three of more than two dozen trophies. (A team can even win an award for the most creative way to sabotage another team's cart!)


3. New Orleans Running of the Bulls

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The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, is arguably the world's most dangerous themed race. The New Orleans version is much safer and more fun. Instead of bulls, the event features female roller derby teams, many with bull horns affixed to their helmets. The Big Easy Rollergirls join derby teams from around the United States. All skaters are armed with foam bats. They make life difficult for the runners by bonking them with the bats as they try to complete the course.

Like their peers in Pamplona, runners at "NolaBulls" have to wear white clothes and a red scarf. The event is part of a multi-day festival called San Fermin. The ninth annual event will take place this July with the running of the bulls, wine dinners, concerts, fiestas and other Spanish-themed happenings.


4. Electric Run

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Photo: S Pakhrin/Flickr

The Electric Run takes participants back to those heady days in the late 1990s and early 2000s when rave parties were all the rage. This 5K run takes place in major cities all around the U.S. The race is run at night, and thousands of lights are placed along the course. The runners, many in costume or with glow-in-the-dark accessories, are serenaded by electronic music.

Courses often have different sections, each with its own theme. If you take part in an Electric Run event, you will run through Candy Land, an electric rain forest, an aquatic section and so on. The party continues in the finish line area with DJs and dancing.


5. Wife-Carrying World Championships

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The sport of wife carrying has its origins in Central Finland. The World Championships are held in a town called Sonkajärvi each year. Though Finns and Estonians have dominated the event, people come from other parts of the world take part as well.

Serious competitors have come up with different carrying methods, the most popular of which is called the "Estonian style." This is like a reverse piggy back, with the wife facing her husband's back upside down while grabbing on to his waist and putting her legs over the back of his shoulders. Other competitors race piggy-back or use the fireman's carry (but these methods have not been as successful). Racers in North America can qualify for the Finnish event through the North American Wife Carrying Championships.


6. Cupid's Undie Run

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Photo: Cupid's Undie Run/Facebook

No list of crazy running events would be complete without an underwear race. Cupid's Undie Run is held annually in more than 30 cities around the country, and it's much more that a chance to run around an urban area in your skivvies; the races raise money for the Children's Tumour Foundation. About US$2.8 million was raised nationwide during the most recent events.

The race distances average about 1 mile - but that's not the challenging part. And neither is overcoming the self-consciousness that comes from running in your underwear. The biggest challenge for most people is the fact that the event takes place in February, around Valentine's Day, thus the name. Race day might be a little chilly in Undie Run cities like Houston and Orlando, but in New York City, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis, race day is downright frigid.


7. Dirty Girl Mud Run

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The Dirty Girl Mud Run is more of a fun run than an actual race. The 5K event is untimed, and no one really cares who crosses the finish line first. The run is open to women and girls of all ages and abilities. The course features different sections, and it feels more like an obstacle course than an actual road race.

Dirty Girl runs are held in cities all around the country, including Denver, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. In each city, proceeds are donated to local breast cancer charities.


8. Dirty Dash

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Photo: The Dirty Dash/Facebook

This is another mud-themed event, but it's open to all, regardless of gender. Like the Dirty Girl, the Dirty Dash is more of an obstacle course than a race in the traditional sense. Obstacles include "swimming" through mud puddles and climbing over those same puddles on slippery logs. There is even an adult-sized slip 'n' slide to help competitors rinse off.

Dirty Dash events are held in different parts of the country throughout the summer, but unlike the other multi-city races on our list, these runs are usually held in more-rural areas.


9. Burro Days Race

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Photo: Ken Ratcliff/Flickr

Burro Days are one the oldest themed races in the country. Held annually in Fairplay, Colorado, this event pays homage to the state's history as a centre for mining. The celebration has taken place since 1948. The main event is a 30-mile pack burro race. Not only do runners have to finish this lengthy course, they must do so while leading a burro. Of course, riding the animal is prohibited, although all burros have to be outfitted with a pack, just like they were in mining days.

Burro Days events take place over the course of a weekend that also includes children's parades, llama races, a barbecue and barn dance, outhouse races, and concerts. All proceeds from the race and other events go to the local school district.


Top image: The Dirty Girl Mud Run. Credit: Dirty Girl Mud Run/Facebook.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Some images added.]

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