Summertime running doesn’t have to be a sweaty slog of the same races year after year.
If you’re ready to add a refreshing splash of fun to your race schedule, check out this list of events that appeal to the history buff, Nutella addict, or plain ol’ party animal.
Running of the BullsJuly 23, 2016; Pensacola, Florida 1 of 6
If you're not up for risking your life for the thrill of running from bulls in Pamplona, Spain, consider this carefree version in downtown Pensacola, Florida.
You don't register to actually run with the "bulls," but those who sign up get an event shirt, red bandana and access to post-run entertainment, food and drink.
What makes it special: Pensacola Roller Gurlz wear horned helmets and play the "angry bulls." They carry whiffle ball bats as they chase runners along the 2-mile route, "goring" participants with playful bat slaps.
"They take great pride in their helmets and attire for the day," says Susi Lyon, race director. "Their spirit and enthusiasm is contagious."
Many runners, just like in Spain, dress in all white with red bandanas or sashes to attract the agitated "animals." At the end of the untimed run, runners endure a gauntlet of "bulls" to the finish. The post-run party includes music, food and awards for best costumes and "bulls" with the best horns.
In addition to the run, you can sign up for Breakfast with Bulls, a Spanish-themed breakfast buffet with drinks before the event. Organizers also offer a VIP package, which includes a Spanish wine dinner and special viewing spot during the event's opening ceremony.
Run Hopi 5K and 10KAugust 6, 2016; Old Oraibi, Arizona 2 of 6
Photo Credit: Matt Gilbert Sekaiestewa
This annual run takes place in the Hopi Village of Oraibi, an American Indian settlement 97 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Started in 2005 with just 56 runners, Run Hopi now attracts nearly 300 participants and is a way for the Hopi to share their rich culture and history with people from across the country.
What makes it special: The village of Oraibi can trace its roots to the year 1150 and is considered the oldest continuous inhabited settlement in the United States, says race director Juwan Nuvayokva.
Portions of the course include ancient trails and dirt paths that the Hopi used to tend crops and hold running competitions with neighboring villages.
"Runners are amazed by the scenery and the toughness of the trails that the ancestors of Hopi used on a daily basis and are still using today," he says.
Finishers get a medal with a unique Hopi symbol on it that changes each year. They also get to eat piki, traditional Hopi bread served after the race.
Beer and Bagel RunAugust 16, 2016; Sioux City, Iowa; August 27, 2016; Hermann, Missouri 3 of 6
This off-road race series appeals to running purists and began more than two decades ago among beer swigging and bagel-chomping runners in Lincoln, Nebraska.
It has since expanded to Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Iowa, with events throughout the year.
"It's a family-run organization and, even as it grows, we never stray from our Midwest values," says race coordinator Joe Dann. "Keep it friendly, keep it local and keep it simple."
What makes it special: Don't expect any gimmicks at these races, just pristine trail running on a 4-mile-ish course that changes each year.
Afterwards, you get to indulge in beer, bagels and homemade chili, play tailgate games and listen to music. Oh yeah, and there's a Sasquatch that will pose for photos.
You can also show off your nifty race T-shirt, which reads: "I'm a Drinker with a Running Problem."
Rail Trail 10-milerAugust 27, 2016; Seven Valleys/York, Pennsylvania 4 of 6
This race through rural Pennsylvania is more than just a running event. It's also an important fundraiser for the Arc of York County, a nonprofit that provides education, employment training and recreation programs to people with intellectual disabilities. Organizers hope to raise $30,000 from this year's event. In its 18th year, it is expected to draw about 500 runners from Pennsylvania and surrounding states.
What makes it special: Runners get to run along a scenic railroad in this point-to-point race.
"The race starts in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania and runs 10 gentle, downhill miles one-way north along the scenic York County Heritage Rail Trail," says Jim Poster, Arc's director of development.
Not only is the course downhill, it is mostly shaded and gives runners a break from the summer heat, he says.
Runners also pass through the Howard Tunnel, which was built in 1838 and is considered one of the oldest operational train tunnels in the country.
The race finishes in downtown York, where you can enjoy post-run refreshments—including beer,—in the Agricultural and Industrial Museum.
Beat the BlerchSept. 17, 18, 2016; Carnation, Washington 5 of 6
Beat the what?! The blerch, a character created by cartoonist and runner Matthew Inman, is the fat imaginary monster that tries to get you to give in to gluttony and laziness.
Inspired by the comic strip, the Beat the Blerch race series—with options to run a 10K, half or full marathon—began in 2014 and is currently held about 35 minutes outside Seattle.
What makes it special: Seemingly ordinary race features have wacky twists at this funky event.
For example, the flat, wooded course is dotted with comfy couches along the way to entice runners.
But you shouldn't get lazy for too long. Lurking blerches—volunteers in puffy fat suits—can pop out at any time and chase you.
All that scared sprinting will likely make you hungry, so hydration stations are also stocked with birthday cake and Nutella to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Unlike typical races that give awards to fast runners, Beat the Blerch is about celebrating the sloths; the last-place finisher gets a giant birthday cake.
Post-race festivities are also decadent. Last year, runners chowed down on Pop Tarts, grilled cheese and marshmallows covered in chocolate and bacon bits. Yum!