They're the perfect antidote to the 5K blahs. Themed runs are popping up all across the country, offering runners a fresh, exciting and fun alternative to the local 5K race scene. From running on the ocean floor to being chased by zombies, we've compiled a list of Canada's most interesting, fun and festive races.
Not Since Moses 10K and 5K
Five Islands, Nova Scotia
Running on the bottom of the ocean is, as you'd expect, muddy. That's what runners at Nova Scotia's Not Since Moses 10K and 5K can expect when the tide goes out on the Bay of Fundy and racers literally run on the ocean floor. This year marks the 6th running of this unique event, which is Canada's only ocean-floor run.
The 5K takes runners on an out-and-back loop from Sand Point in Five Islands. The course includes a tidal river crossing and then goes out onto the exposed sea bed. Racers run alongside spectacular cliffs, usually only visible from the dry comfort of a boat. Runners in the 10K start at Soley Cove and finish the race at Sand Point.
In addition to a unique run, participants are treated to live music, hot food (served by the local fire brigade) and even poets reciting their works. There's even a short kids' fun run that is typically between 100 and 500 metres in length.
Perth's World Record Kilt Run
Over 1,800 runners donning their finest kilts descend on the quaint town of Perth, Ontario every June for the annual Perth's World Record Kilt Run. The 8K race, which has set a Guiness World Record for the most runners wearing kilts while running, is part run, part Scottish festival. There's a Piper's March to the start line, bagpipers at each kilometer of the race and Scottish themed water stations. Runners are further rewarded with themed beer at the finish (Highlanders or Scottish Brew Red Ale), the popular "I Got Kilted" tees and post-race treats that include local homemade shortbread.
Ambitious runners can tackle the Warrior Class, which requires runners to carry a sword and shield and take on various obstacles during the race, such as downing a shot of scotch and shooting a bow and arrow. There's also a kids' run for the littlest kilt-wearers.
Aside from the actual race, participants and spectators enjoy entertainment in the form of live music, a haggis toss, jugglers, Voyageur canoe rides, a medieval encampment demo and more. Locals come out in droves to support this event - cheering along the sidelines and supporting runners as they cross the finish line (and pick up their free beer)!
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2012 Perth Kilt Run.
Trek or Treat Night Trail Run
Oakville and Collingwood, Ontario
The Trek or Treat Night Trail Run (5K and Creepy Mile) is first and foremost a family affair. It's a perfect race for runner parents and their offspring to participate in together. Forget cheering mom and dad on at the finish line- at Trek or Treat kids get to race too! There is a 5K run and a 1 mile walk, run or stroll for families.
The route is dark but sufficiently lit up by the hundreds of (mandatory) headlamps that participants don for the race. While this race is billed as a trail run, it is mostly comprised of flat, packed-gravel paths which make it accessible to first-time night runners and those running with jogging strollers. Kilometers are indicated with glowing numbered Jack-o-Lanterns and the route is marked with reflective skulls. A graveyard and giant Halloween-themed inflatables provide entertainment throughout the race.
For serious runners, Trek or Treat has created a 5K Race category for runners who expect to complete the event in under 24 minutes. Registrants in this category will benefit from an earlier start time, allowing them access to a course unencumbered by slower runners. Winners receive a cool bat-themed medal.
However, it's the "little touches" that make Trek or Treat so much fun. Water stations along the route are replaced with candy stations, free pizza and hot chocolate are on offer post-race and this year a professional portrait photographer will be on-site taking free photos of families in front of a fall-themed background. While costumes are not mandatory, the vast majority of participants wear them with glee.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the Trek or Treat Night Trail Run 2012.
Burlington and Hamilton, Ontario
There may be imitators, but the Santa 5K race put on by veteran race directors Kelly and Mark Arnott of VR Pro is Canada's original Santa race. In 2012 over 3,500 participants, dressed in their required (and provided) Santa costumes, crossed the finish line at this Burlington, Ontario race. This might just be the ultimate holiday run. Good spirit abounds as thousands dash through the snow to celebrate the season.
As with all races in the VR Pro Series, the Santa 5K is a professionally run and organized event designed with runners in mind. There are race kits for all participants, chip-timing and awards for age group winners. After six years in Burlington the race became so popular that a second event was added last year in Hamilton (it will take place on November 24th this year and 1,500 Santas are expected). The company also puts on a Santa race in Burlington, Vermont. There's even a special medal for those who compete in more than one of the VR Pro Santa races.
The race takes place in Burlington's downtown core, providing ample opportunity for cheering spectators to take in the action and encourage runners as they head to the finish line. Your family may have a hard time spotting you at the finish, but you'll be able to meet and warm-up together inside the Burlington Centre for the Performing Arts after the race. After crossing the finish line runners are treated to free pizza provided by Panago and food trucks are on-site with other options like coffee. Many local restaurants support the race by offering breakfast for a nominal charge.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the Santa 5K 2012.
Oasis Zoo Run
It's a sellout every year! The Oasis Zoo Run 10K, 5K and Kids' Cub Run takes runners on a journey through the gorgeous Rouge Valley and the grounds of the Toronto Zoo. Pass by flamingos, tigers and other animals on your way to crossing the finish line and claiming your zoo-themed medal (last year's featured the Zoo's polar bear, Hudson).
A popular race in the Canada Running Series' calendar, this event attracts not only recreational runners, but top elites like Canadians Reid Coolsaet and Megan Brown who won the event last year. The race also serves as the Canadian National 10K Championship. Unlike some other themed events, the Zoo Run definitely caters to runners and is a quality run first and foremost. Chip timing, a fantastic selection of post-race food, a well-marked course and good quality race kits are some of the highlights. The start-line is corralled, giving runners the opportunity to go for a personal best on this course.
Parents are invited to run with their little ones in the Cub Run, a short jaunt for the ankle-biter set. A great feature of this event is the chaperoned corral at the finish line, where kids who ran the race on their own are watched until their parents pick them up.
Many runners choose to dress up, adding to the fun and festive atmosphere at this event. Included in your race registration fee is free parking and admission to the Zoo, so families can race in the morning and then spend the day exploring one of Canada's premier zoos.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2012 Oasis Zoo Run.
Rock 'n' Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon and 1/2 Marathon
Montreal is home to the American Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series' only Canadian event, the Rock 'n' Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon and 1/2 Marathon. In addition to the full and half marathon events, the race also features a 10K, 5K and 1K run.
The largest marathon series in the world, Rock 'n' Roll has made their mark with their unique brand of marathon featuring musical entertainment throughout the race. On average there is a band for every mile of the course and finishers are treated to a post-race concert (with free beer, too!).
This race has all the hallmarks of a big city U.S. marathon. A large-scale marathon expo makes this feel more like a race in Boston or New York. Participants are rewarded with a substantial finisher medal, race shirt and enjoy post-race perks like a rinse off in the shower truck.
As a destination race, Montreal offers some of the best après entertainment in Canada - not to mention the joie de vivre you'll feel as you're cheered on en Français as you make your way to the finish line. Plan to visit for the weekend and enjoy the food, festivities and culture that Montreal has to offer.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2012 Rock 'n' Roll Oasis Montreal Marathon and 1/2 Marathon.
Run For Your Lives
If a leisurely 5K isn't your thing, how about an obstacle run where zombies chase you to the finish line! That's the gist of the popular Run For Your Lives race. Brampton, Ontario's Claireville Conservation Area plays host to the only Canadian event in this U.S. based race series which returns to this side of the border for the second time in 2013.
The run is approximately 5K in length and features a variety of scary obstacles such as a maze, blood pit and smokehouse. Throughout the race zombies chase you and attempt to take away three flags you're provided with at the start of the race. If all three flags are removed, you become zombie-fied! This race is a little scary - so not ideal for young kids.
In the true spirit of obstacle racing, there is a post-race (Apocalypse) party with live music, games, food and beverages. Even spectators are invited to partake in the fun - free of charge. In 2014 Run For Your Lives will host 5 Canadian races.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2012 Run For Your Lives.
The Chocolate Race
St. Catharines, Ontario
What better way to celebrate Mother's Day than with chocolate and a family-friendly race? At the Chocolate Race in St. Catharines participants are running for one big payoff - calories burned to indulge in treats galore at this chocolate-lovers' race. Participants (mostly of the female variety) can choose their level of indulgence with a 5K, 10K or 10 mile race, and young choc-aholics can participate in the kids' races.
Of course, what makes this race great is the volume of chocolate runners enjoy during and after the race. The race directors don't skimp at this event! Runners are treated to everything from fudge, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate-filled croissants, truffles and even pink champagne, to name just a few of the delicacies.
As with many theme runs, the Chocolate Race is about the full race day experience, which includes everything from balloon artists to entertain the kids and a finisher medal with iTaB to record your name and time.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the Chocolate Race.
Victoria Goddess Run
Victoria, British Columbia
This race is all about girl power! The Victoria Goddess Run celebrates all things women. Runners don boas, tutus, tiaras and even pageant-style sashes and race a 5K, 10K or half marathon among a sea of pink running gear. The event supports Victoria Women's Transition House, Women's Sexual Assault Centre and ProMotion Plus - Girls and Women in Sport and Physical Activity.
This race features a marathon-style women's running expo and fireman manning the finish line doling out congratulatory hugs. Racers are treated to a custom necklace by Sporty Jewels to recognize their accomplishment - the custom sterling-silver pendant enables runners to add to the necklace year after year. Even the food is first class. There's a chocolate station on the route and post-race finishers can enjoy a selection of meat and cheese delivered on platters and served to runners as they mingle in the finish line area.
This event is ideal for women who want to celebrate health, fitness and each other. We think it's a great run for bachelorette parties, birthdays and other milestone celebrations.
Locations across Canada
If running is secondary to the experience of an event, a colour run might just be your thing. Populated mostly by the 18 - 25 year-old-set, these races attract young runners who are as interested in the race as they are in the party. Essentially, racers wear white clothes and are sprayed and "colour-bombed" with non-toxic dye as they make their along a short (usually 5K) route. Racers are more interested in how colourful they are, than their race time. At the finish there's a giant colour party, where revelers, er...racers, get amped up with even more colour, music and enthusiastic race staff throwing prizes into the crowd.
There are three major players who put on colour runs in Canada: The Color Run, Color Me Rad and Run or Dye. While all offer a similar experience, Run or Dye has the largest list of Canadian race dates, including: Halifax, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Calgary and Saskatoon (to name just a few).
Prep for this race by coercing friends to join you, picking up a pair of 80s-style neon sunglasses and stocking up on laundry detergent.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2013 Color Me Rad Toronto.
Locations across Canada
Everyone from extreme athletes, CrossFitters, couch potatoes and weekend warriors is getting in on the obstacle racing phenomena. There's almost no one who doesn't know someone who has done one of these races - call it six degrees of obstacle racing! Races vary in distance from short-course right up to the marathon and involve tackling a series of military-style obstacles, everything from mud pits, ropes courses and even the fire pits.
This is functional fitness meets endurance sports at its muddiest. Many of these races are not timed - the goal is simply to cross the finish line. With this in mind, many participants help others along the course - often participating with friends and family. There's typically a big post-race party that often features live entertainment, food and most notably, beer.
The number of obstacle races in Canada has exploded over the last three years. There are the big players: Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash and the all-Canadian owned and operated Mud Hero. There are also many one-off events that have popped up across the country, offering racers a plethora of choices. So grab a group of your best buddies and hit the trails, concrete and gym for training.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2013 Mud Hero Montreal.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2013 Spartan Sprint Toronto.
Watch Get Out There Magazine's video from the 2013 Tough Mudder Montreal.