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Friday, May 10, 2013
Organizers of the Gallop for the Greenways are to be commended for not succumbing to peer pressure.
With the Roanoke River flowing high and brown on Thursday, and completely covering a low water bridge on the race's 5K course, organizers changed the route for the race, which starts Saturday at 5 p.m.
Doesn't this make sense? Well, yes.
But it doesn't fit a growing trend in fun runs, in which running on regular roads or trails is apparently not good enough.
Instead of avoiding stuff like floods and mud, courses must include obstacles, mud, hurdles, brightly colored corn starch or rampaging bulls.
Joining the growing list of whacky races is The Great Bull Run.
According to a news release, the runs will visit nine cities this year, starting in Richmond on Aug. 24. The cost for runners will range from $50 to $120.
Not cheap, but cheaper than flying to Pamplona, Spain.
That's the host city for the world's most famous running of the bulls event, which takes place during the San Fermin festival in July.
The way it works is that about a dozen bulls are let loose each morning from corrals and then run through fenced off city streets to the bull ring, where they will eventually meet their ends at the hands of matadors.
Runners get into the street and race the bulls, with enough getting trampled or gored to make things interesting.
According to The Great Bull Run news release there have been 15 deaths during the running of the bulls in Pamplona in the past 102 years.
That sounds like the kind of event that needs to be brought to the United States to become the king of all obstacle runs, doesn't it?
Ah, but then comes the fine print. At Great Bull Runs, runners will be able to slide under or, as it is in Pamplona, climb over the fence to escape the bulls.
The fencing will also include special hiding nooks for runners to duck into to seek cover.
Bradford Scudder, founder of The Great Bull Run, said another fact should provide comfort to potential runners who fear for their life (but not so much as to actually avoid running with bulls).
"The most important thing is that the bulls we're using aren't the aggressive fighting bulls used in Spain," Scudder said in a release. "They'll simply run the track without seeking to attack people along the way."
Tame, lame bulls?
What fun is that?
But, really, it fits the mold of these trendy new races such as the Warrior Dash, Spartan Run, Tough Mudder and Color Run, which offer participants the chance to be sort of zany and daring without ever really putting themselves in danger. (Though a runner did recently die in a mud pit.)
Some critics of obstacle races say they go against the simplicity and purity of just running.
Supporters say they're about having fun, and they might even serve as something of a gateway to attract people to running.
As The Great Bull Run shows, organizers are continuing to push the envelope. What's next?
I have some ideas.
The Serengeti Shuffle
Run through a course populated by some of Africa's fiercest predators.
And no more of this, "Our animals aren't aggressive" stuff. These are the real things. And they're hungry.
No race through a simulated African plain would be complete without a water crossing, in this case a 10-foot-deep muddy wallow inhabited by crocodiles and the real doozy, male hippos.
Select races will also have a half-dozen black mamba snakes on the course, and there may or may not be poachers armed with high-powered rifles. (Don't worry. The bullets will be rubber. Which may sound OK unless you've ever been shot by a rubber bullet.)
We love our special warfare guys, those brave Navy SEALs and Army Rangers who are playing an increasingly important role in U.S. military actions.
By simulating a real-world op (that's military lingo for operation), the Spec-Op Sprint makes those other "military" events look like a jog in the park.
Courses will vary from bleak urban settings filled with trash to rugged mountain terrain.
And there will be bad guys, armed with high-powered paintball guns. They will shoot at you and when they hit you it will hurt. Badly. And you will be out of the race.
The length of the race will be unknown and there may or may not be water available
If water is available, there's a 75 percent chance it will be filled with giardia, ensuring that the runs don't stop when the race is over.
America loves its rednecks, as evidenced by the fact that 87 percent of reality TV shows feature rednecks of one kind or another.
Why watch rednecks when you can run from them?
The courses will consist mostly of dirt roads, with some bushwhacking required.
Obstacles will include old cars on blocks, rusted washing machines, doghouses made of 55-gallon plastic drums and half-burned couches.
Runners will face packs of slobbering hounds, trained to chase and tree humans, and dozens of rednecks toting shotguns loaded with rock salt loads, yelling "Git off mah land!" and mugging for camera crews filming them for a Discovery Channel reality show.
Now that, folks, is a race I'd pay $50 to enter.
Weather JournalEarly mix, then ice storm Sunday