What do all of these races have in common?
Why, they’re themed races, of course!
Runners LOVE themed races. Give folks an opportunity to lace up their sneakers and run around in a leotard and leg warmers, and they're there quicker than you can say Rick Astley.
But why are these races so popular? Why do runners love themed races so much? Three reasons.
Running is awesome, but if you’re a regular runner it can get a bit… monotonous. And by a bit monotonous, I mean mind-numbingly monotonous. Running the same loop day in and day out makes you feel like you’re trapped in Groundhog Day Part 2: The Running Edition. That’s why lots of folks are usually wary about signing up for races that cover ground they've already hit before.
So why would someone sign up for your race if they've already run the route before?
Themed races add a new layer of novelty to your run, even for a course your runners are already familiar with. Sure, maybe they’ve ran part your course a few times, but have they ever ran your course at night, strapped with glow sticks and covered in glow in the dark paint?
If you’re looking to breathe new life into a tired course, get your theme on!
People love to reminisce about the good-old-days. Remember back when your biggest concern was whether your mom would spring for a waffle cone instead of the standard sugar cone, and you spent your days locked in your room listening to your favorite CD/cassette/8-track/record on repeat?
Nostalgia is a thing. People (including runners) have a tendency to look back fondly on their younger years and to immediately gravitate toward anything that takes them back to that place.
If the thing that’s bringing up those warm and fuzzy feelings is a race? Forget it. Runners can’t sign up fast enough!
Incorporating themes that will play to your runners' nostalgia is an easy way to drive race registration.
Looking to target millennials? Have a NickToons themed race, where everyone has to dress up as their favorite Rugrats character.
Targeting Generation Xers? Throw a Saturday Night Fever race (platform shoes optional), complete with a Travolta-approved gold chain medal.
Whoever you’re trying to reach, think about what you can do in your race to bring folks back to their heydays. Then incorporate that into your theme.
(PS - if you decide to do a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed race… please call us!)
When is there more buzz and excitement than on Halloween? Dressing up in costume and getting to pretend you’re a Princess or a Pokemon or whatever tickles your fancy is AWESOME.
The only sad thing about Halloween is that it only comes once a year.
Which brings me to reason #3 that runners love themed races: it’s one of the only opportunities outside of Halloween where it’s even marginally appropriate for adults to run around in costumes.
If you want to put on a themed race but are feeling about as creative as the color beige, just slap a Costume Run headline on your online race registration and watch the participants come a-runnin'.
With the sheer love that themed races get from the race community, it doesn't seem likely they're going to disappear anytime soon. As a race director, take advantage of this semi-blind devotion from the running community and come up with some fun theme ideas to incorporate into your next event.