Every second Thursday of the month, the local Road Runner Sports holds something they call an "Adventure Run". I finally checked it out in August, and ran my second one this evening. And it was a blast.
When I showed up the first time back in August, I really didn't know what to expect. The website said that you run to some checkpoints and gather raffle tickets. I figured that there would be 30 or 40 runners there, and that we would all just take off on some pre-determined route. When I pulled up a half hour before the start, the parking lot was full, and there were probably close to 200 runners milling about. They pointed me to a local ball field for overflow parking, and I had to hustle to get to the start line and get signed in.
Not only were there far more runners than I expected, the parking lot had been turned into a running expo with multiple booths and an emcee on the mike. I just followed the crowd and listened to the directions over the loudspeaker to figure out what I had signed up for. The Adventure Run is basically a scavenger hunt for runners. After getting everyone signed in and ready, right at 6:00 they unfurl a map the size of a cargo van, and the game is on. The map is marked with lettered stops, and it is up to you to figure out the best path to try to hit them all.
They hand you a pen, paper and a plastic baggie at check in. I spent a good five minutes taking furious notes on where the stops were, and then writing out rough turn-by-turn directions. The parking lot was nearly empty by the time I set out. You have an hour to complete your mission, and the clock was ticking. Time to get running.
At each stop, they hand you a matching set of two raffle tickets. You stuff them in the sandwich baggie and head on to the next stop. At some of the stops, there is a physical challenge that will earn you extra tickets. There were push ups, burpies, obstacle courses, and even a dare to jump into a hotel pool (fully clothed). It was pretty hot back in August, but I was already behind after getting lost and running an extra mile, so I didn't have the time to strip off the electronics and cool off.
You race back to the store by 7:00, and separate your matching tickets, throwing one in the raffle bin. If you sign up in advance so they can get a head count, they give you a ticket for a free beer. As the parking lot felt like a race expo when we started, now it felt like a finish line festival with a beer garden. One of my favorite breweries, Deschutes, provides the beer each month, and I traded my ticket for a cold Mirror Pond Ale. I found a curb to sit on and spread out my tickets for the raffle.
I looked around at the other runner's spread of tickets, and my little stash paled in comparison. I had run some extra miles, and missed two of the stops, but compared to them it felt like I had been running in place. One way to earn more tickets is to buy the Adventure Run t-shirt. If you wear it during the run, you get twice as many tickets at each stop. What I also found out tonight was that all those booths at the start hand out raffle tickets as well, to encourage everyone to check them out. I picked up tickets from about half of the booths tonight, so my stash wasn't quite as embarrassing.
Tonight the sun went down twenty minutes after we set out, so by the time we finished, we were running in the dark. There were lots of headlamps and phone-flashlights out in the beer garden so we could read our tickets.
So not only is it a fun scavenger hunt, with a free beer waiting for you at the finish, but they give away lots of good prizes. I was surprised at how long the raffle went on. Mixed in with goodies like packs of nutrition bars and energy gels, they were giving away running watches, $150 toward shoes, and gift certificates to local restaurants. A couple of times they stopped reading tickets, and just started throwing stuff into the crowd. Pretty fun and crazy.
Tonight I ended up winning a gift certificate for a night's stay at a local hotel. The prize came in an insulated bag good for carrying a lunch to the beach, filled with hotel paraphernalia including a pair of fuzzy slippers. Not sure how or when I will use a stay in a San Diego hotel, but it was kind of fun to win.
I think there is one more Adventure Run in November before they shut down for the winter, but they fire back up in the spring. So if you want to put a little fun in your run, check out their website to see if there is a run in your area. It is a fun, free event, and one more reason to love this running thing.