Friday Five: 5 Best Holidays to Hold a Race

By: Scott McMahon

Normally, for these Friday Five entries, we list five things about a discipline, or month, etc. This time, we’re going to do some rankings. With St. Paddy’s Day on March 17, we thought it would be fun to rank the top 5 holidays to use as a race theme. Our criteria were simple–we looked at three different factors and rated them from 1-10 (lowest-highest):

  • Costume Creativity (CC) – How flexible can participants be with their costumes? Are they all variations on a few, or can you see a full spectrum of costumes?
  • Costume Quantity (CQ) – Are only a few people going to dress up, or is a costume an expectation for the race you’re entering?
  • Naming (N) – How easy is it to name the event, given the holiday? Tradition is one thing, but does every race have the same name?

First, some honorable mentions:

Honorable Mention #1: The End of the World

So the Mayan “end of the world” prophecy was never really a prophecy (or a holiday for that matter), but that didn’t stop people from freaking out about it, and race directors from taking advantage of said freakouts. Costumes were difficult to be creative with, and with its timing just four days before Christmas, Jingle Bell Jams seemed a better way to go.

Honorable Mention #2: Groundhog Day

Grand Rapids made light of the holiday in 2013, introducing the Groundhog Day Marathon. Runners covered the same loop six times throughout the race, as one may expect. Groundhog and Bill Murray costumes would be bonuses here. The best way to beef up the Groundhog Day race? Go all out: play the same songs, have the same people walking in the same places along the route, saying the same things. Difficult, but do-able.

Honorable Mention #3: Super Bowl Sunday

Considered a “holiday” to many, Super Bowl races have become more and more popular in recent years. Many feature some kind of football-related theme other than just being run on Super Bowl Sunday. Good swag to get at these: pint glasses, better-than-usual food (more meat), and maybe some other prizes. Costumes are hard to come by, though.

#5. Thanksgiving

Personally, I’m a big fan of Thanksgiving runs. The weather isn’t too bad, the run allows you to burn off some calories before a huge meal later, and many help local charities. So why #5? Tradition can only get you so far.

  • CC: 4. Turkeys, Pilgrims, what else? Until I see someone dressed as a giant pumpkin pie, there’s not much room for growth in the costume department.
  • CQ: 4. Costumes are obviously welcome, but running as a massive turkey doesn’t have the appeal of some of the other holidays we’ll feature.
  • N: 4. Here’s tradition: the Turkey Trot. Maybe my favorite name for an event, but almost all of these races have this name or some variation.
  • Total = 12.

#4: Independence Day

People are usually out on the streets to begin with, so popular practice has been to hold a 5K or something of the like shortly before the parade. It’s a good way to get townspeople more involved in the festivities, and to draw more outsiders to the event.

  • CC: 5. Uncle Sam, America-themed clothes are the norm. Some go above and beyond with fireworks or eagle decorations.
  • CQ: 6. It’s summer, which has advantages and disadvantages. It’s rather easy to find some loose-fitting American-themed clothes, but going too far can make things pretty toasty in a full-blown costume.
  • N: 5. Some more leeway with naming than Thanksgiving. Most center around firecrackers or independence, but freedom and liberty, etc. get thrown around too.
  • Total = 16.

#3. St. Patrick’s Day

Go to a St. Patrick’s Day event and what do you see? Green, and lots of it. But since alcohol and St. Paddy’s Day go together so “naturally,” these races often become massive parties at the end. They’re a good time, check one out.

  • CC: 6. Green is the name of the game. Even though it’s just one color, there is definitely a lot you can do to individualize the kelly green theme. I for one would pay good money for a giant leprechaun hat and striped green knee socks.
  • CQ: 8. Since wearing green is so necessary on 3/17, that tradition obviously makes its way to the races. Many choose to go beyond a simple green running shirt, and most just make sure they represent the color somehow.
  • N: 7. Luck, leprechauns, shamrocks, shillelaghs, the list goes on. There’s a good amount of flexibility in naming, and some really get creative with it.
  • Total: 20.

#2. Christmas

Much like Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday races like to focus on giving and generosity. There is just more that race directors and event participants can do to build on the theme of Christmas.

  • CC: 7. Christmas races involve more than Santa. Elves, the Grinch, and Kris Kringle himself are all fully customizable.
  • CQ: 8. Since these races occur in December, dressing up in more layers is encouraged. Some choose to do so by costume, others by more Under Armour. Costumes are encouraged, but priorities lie with staying warm.
  • N: 7. Outside of Jingle Bell Rocks/Jams, Holiday Hustles, etc., there are actually a lot of creative ways that event names can go. Some personal favorites of mine bring in Dickens, hot chocolate, and snowmen.
  • Total: 22.

#1. Halloween

Was there ever really a question about this? Of course it’s Halloween. The weather is perfect, costumes are more than encouraged, and directors can get really creative about how to incorporate scary features into the races.

  • CC: 10. It’s Halloween, costumes exist for everything imaginable. If you can’t think of a specific costume, put things on and make up an explanation.
  • CQ: 9. For races around the theme of Halloween, you’d better show up with a costume. However, since it’s still an athletic event, workout clothes are still necessary. Sometimes that just means not wearing a costume.
  • N: 8. Once again, so many different routes for directors to go with names. Any kind of menacing figure can be made into a name in some way, it’s just a matter of being original.
  • Total: 27.

How did we do? What are your top 5?


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