Apparently I really like mud. And aliens. What I really like are uniqueness, fun, and adventure. As I contemplated which races to include in this list, some stood out for the wackiness of the races themselves. Some stood out for how I ran them. I hope these memories will inspire you, make you laugh, and connect you to what ignites your sense of wonder and adventure.
10) Army Ten-Miler
2013, Washington, D.C.
This race wasn’t wacky in and of itself. However, it stands out to me as a milestone in my barefoot running journey.
While I’d only run about five miles barefoot to that point, I thought I’d see how far I could go in the race. I packed shoes in the back pockets of my biking jersey just in case, but I didn’t need them. I ran the whole ten miles barefoot, no blisters, no issues. What a thrill!
I was glad I was able to squeeze in the race, as it was my last day in the area. The following morning I drove away to my next Air Force assignment in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
9) Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon
2015, White Sands, New Mexico
This race wasn’t wacky either. Remembering the Bataan Death March and the Pacific theater in World War II, we were honored to shake the hands of WWII survivors at the finish line.
This was the one marathon I ran outside the timeframe of my seven continents journey, and it was my 10th and last marathon to date. I include it here because I ran it in Luna sandals. I thought running in the desert in sandals was hard core, but the real heroes were the ones who ran in uniform carrying rucksacks.
8) Alien Chase 10k
2007, Roswell, New Mexico
During one of my sister’s visits while I was stationed in Albuquerque, NM, we decided on a whim to head to Roswell for the festivities commemorating the 60th anniversary of the “Roswell incident.” How could we not sign up for a race called the “Alien Chase”?! Someone in alien attire would kick off the race and we would “chase” them through the course. Thinking we should probably show a little alien spirit, my sister and I found some antenna ball headbands to wear for the run. We thought we’d be the least dressed up ones there. As it turned out, aside from one guy who painted his whole head green, we were the only ones dressed up. As such, we attracted the attention of the local media, who asked if we were big into aliens, the Roswell incident, etc. Nope, just a couple of Star Trek fans enjoying the fun!
7) Big Sur Mud Run
2008, 2009, 2010, Monterey, California
Before Warrior Dashes and Spartan Races exploded in popularity in the running community, Big Sur was holding mud runs in Monterey, CA. Having rallied my friends to form a “Mudd Volleyball” team in Albuquerque each year I was there, when I moved to Monterey I was still all in for mud! The course was complete with obstacles and mud pits, and it was always a blast. In 2010 I placed second in the military female category. A rare “placement” for me!
6) Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Half Marathon
2010, near Area 51, Nevada
The uniqueness of this race called to me as it was held on the Saturday night closest to the full moon in August. The race literally started at midnight in the light of the moon. Of course, it also appealed to my sense of fun to visit another “alien haven,” where aliens were painted on the sides of buildings and even the fast-food restaurants had “Aliens Welcome” on their signs. Running at night was tougher than I expected because my circadian rhythm was off, but it was still a memorable race. The shirts and race bibs cracked me up!
5) Ragnar Relay
2018, Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C.
12 runners, 2 drivers, 200-ish miles, 36-ish hours. Ragnar is definitely a wacky concept! Relay teams are split into two vans with runners who take turns completing three legs each over the two days and one night of the non-stop race. A friend from my yoga studio started our team. I talked some other friends into joining us. My husband drove our van, and we started collecting our runners at 2:30am on race day.
We didn’t have a normal Ragnar experience (if any Ragnar experience can be considered “normal”). Torrential rains in the days preceding the race flooded so much of the route that most of our first legs were cancelled. We killed a lot of time in parking lots. Eventually we started our second legs. We ran at night. Tried to sleep. Two of my friends added a leg by running legs for teammates from the other van. Eventually we all crossed the finish line together in D.C. What a journey!
4) Pikes Peak Ascent Half Marathon
2013, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Hiking Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs is difficult enough. Running it? Well, the elite athletes ran it. I mostly hiked. The Ascent is a race so challenging we had to qualify for it with an acceptable previous marathon or half marathon time. In the race itself I made it to the top just under the 6.5-hour time limit. 14,115 feet at the summit, 7,800 feet of vertical climb. High altitude wasn’t all that took my breath away. The views were incredible. The wackiest people of all did the Ascent that day and the full marathon—ascent + descent—the next day.
3) Naked Foot 5k
2012, Chevy Chase, Maryland
Intentionally created for barefoot runners, this trail run started in grass and transitioned to dirt trails. There were some puddles, water, and rocks as well. The most amazing thing I discovered was how clean my feet were at the end. Splashing through puddles in shoes and socks would have had me sloshing for the rest of the race. My feet would have been wet, squishy, and pruny by the end. But when exposed to the air and the natural elements of the trail, wet feet dry off and even clean off as you keep running. What a beautiful sensation!
(Photo note: The photo below isn't from the Naked Foot 5k, but it's from a road race I ran barefoot a couple years later. ;)
2) Bay to Breakers 12k
2007, 2008, San Francisco, California
Elvis impersonators, bumble bees, superheroes, green peas, and costumes of every other imaginable kind filled the streets as we ran from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. One unique group of three actually wore a kayak around their waists the whole way, complete with life vests and oars. And yes, there were naked runners. I found it ironic that the naked people did wear shoes! My personal favorite part of the Bay to Breakers was the group of people who dressed up as salmon. They started the race at the finish line and ran toward the start—so they were literally salmon swimming (or running) upstream!
1) Warrior Dash
2013, Mechanicsville, Maryland and New Kent, Virginia
I ran two Warrior Dashes in 2013 with adventure-loving friends from work. Once again, the call of mud and challenge was impossible to pass up. Impressive obstacles were both daunting and confidence-building. I’d never quite expected to jump over fire! The best part of these races was the teamwork and camaraderie they evoked. People cheered each other on and helped each other succeed. At one particularly high wall, I thought I might not make it over, but a good Samaritan had stationed himself on top and was helping those who were struggling. He hauled me up. Eventually I’m sure he returned to the race himself, and I bet someone else took his place. That’s how it works. We work together. We give from our strength. We run our own race and we pause to help others along the way.
We are all here to lift each other up. Not as a crutch, but as an unleashing of potential. Whether it’s physically lifting someone up to the top of a wall, holding space for people to process their emotions and their past, or inspiring people to discover their own inner power and create their own future, we help each other expand what’s possible in the world and what’s possible for all of humanity.
That’s what I really love about running. That’s what I really love about life.