Adventure runs are Florida’s hottest fitness trend for 2013

By : Jamie Hyman
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We are running through colored powder. We pay good money to be chased by zombies. We alternate chugging beers with our running.

It seems like no one can just run five kilometers in a straight line any more – themed, adventure runs are the hottest thing to hit west and central Florida and they are big business. According to Outside Magazine, America’s top three obstacle racing brands are Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash and the Spartan Race, which had 41,000 participants in 2010, jumping to 1.5 million runners in 2012. All together, those three races brought in $150 million last year alone.

Robert Geller of Tampa is the Chief Adventure Officer at Outings and Adventures, a company that hosts social and active events for west and central Florida’s LGBT community. He said the adventure race appeal is obvious.

“You get to do some pretty wild things, biking through mud, climbing a wall, running through fire,” Geller said. “When else do you get an opportunity to do something so extreme like that?”

He said the trend could pay off in fitness dividends, as well.

“If it’s another way to get people to move, I am all for it,” he said.

Jen Parrish, a skater with the Orlando Psycho City Derby Girls, has participated in Warrior Dash, Muddy Buddy, a bike/run that used to be hosted at Disney, and Run For Your Lives.

“I think everybody is getting more into running in general and [an adventure run] gives them something to work toward,” Parrish said. “They’re fun to do with friends, fun to do with groups of people. 5Ks are still popular as well, and runs like Warrior Dash are appealing to the audience that wants a little more excitement.”

She plans to do the Color Run and Warrior Dash again in 2013.

If running a crazy race is on your New Year’s resolutions list, here is a sampling of what 2013 has to offer.

The Color Run
When: Jan. 13
Where: Orlando, St. Petersburg
Price: $35-$50
Much like the Indian Holi Festival, runners in the Color Run will be coated in pigment at the end of the day. At each kilometer, volunteers throw a different colored powder on the racers, giving them a rainbow result at the finish line. The Color Runs benefit non-profits; the Orlando run will raise funds for the Second Harvest Food Bank, while St. Pete’s event will benefit JDRF, which supports Type 1 Diabetes research and St. Anthony’s BayCare Health System.

Warrior Dash
When: Feb. 2
Where: Lake Wales
Price: $40-$80
Depending on the course location, the Warrior Dash is different lengths, but the Florida race is 3.34 miles with 17 obstacles, including a run through fire, over mud and underneath a sprinkler downpour. The intense obstacle run concludes with an after-party featuring live music, a beer tent, a costume contest and a prize for the best warrior beard. Warrior Dash partners with St. Jude Children’s Hospital, offering prizes to racers who raise funds for the cause.

5K Foam Fest
When: Feb. 16
Where: St. Cloud
Price: $50 – $75
The 5K Foam Fest is an obstacle course, mud race and human car wash in one. Runners get muddy crawling through a swamp, scaling walls and making their way through a web of rope, then clean off by crossing raft bridges, sliding down a giant inflatable slide and tackling other obstacles that end up in massive piles of foam.

Urban Dare
When: April 13, Nov. 2
Where: Tampa, Orlando
Price: $60 for a 2-person team; $120 for a 4-person family
Part run, part trivia quiz, part skill challenges, Urban Dare is like a 1-day Amazing Race that has runners solve clues that lead them to checkpoints where they have to gather information, complete a challenge or snap a photo. Teams can run or use public transportation, and smarts can beat speed. The top 5 finishers get automatic entry into a Super Dare race, where the winner gets $5,000.

Tough Mudder
When: Nov. 2 & 3
Where: Tampa
Price:  $90-$155
Tough Mudder bills itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.” They’re hardcore 10-12-mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces which raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Even if you race alone, Mudders are expected to use teamwork and help each other through the course, to make sure no racer is left behind. Runners sign a pledge stating they understand that Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge.

Run For Your Lives
When: Nov. 16
Where: Clermont
Price: $67-$97
Run For Your Lives is a zombie-themed adventure run where racers can sign up to be zombies or be chased by zombies. Runners interested in portraying the undead should register early, as those slots fill fast. Helpless zombie victims (people being chased) receive a flag belt that represent their health. Zombies try to steal the flags, while all the runners race through a series of natural and manmade obstacles.

Tap ‘N’ Run 4K
When: TBA
Where: Orlando
Price: $52
Tap ‘N’ Run is a 4K with four “chug stations”along the race route, capped by a full beer for runners at the finish line. Participants dress in crazy costumes and receive a Finisher’s Medal that doubles as a bottle opener. The Tap ‘N’ Run made its Orlando debut Dec. 15, 2012; the complete 2013 schedule has yet to be released, so no word yet on the next time the Tap ‘N’ Run hits Orlando or whether it’ll spread to other central or west Florida cities.

Santa Speedo Run
When: December, exact date TBA
Where: Tampa Bay
Price: $30
The skimpiest of all the local adventure races is the local Santa Speedo Run, run every December in Tampa Bay to benefit the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas, Inc. The one-mile run is traditionally done with runners wearing just a Santa hat, sneakers and of course, Speedos. In 2012, nearly 200 runners raised $30,500 in its third year. It was run in Gulfport for the first two years, and then for 2012, was added to Ybor’s annual holiday festivities with a start near Centennial Park.

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