Is The 5k The New Theme Party?

I’ll start this article by saying I don’t have much experience with physical fitness. Yesterday, I played roughly 18 innings of kickball with my coworkers, and now I’m cursing my sore quads and wondering why my left arm is sore. I generally stick to workouts like yoga and fluidity and couchersize (stretching while watching reruns of 30 Rock).

I’m not going to sign up for a marathon any time soon. I’m not even going to sign up for a half marathon. But, I could (maybe) crush a 5k – if it was the kind of event where the other runners were accepting of my inevitable need to curse under my breath, walk for a bit and possibly dry heave. I’m just not a runner, you guys. And I think that’s why so many outrageously-themed 5ks have popped up in recent years: because they’re less about running, and more about fun! That, or they’re out to scam us for our last $65. If I can be real with you all, I saw pictures on Facebook of a 5k that looked more like Dirty Doctors and Naughty Nurses at the Sigma Chi house. So I definitely don’t want to run whatever mess that was, but I’m not opposed to trying a more normal 5k. So, which one? What’s the best themed 5k out there?

I started looking up races, and found one called Skirt Chaser 5k, which kinda bummed me out. This one is probably all fun and games, too, but I couldn’t get past the name. The basic premise is that women get a three-minute head start running the 5k over the men. Yes, Skirt Chaser was founded by a successful female runner, and yes, it’s been a successful event for a few years now so women can’t be that offended if they’re signing up for it; we could go back and forth. Like I said, I think the race would bother me less if it didn’t have a name like ‘Skirt Chaser’, but the symbolism of ‘skirts’ being chased by men (please note that the men are not given a degrading name, only the women) still irks me.

After the Skirt Chaser discovery I wanted to find what else was out there, and Google did not disappoint. I started looking up different 5ks and guys, there are a lot. You know when you go to pick out a bottle of wine and you just want one that costs less than $10 and tastes decent? That’s how I feel about 5ks. When did there get to be so many choices? Some of the themed 5ks I found seem like fun. Some of them seem difficult (how do you run wearing a prom dress?) And some of them seem a little too extreme for me, but hey, there truly is something for everyone. I categorized my 5k* findings into five categories, so let’s dig deeper, shall we?
*These might not all be 5ks, but they’re all themed races in the 5k region.

Chances are, you’ve heard of these before; they’re established races that have been around for a while. There’s a certain level of fitness and stamina that helps you get to the end of each. They’re draining, mentally and physically, and you feel a great sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line. (All of this coming from the girl who walked Race for the Cure.)

Bad Prom? Yes. Bring it. I have no idea how I would run 3.1 miles in a prom dress, but I’m willing to try. These all seem like harmless, albeit silly, events. But, I would like to point out the gender inequality in Skirt Chaser again, though I invite you to draw your own conclusions about that one.

I also want to bring up that in the Red Dress Run and Perth Kilt runs, men are asked to wear dresses and kilts, acts that are typically dismissed as hilarious and funny. If there was a race (honestly, there probably is) where women had to dress up like men, the women would most likely be criticized for trying too hard.

::red flag meter goes off::

::work computer gets flagged by IT for questionable browser history::

I get it. If you’re proud of your body, you shouldn’t be ashamed to show it off. No, really, I get it. Here’s my problem with it: it costs money! Ladies, we should not pay a company for the ability to strip down to our skivvies, even if it’s for a good cause. If that makes me a prude, then so be it; there are better ways to support charity. All that aside, how is it even comfortable to run in the nude? So many moving parts.

Yes, that’s correct. If the physical act of running a race isn’t enough, you can tack on eating or imbibing your way to the finish line. I don’t think I would ever sign up for any of these, nor cheer one on from the sidelines. I want to say it seems socially irresponsible to condone mixing binge eating and drinking with physical activity, but I’ve participated in bar crawls, and I guess these 5ks are just sped-up versions of those. If you think your stomach can take it, more power to you. Please just vomit over there.

These runs seem like some of the most fun (and messy) to participate in. Like going to a rave without actually having to go to a rave. They’re a great way to get a lot of friends together at once. I’ve seen Facebook friends post pictures of the Color Run, and they all seem like they were having a blast. I think if I were to sign up for a themed 5k fun run, it would be one of these.

Also in my research, I discovered some negativity surrounding 5ks. Despite the topics already covered like gender inequality and questionable taste (read: nudity), what else gives? Those races listed above sound like fun, right? Well, not for everyone. Some complain that themed races are disorganized, and don’t think the experiences are worth the high entry fees. Some say the organizations aren’t associated with a charity, so they feel ripped off when their money is just pocketed. Others, mostly the more intense runners, complain the organization/other runners don’t take the races seriously enough. Which – if you were running a 5k to train for a bigger race, and you kept getting doused with handfuls of colorful powder – I could understand.

I think themed 5ks sound like a lot of fun, as long as you know what you’re getting into. This article only scratched the surface; there are plenty of races we didn’t get to, like the Breaking Bad DEA Dash (okay I made that up, although it’s probably a real thing, somewhere). Let’s remember that all of these races are popular because enough people were willing to pay to make them happen, again and again, often in multiple cities. And, probably most important of all – let’s remember that themed races aren’t meant to be taken too seriously! If you’re looking to get a real workout in, you’ve probably come to the wrong place. A themed 5k is all in how you look at it, and if you’re looking to have some fun, you have plenty of options.

Please, just don’t choose the Skirt Chaser 5k. Or one of the naked/underwear ones.

Featured image via ShutterStock from Christian Mueller