Any old runner can take on a standard road race. Strap on a good pair of shoes, do a little training, get hydrated, and it’s not too much of a struggle. Not all races are quite as straightforward as your local charity’s 5K, though. Here’s a look at five unique takes on road racing.
1. The Big Man Run
As you might guess, this Worcester, Mass., run is exclusively for big men. What makes a man big? It’s not a subjective question. As the race’s site explains, “A man ain’t really big until he cracks 200+.” Runners who tip the scales at over two bills show up for the race, weigh in, and prepare to run 4.25 miles.
Sounds easy enough if you’re a big fella who’s in good shape, right? There’s a twist for these big men, though. There are three “aid stations” on the course, but they don’t serve the standard fare of Gatorade and water. At each aid station the runners must eat a hot dog with its bun – condiments are optional – and chug an 8 oz. beer. They’ve got to keep all of that food and beer down, too; puking on the course earns you a disqualification.
Runners also need to bring their wallets. From the event’s website: “You will also have to bring three single American Dollar Bills ($3.00) with you so that at each aid station you will be able to properly tip the waitress… Big Men always tip!! This isn't cheap, this is BIG MAN!!” Failure to tip also results in disqualification.
It sounds challenging, but big men love this race; the 2010 running was its 15th edition. A post on Runner’s World’s forums estimated the 2010 winner’s time at around 29:20, which is pretty darn impressive for 4.25 miles with a gut full of beer and hotdogs. [Mahoney's Pub image courtesy of baevents.com.]
2. Marathon du Médoc
If the idea of running and eating appeals to you but you’re not hefty enough for the Big Man Run, consider Bordeaux’s Marathon du Médoc. It’s a full marathon, but the French event explicitly advertises that “Spoilsports, thugs and record seekers are not invited!” Instead, it strives to be the world’s slowest marathon, a lengthy event in which runners – over 90% of whom wear costumes – trot through some of France’s best vineyards and stop for gourmet snacks like fresh oysters. Also, if you need a tipple, there are over 20 wine-tasting stations spread throughout the course.
The race has been around since 1985, and it now welcomes around 9,000 hungry runners. Since the event is built on this noncompetitive spirit, there aren’t any cash prizes for the fastest runners like most marathons have. Instead, speedsters get something even better: their weight in wine. Even non-winners make out fairly well; every finisher gets a gift bag that includes a bottle of wine. [Image courtesy of Marathon du Médoc.]
3. Bay to Breakers – Centipede division
San Francisco’s annual 12k Bay to Breakers run is known for drawing an unusual crowd of runners, but the centipede division might take the cake for strangeness. The race doubles as the “World Centipede Running Championships,” in which teams of 13 runners are tethered together to form 60-foot long “centipedes” that run the race. A 14th team member “floats” next to the centipede and can be substituted in for any team member who has to make a pit stop.
The “centipede” moniker doesn’t just refer to the linking of the runners, either. According to the division’s lighthearted rules, “Twinkie feelers on the head of each segment are required according to the International Centipede Congress.” Furthermore, “The final segment of each centipede must wear a stinger of appropriate design and toxicity.” The final rule twist for the race reads, “A Lenichi Turn is a 360-degree turn made famous by two Eastern European centipede runners Oscar and Igatoo Lenichi, in the 18th century. They (the turns, not the brothers) must be executed at Lindley Meadow in Golden Gate Park just beyond the six-mile point. The Lenichi must not interfere with other runners.”
The centipede division may sound like a laugh, but these human arthropods can flat move. The men’s centipede course record (37:39 by the Reebok Aggies in 1990) is actually faster than the women’s singles course record (38:07). [Image courtesy of Bay to Breakers.]
4. Bare to Breakers
The centipedes aren’t the only unusual runners at Bay to Breakers, though. “Bare to Breakers” runners complete the whole race in the buff. (Anyone who’s ever had their clothes chafe them during a long race can see the upside here.) As the event’s website proclaims, “The BARE-2-BREAKERS™ is the only public nude run literally traversing the width of a major world class city before many tens of thousands of spectators and live T.V.”
If you’ve got a dog who loves to run, these races sound like a blast. But don't forget the baggies. As Dog Run Dog’s rules state, “You are responsible for picking up your dog’s dukey.”