Themed adventure runs are all the rage these days. You can run through mud, an electric light show, a highlighter party, or even a zombie-infested park. Various painful takes on the infamous “Polar Plunge” event seem to be cropping up all over the place, as well. Participants in these competitions need to be fit, strong, dedicated, and—in some cases—just downright crazy. Here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting outdoor competitions you probably haven’t heard about.
Amoray Dive Resort Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest
Held off Key Largo for the past 16 years, this is a fall favorite with a oceanic twist. Divers take their pumpkins to depths of around 25ft below the water to show off their artistic gourd skills. Many participants are younger folks who are still working on their dive certification.
While still a relatively small competition (last year garnered 14 entries), the Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest made national headlines during the Obama/Romney campaign season in 2012 for entries fashioned to look like the politicians. Organizers stress that they are very careful to make sure that native fish do not feed on any pumpkin bits, as that would alter their normal diet, and all participants are closely monitored to ensure safety.
One of if not the most mysterious and quirky running events in the world (seriously, I could be flogged for this) is the Barkley Marathons. Reported on by the New York Times’ Dave Seminara in early 2013, the Barkley Marathon is ran every year in a secret-until-the-last-second venue. Spanning 100 miles (some reportedly say it ends somewhere closer to 130, but no one is for sure), each race has a time limit of 60 hours. Most folks do not know how to enter (including myself…so if you’re interested, you have to know the right people), and the grand majority do not finish.
Supposedly, only 12 men have ever completed the race out of an estimated 800 runners. Know as the “Race That Eats Its Young,” this whole thing just reeks of utter insanity. Applicants must submit an essay as to why they should be allowed to participate and must fill out an application form with off-the-wall questions. Each year, the field is made up of previous finishers, veterans who have yet to win the race, and one newcomer (described as a “sacrificial virgin”), whom the race organizer believes has zero chance of actually finishing the ordeal.
Runners who previously failed, but are granted a return entry are required to offer up a specific piece of clothing (on top of the whopping $1.60 entry fee), and participants are prevented from cheating in a particularly sadistic tradition of having to tear pages from aptly named books along the way that correspond with their bib number. The quirks in this race are entirely too many to properly put in print here, but it makes for some incredibly entertaining research. Check it out at your own risk, but be forewarned, they probably don’t want you there.
Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw
Ah, Wisconsin. Famous for its kind, hospitable folks, cheese, beer, and ravenous football fans, the state is also home to a 40yr old tradition of throwing cow chips (dried manure) in Prairie du Sac in the name of sport. The main event during a festival that includes all the staples like entertainments, food, arts and crafts, the Cow Chip Throw is just what it sounds like. Their website states that while they permit “no gloves, licking your hands is allowed to get a better grip.” The record currently sits at a throw of 248 feet. Wonder if that person went with the licked hands approach?
Lumberjack World Championships
This is where real men come to show their stuff. Held in Hayward, Wisconsin, the Lumberjack World Championships is probably the most well-known event on this list. Now a part of ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games, the LWC began in 1960. Events include the Axe Throw, Logrolling, 90ft Climb, Boom Runs including a multitude of others. Participants range anywhere from professional to novice, and hefty cash prizes are awarded to the winners. Sponsorships have surged over the past few years, and the event only stands to get bigger, badder, and more flannel-er.