The starting pistol fires and the runners are off, but they're in for a surprise. Rather than running an easy 5K around gentle bends and smooth pavement, they have to clamber over parked cars, carry hefty tires, and participate in burlap sack races before they even get near the finish line. This is the Waterfront Challenge, an urban race designed to test a runner's mettle, strength, and endurance on a route that runs through Louisville's scenic, 85-acre Waterfront Park along the Ohio River. The excitement extends beyond the unorthodox obstacles with waves that run late into the night—those who take off at 9 p.m. make up the Glow Race, which elevates the fun by illuminating runners with glow sticks, glow-in-the dark costumes, and the runners' own sweat, which is naturally bioluminescent. At the end of the race, runners celebrate their victories on Big Four Lawn where music, cold beer, and food join an awards ceremony for top finishers and best glow-in-the-dark costume.
At Tap 'N' Run, runners aren't out to claim the title of Fastest Runner. They're out to claim titles such as Best 'Stache, Celebrity Look-A-Like, or Largest Squad. That's because this 4K is a fun run in the truest sense: 21-and-over participants can run, walk, skip, or even potato-sack to the three beer stands set up along the course. They're given a 5-ounce brew at each and another 12-ounce bottle at the finish line. After using their finisher's medal to crack open that last beer (yes, it's also a bottle opener), they can head to the afterparty in hopes of claiming one of those race-day superlatives. One of the most sought-after awards is Most Unique Team Concept, as everyone's invited to dress up in costumes that at previous races have ranged from superheroes to ice-cream cones to runners running a race.
The Urban Dare Adventure Race is a fast-paced competition that challenges two-person teams to decipher clues, navigate the city, and perform playful stunts. Combining the bustle of a track meet with the brain-taxing sleuth work of a luge competition, the race uses a dozen trivia-based clues to lead contestants to checkpoints all over their sprawling metropolis. Location hunters reach their checkpoints by whatever means necessary, be it hopping a bus downtown, flying madly through a network of secret ziplines, or scuba-diving in a fountain for bus fare. At the mini destinations, racers must use a camera to document their presence or, in some cases, get their passports stamped after completing challenges that may include a climbing wall or solving a riddle.
Many marathons end with a celebratory beer, but the organizers of the Tap 'N' Run 4K don't see why participants should have to wait that long. At their races, runners hit the starting line swigging 5 ounces of beer and pass multiple chugging stations before crossing the finish line, where another round awaits them. Though one runner will ultimately cross the finish line first, this race is more about how you get there. Runners are encouraged to don zany costumes, competing for prestigious titles such as Best 'Stache?with real and fake categories?Most Unique Team Concept, and Shortest Shorts. They also award one courageous runner with the greatest honor of all?Best Belcher for the loudest and longest burp, with previous record holders including Margaret Thatcher.
Participants in Jam Active's Tap 'N' Run 4k—which takes place throughout the country—may find that their biggest challenge is not completing the race's approximately 2.5-mile stretch, but keeping a straight face along the way. Throughout the run, racers sip samples of beer at chug stations while doing their best to not spill on their costumes in an effort to win awards such as We Wear Short Shorts or Hot Mess. At the finish line, team members raise a full beer to toast their real or pretend victory, collect a T-shirt, and scoop up a finisher's medal that can double as a bottle opener and a way to impress prospective employers.
For this 5K race, a normally tame park or other venue is transformed into Mean Streets, an urban-themed obstacle course. In the Construction Zone, participants navigate over and under traffic barriers of different heights followed by a dive into a trash-filled dumpster. After bypassing the dumpster zone, runners test their stamina as cat burglars, scrambling through first-floor windows and trespassing through backyards. They barely touch ground before scaling upward once again on the Time-to-Climb portion of the course, which features a Jason Bourne-esque run across the rooftops. Finally, contestants climb out a window and onto the fire escape, swinging across an 8-foot ladder to reach the finish.