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5 Tips for Tackling a Truly Fun Run

Enjoy the moment

In the typical road race, participants tend to get wrapped up in things like race pace and personal records. In these not-so-serious events, the goal shifts from speed to simply having fun. “Most of these events are untimed, so you can take your time, play in that mud pit, stay a couple extra moments in the foam zone to take pics with your friends, and just enjoy the journey,” says Lauren Jones, the marketing director for Drenched 5K, in which runners get doused with water guns and balloons. “We figured there are enough ‘hard core’ competitive events out there; it’s time to go back to our childhood roots and let loose.”

Team up

Nothing says bonding like bounding over a brick wall together or slithering through a mud pit while sidled up to a friend. Racing with a team makes for a much less intimidating environment for running newbies, and many events offer awards for the biggest teams. So whether you’ve got a bunch of buddies or a crew of co-workers, entering one of these events together adds even more motivation to train and make it to the finish line.

Make it a family affair

Along the same lines, you can gather your kids and have them run or walk with you. Many theme races allow strollers on the course and allow younger runners as long as they stick with their parents. If you’re with your kids, you can always skip the more challenging obstacles. “Our races are literally for everybody: young, old, fast or slow,” says Jones. “We have even have had more than a handful of 4-year-olds complete the entire 5K without stopping.” Besides, what other way is there to make your kids think you’re a total rock star than watching you scale a set of monkey bars?

Eyes on the prize

Just because you won’t be racing for a podium spot doesn’t mean you have to curtail those competitive juices. You can still snag a participation prize or two, whether it’s for best costume or for most creative team name. In the Great Pumpkin Haul, heading to Denver in October, participants can earn a “double hauler baler” award for carting two pumpkins throughout the entire 2-mile course. And in the Bad Prom 5K, event staff hands out prizes for particularly snazzy dressers—just the excuse you were looking for to break out that turquoise taffeta number you’ve been hanging on to since 1992.

Do your homework

Though the build-up for theme races may not require heavy mileage or nutrition plans, you’ll still want to do a little prep work before the event. The best way to get initiated on the ins and outs of your race of choice? Hit up the event’s website or YouTube for videos of prior races. That way, you’ll have a better sense of what’s in store for you, and you’ll be able to prepare mentally for when it’s your turn to shoot down that 20-foot water slide.