Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously: Run a Fun Run!

Ready to have some fun during the Glow Run!
Ready to have some fun during the Glow Run!

Does the thought of the 80’s Run make  you want to vomit?  Are  you sick of hearing about mud runs, glow runs, color runs, zombie runs, etc.?

You are not alone.

I wrote a post a while back about the Tough Mudder – which I would consider much more physically demanding than a half marathon – and I was shocked at the negative comments it received from our purists.

But I shouldn’t have been.

Why?  I was there once too.

You know what I am talking about.  You train and you train hard.  When you line up to race, there is no joke.  You are there to put it all out there. You are ready to take some names.  This is serious stuff.  This is not neon, glowing, muddy distraction.

When you see people doing their mud runs, color runs and glow runs, you think to yourself: “No way.  I am not buying into those gimmicks. Those people aren’t serious runners.”  Tell the truth:  you feel you are above that.

Well, I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t.

Like I said, I’ve been there.  When I started racing ten-ish years ago, there were no themed runs like we have these days.  But I vividly recall any time every time my friends asked me to run a race where I wouldn’t be all-out racing, my mind instantly switched to no effing way.  Go big or go home baby.  I have worked too hard to do anything less.

My boy and me.  One of my favorite races of my life.
My boy and me. One of my favorite races of my life.

What changed my mind?  My Kids.

My kids have been running since they were wee little things.  Since they were 4-5  years old, they ran kid’s runs and the local Capitol Mile race.  They begged me to run a 5k since they ran their first 100 meter dash.  I set my line in the sand: no 5k until you are at least 8 years old.  Within a month or so after my oldest son turned 8, we towed the line for his first 5k.

Within seconds of running that race, I realized the key to making him love our sport was taking it in and enjoying it.  Loving it.  And guess what hooked him in? The fun.  Jumping.  Smiling.  Feeling the sun on his face, running and having fun.

Within weeks, my younger son also ran a 5k (so much for that line in the sand).  They are now 10 and 12 years old now and have run at least 30 races each.  Some they race, some they just enjoy.  They love it.  How did that happen?  They enjoy it.  Remember that? 

When our first local mud run rolled out, my kids found out and COULD NOT WAIT.

mud run first

Even better, it did not disappoint.  The race was 4.6 miles and my son flew through it and the obstacles with the biggest smile on his face.  We have done it every year since (many times more than once as it is biannual).  And yes, we even put on goofy costumes, ham it up, and have a great time.

Team Mint: Law Enforcement Edition

As many of you know, I am also heavily involved in Girls on the Run, which is a completely non-competitive, fun running program.  Sure, some of our girls are competitive and as coaches, we push them accordingly, but we also simply celebrate being independent, strong and awesome.  These are things all runners should embrace, no matter their pace.  Run, enjoy, be free, be strong, be awesome.

Embrace the joy of the run
Embrace the joy of the run

So here is what I have to say about fun runs:

  1. Do it.  Embrace it.  Enjoy it.  Take a day off from your Garmin and your competitive side.  Have some fun.  You will thank yourself.
  2. Do it with fun people.  Whether it is your kids, best friends, family or complete strangers, find a team and have a load of fun.
  3. Understand that it is a FUN run.  Seriously.  Chill out.  Put on a costume.  Paint your hair pink.  Do it up.
  4. Know your race.  Don’t assume all themed races are equal.  Tough Mudder took me more than 2.5 hours and I did it with some serious bad asses.  I was sore soRE SORE when I was done.  This is much unlike most fun runs.  I did Glow Run 5k with my kids – we were all thinking we’d jog – but it was a log jam with 99.9% of the participants walking.
  5. Go with it.  There is some zen to running or walking for fun rather than racing.
  6. Don’t judge.  I know SO many people who have gotten into running from these events.  Maybe they’ll never be elite (but neither will I).  I tip my hat to any event that gets people moving and embracing an active lifestyle.  So if a friend tells you they did the Glow Run, tell them they rock and be happy for them.

Don’t be so serious all the time.  FUN is important too.

Go participate in a fun run.

I double dog dare you.

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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    1. Personally, I think the obstacle/mud runs are most fun, but it is all what triggers your fun button. I haven’t done the color run, but me and my posse (me, husband and 2 boys) are doing it in 2 weeks!

  1. Sure … blame it on the kids. Haha! While I barely have time to run, let alone race and really have no interest in theme races, I could definitely see doing them when my kids are older if they’re into it.

    Here’s what is offensive (although this is a very strong word for my feelings – maybe 1 part offensive/3 parts water). I see them as a huge money making gimmick. Let’s throw color on people (?) and then they can run and we can charge them a ton of money. That’s my initial reaction, but I was thinking about it and there are so many things like this that annoy me and aren’t for me, but others like them. If themed runs which encourage activity and exercise get people out and moving together rather than sitting in a movie theater watching a bad action movie or whatever, than that’s a good thing, right?

    You won’t find me at any of these any time soon, but maybe in a few years you’ll see me with the kids 🙂

    THANKS for pushing us “purists” to think rather than just judge 🙂

    1. YES!! I agree that the overpriced gimmicky-ness of so many of these runs is what turns me off of them. Also (and I admit this is a super anecdotal, one-time thing that should NOT affect my opinion of all fun runs, but… it does!) – after they ran the Glow Run last year here in Tulsa, my boyfriend and I were walking our dog through the nice, large, woodsy park where it was held (because we go there all the time), and there was TONS of Glow Run litter!!! Pieces of glow in the dark glasses, large glow sticks that had been used to mark the trail, etc. I was SO upset that some for-profit enterprise would come into “my” park in “my” town and leave a mess like that!!! Ugh. Just thinking about it makes me mad again 🙂

      But, that being said, I think Mint has made me open my mind up a bit once again, just like with the Tough Mudder post! 🙂

      1. I know these races are pricey not only because they are for-profit, but also because it costs more to build obstacles, hire DJs, whatever. But it is not cool if they are trashing the place and not cleaning up. I’d be very PO-ed about the litter too. Sorry to hear that. I recommend voicing your concerns with whatever race company is sponsoring it. It is a national event, but sponsored locally. Check it out and speak up.

    2. I DO blame it on the kids and whole heartedly thank them for it. I would have never done these races without their prompting, but it is EPIC, AWESOME, FABULOUS and whatever other cheesy words you can come up with when you do it together. We all know how to run and race hard in my family. But we also love to laugh,goof off and play sometimes. My oldest son is entering cross country and is working hard, but we are gearing up for the color run or some version of it next weekend. We can’t wait to goof off and run together. It is a nice balance in my opinion.

  2. I think the themed runs can be great to get people interested in running so I totally support them because of that. However, I don’t think I would ever do one not necessarily because I’m above them but because I don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on races so if I’m going to fork out money for a race, I’m going to race.

    1. Amanda, that’s where I’m at with theme races. I have limited time for racing, and am so put off by high entrance fees, that I’m pretty selective about what events I’ll enter.

      On a similar note, I was tempted to run the Big 10 Network’s 10k in Chicago last month, but I decided against it because it’s massive. If I’m going to spend a bunch of money on a 10k, I want to at least have a chance to race hard.

  3. Totally agree! Whatever gets people out and running and having fun exercising is a good thing, no matter how annoying it might be to the more serious racing types among us. Not too long ago, I was one of those people who signed up for a 5k just for fun (in response to peer pressure!), with my only goal being to not stop to walk! And even now, as I’ve downed the koolaid and crossed over into the if-it-didn’t-hurt-you-didn’t-race-it-right camp, my kids interest in running (and all the post-race fun) is helping me keep it lighthearted and fun.
    Still, I have some heartburn when it comes to the gimmicky stuff. There’s a big 10k (Ocktoberfest) coming up in town with chip timing and serious racing….BUT they give a one minute head start to those wearing a costume. I saw some of the pictures from last year and a couple of the top 5 women finishers were in costume! (Elaborate ones, too–not just the lame fairy princess skirt stuff). Anyway, I want to race it and have my eyes fixed on a PR, but the costumes-head-start thing has me a little annoyed. Still, if the local elite ladies aren’t above it, then what business do I have being a snot about it? Maybe I should just scrap the PR attempt and go as Pippy Longstocking? I mean, I’ve already got the red-haired braids, right?!

    1. Yeah – I get that. I don’t think they quite mix (gimmick + serious). My bets are on you, but if you’ve got PL braids – why not?!?!? 🙂

  4. We’re hosting a Color Me Rad run at our school this year and I am so excited because it is such a great way to get people running! I’ve never participated in one, but I really want to. I think it’s a great way to bring the fun back into running, something a lot of us (especially those of us who race a lot) forget about.

  5. I was thinking about this some more and it occurred to me that these races call themselves races, but they’re not really races, per se. They are aimed at the less serious casual runner, just as open bowling is aimed at people who aren’t competing in bowling tournaments or the bunny hill is made for people who aren’t serious skiiers. It’s a natural out-cropping of the casual interest in running and although it might not be for some of us, it’s overall a good thing as I said above.

  6. Whenever I see the Color Runs and glow runs, I do kind of feel like they’re not serious (and they do leave a MESS behind, but that’s another issue entirely). And then I see friends who would never enter a race running and loving them. And with our nation’s health at stake, if throwing color or glow paint on people gets them running, moving and enthusiatic about it, I say go for it.

    I love that you brought up kids. I did both a mud run and a zombie run, and they made me feel like a kid again. You cannot crawl through soupy mud without grinning and giggling. Or slide down a waterslide into a goupy ‘blood’ mixture without laughing at the absurdity of it all. It may not be a serious run, but we all do pleanty of that. It’s healthy to bring out the joy and child in all of us. If you haven’t tried it–I recommend it.

    A word to the wise–be careful which races you register for. There are races out there that are scams – Google Mud Wars in Chicago. I bought an entry on Groupon, and it was a total money-making scam. But, not all of these races are out to rip you off. Just do your homework!