Despite the frequent traffic lights, cars, and pedestrians, New York City is pretty runner-friendly, shutting down streets each March and November for the half and full marathons and playing host to dozens of weekend 5k’s. For the more casual runners, the Color Run has been a hugely popular option, with an event held in Queens this past spring and upcoming ones in Brooklyn. We rounded up ten other crazy themed races, from 0.05k to marathons. Many involve food and others raise money for charity, but most importantly, all are about having a good time on and off the course.
1. NYC Pizza Run
Anyone hoping to drop a few pounds during this race should reconsider, as the Pizza Run redefines “carbo-loading.” The three slices of pizza competitors must consume between each of this race’s four laps–and the post-race beer for those who can stomach it–cancel out any calories burned during the actual running portion. Competitors must complete a total of 2.25 miles around Tompkins Square Park, stopping after each lap to refuel with cheese slices from Pizza by Cer té. The 2013 edition saw 120 entrants, with a portion of the race proceeds go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. Riding the success of the eating and exercise combination, the same race organizers also held an NYC Cupcake Run last fall, during which competitors crammed in three cupcakes in a 5k run through Astoria Park.
2. Idiotarod NYC
A play on the famous Alaskan Iditarod, a 1,000-mile dog race, the “Idiotarod”–recently named the “Idiotarodoma” after the original race’s lawyers lodged a complaint–gathers NYC’s most daring idiots each January for a trek through the urban tundra. Teams of five “idiots” and creatively-decorated shopping carts replace dogs and sleds, as runners must stop at a series of checkpoints throughout the course to complete challenges. The race began in San Francisco as the Urban Iditarod in 1994 before spreading to around twenty cities nationwide, including Salt Lake City and Cincinnati. Unlike in the actual Iditarod, lighthearted sabotage and bribery are encouraged.
3. Empire State Building Run-Up
Forget the Stairmaster, the New York Road Runners’ Empire State Building Run-Up offers a real-life, even more pain-inducing version. Over 400 athletes participated in the 37th edition last year, climbing 1,576 steps to the observation deck of the Empire State Building, 320 meters above street level. Australian pro cyclist Paul Crake set the current race record of 9 minutes, 33 seconds in 2003.
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4. Runyon 5k
The Runyon 5k gives Yankees fans (and haters) the chance to run through Yankee Stadium, over ramps, up stairs, and even around the field. The event benefits the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, and it’s not too late to register for this year’s running on August 3rd.
The New York Rogue Runners’ Hot Dog Challenge is the fit man’s version of Nathan’s annual 4th of July hot dog eating contest. The challenge demands a three-to-five-mile run, depending on through Central Park and Times Square with stops at nine to 11 specific food carts, at which runners must purchase and scarf down a hot dog. This year’s winners took home over $250 in cash.
Each summer, on the Friday before the NYC Triathlon, hundreds of runners try to beat the heat in Central Park–in their underwear. The free 1.7-mile run once held the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of people wearing underwear, since broken by a similar underwear run in Utah. Each year’s event has a special theme, including Underwear Evolution and Celebrate America. This year’s edition will take place on August 1.
This pork-inspired event epitomizes the phrase “bringing home the bacon” while also raising money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Meat lovers have two options: the 5k Piggy Pilgrimage and for the couch potatoes, the 0.05k (about 0.03 miles) Blitz to Bacon. Participant swag includes unlimited bacon bits along the course and more bacon at the finish line, a free Bloody Mary, and a bacon-scented race bib. While the race only has one set date right now, in Minneapolis on July 19, it’s expanding to 17 cities soon–including (never fear!) New York. Vegetarians are advised to sit this one out, as the race doesn’t yet offer veggie bacon.
8. Wineglass Marathon
Who says you can’t drink while running? Runners and wine lovers don’t have to fly across the country for a weekend getaway in wine country, as the starting line of the Wineglass Marathon is a just a few hours drive away in Bath, NY. The flat marathon and half-marathon courses feature scenic roads through the Finger Lakes region at the height of fall, with wine glasses and bottles of sparkling wine waiting for runners at the finish line. This year’s race is set for October 5th and is the perfect situation for achieving–and celebrating–a Boston Marathon qualifying time.
For believers of the zombie apocalypse or just people who like the thrill of a good scare, the Zombie Run should be the run of choice, pitting humans against real-life zombies in a 3.1-mile obstacle course. Runners can elect to register as humans or receive a zombie makeover and run as otherworldly creatures. Humans receive a belt with three “life flags,” and must emerge from the obstacle course with at least one life flag remaining. The task isn’t as easy as it seems, with zombies chasing them the entire way. This year’s zombie apocalypse hits New York on October 25 at the Aviator Center in Brooklyn.
10. Bad Prom Run
Cringeworthy prom dresses and tuxes are coming to New York, and not just for high schoolers. The Bad Prom night 5k encourages runners along the course with pump-up music and four cliche prom themes including “Under the Sea,” “Fairytale Romance,” “Night in Paris,” and “Titanic.” The race is followed by a dance party, with plenty of opportunities for awkward prom photos. Each event also raises money for a local charity. The NYC race date will be announced soon.
Get in touch with the author @catku.