Baby, you were born to run

Summer heats up with a trio of unusual races that combine athletics with paint, nightfall and, even, beer

Illustration by Hayley Doshay

Registration for Blood, Sweat & Beers costs $50-$58. Starting June 14, Fleet Fleet will also offer a related trail-training program. For more information, visit
Registration for Twilight Trail Adventure costs $60-$70. For more information, visit
Registration for the Color Run costs $39.50-$50. For more information, visit

Let’s take “Things Your Mother Told You Never To Do While Running” for 500, Alex.

Even if you’ve never participated in a race before, it’s probably easy to guess a few things that one normally isn’t supposed to combine with long-distance running.

Running after dark? Not a good idea. Running while people are chasing you and spraying you with substances? Best avoided.

Oh, and running and drinking? Sorry, but that’s also usually frowned upon.

Then again, we’re not talking about typical jogs in the park or prances in the promenade. This summer, Sacramento will be home to some unique and crazy races that shake up the idea of a “race,” combining running with paint, nightfall and, yes, even beer.

Fleet Feet Sports’ Blood, Sweat, & Beers race (July 26), for example, combines two things that might seem like unlikely bedfellows: trail racing and drinking beer.

“The scenery is incredible with a trail run,” says race director Kim Parrino of the event which traverses the American River Canyon trails. “It’s a completely different environment. You’re not in the middle of the city streets or with tall buildings and streets blocked off. You’re out in nature.”

And well, if it’s pretty scenery to start with, just imagine how nice it will look a few beers in. See, drinking and running are actually an acceptable combination, no matter what your high school gym teacher tried telling you back in the day.

The race gives those who may have never run trails a shorter-distance race, as opposed to the longer ultra-length races (roughly 26 miles) that are more common for trail running. That means if it’s your first time out, it’s OK to worry more about counting pints than miles.

But, don’t worry. Sure, drinking gives you a tad case of the munchies. But for trail races, unlike road races, it’s OK to actually eat during the race, with food and aid stations set up along the trail to keep people fueled.

“[Trail running] is tougher than going out and running a road race,” Parrino said. “You really work up an appetite.”

And after the race, well, that’s where the beer comes in.

“At the finish line, it’s a celebration,” Parrino said. “[The runners] actually hang out … for a couple hours, exchanging how their run was with their friends or watching other friends come in and celebrating with them together. They just make a day of it.”

If beer isn’t enough to get you off the couch and out into the wilderness, well, this might be a lost cause. But if not, then maybe it’s time to answer the question that’s been in the back of your head ever since you stopped watching those Nickelodeon cartoons in the ’90s: Are you afraid of the dark?

Twilight Trail Adventure (August 8) challenges runners to tackle their fear of the dark feet forward, with a 5k and a 10k race that takes place under the stars. Here, runners aren’t trying to get home before the sun sets … the dark is main attraction of this event. If early morning races were never your thing, this could be up your alley: the 10k starts at 8:45 p.m. and the 5k starts at 9 p.m.

It’s perfect for afternoon risers who find the idea of getting up on a weekend before noon the real terrifying part about physical exercise. Or people who would generally just like to avoid the hot summer sun.

“Twilight creates kind of this safe haven,” says race director Julie Fingar. “People think: ’Oh, well I can’t run in the dark, I can’t see.’”

No problem. Participants won’t be playing a game of run-wild-in-the-dark or don’t-trip-over-someone-grab-ass. The race provides headlamps for all of the runners. The night may be dark and full of terrors … but no need to fall over them.

Last year’s race even included a large turnout of younger kids, some even as little as 4. And if a 4-year-old can get out and run in the dark, there’s no reason you can’t at least pretend that the last time you willingly ran wasn’t when you were a toddler.

“[The kids] were fearless of running in the dark,” Fingar said. “I think their parents were more afraid than they were.”

Unlike other races, there’s some incentive offered for bling. The Twilight Trail Adventure will hand out the appropriately named Firefly awards to the three individuals with the Best-Lit Costume.

“Standing at the start line looking at everybody with the orange and the pink and the blue and the yellow, it’s super fun,” Fingar said. “It puts a smile on your face. You kind of forget it’s a race.”

There’s also a post-race festival, which last year included local food, a beer garden, and an ice cream sundae bar.

“We have some of the greatest trails here in Sacramento [and] Auburn,” Fingar said. “It’s a way to showcase the trails in just a different light: dark, a different format, so to speak.”

If running in the dark isn’t your thing, there’s another race that might brighten up the racing experience. With color.

The Color Run (August 1) started in 2012 in Tempe, Arizona. Inspired by Disney’s World of Color and color festivals around the world, it combines noncompetitive running with getting really, well, colorful.

Super colorful. Literally. Spiritually. Ecumenically. Grammatically.

“We wanted to create this nonthreatening running environment where you could get new runners and old runners coming together and celebrating the sport of running,” explains Jamie Miller, the race’s public relations manager.

And then boom. Splat. Every kilometer there’s a color zone, where the runners are sprayed with a 100 percent safe, colored food starch. It makes for perfect selfie-taking material, that’s for sure.

“Your Instagram feed will love you after this race because it just brightens up everything,” Miller says.

Although color is in the name, runners can also walk around the color zones, leaving it up to each participant to decide just how much he or she wants to get sprayed during the race.

Better yet, this is a race but it also kind of isn’t. Last year, 8,000 people showed up to run but anyone worried about coming in 7,898 place shouldn’t sweat it. The Color Run doesn’t have any winners. No one keeps track of official times. No first place here. No last place. This is just about the colorful common core of the running world, but in a good way.

“We want to be a gateway to people leading that healthy lifestyle,” Miller says. “I feel like there’s a little intimidation factor if they know that they are being timed or they have to finish under this time to be considered a good runner. That’s not really what we’re about.”