Are Themed Runs Done?

Themed Races

In the last two years, millions have signed up and participated in a new genre of themed fun runs. For a short while it appeared that if you had any combination of the words Color, Glow, Night, Girl, Electric, Foam, Neon, Rave, Zombie, or Wet in an event name (and the obligatory Groupon to go with it), thousands of people would show up.

Some of these events were A-plus experiences put on by top notch companies, others were less than stellar. With all of these events happening, it appears the general public could not really tell the difference. Ask some people what they did this past weekend, and they might tell you “I did a color run and it was great.” or “I did one of those runs where they throw dye at you with my kids.”

Did they do The Color Run, Run or Dye, Color in Motion, or any one of at least 30 other dye-based runs?

With all of these seemingly similar races happening, and no one knowing the real difference between them, it was only a matter of time before the bad ones spoiled it for the good ones. Some also said that the high numbers many of these races were getting were not sustainable. How many times can someone do one of those events before the joy runs out? How many different versions of “the same race” can happen in the same city in a given year?

Dirty Girl Cancels

It looks like we are finding out. In recent weeks, we learned that 5k Foam Fest was closing its doors. Now it appears that another themed race which has produced nationwide events is having trouble. Dirty Girl, a women only mud run scheduled and produced a staggering 50 events last year in the United States. This year, they cut that number back to 25. Then, yesterday, they abruptly cancelled an event due to happen this weekend in West Virginia. The Charleston, WV Gazette published an article which attempted to explain the circumstances which led to the cancellation. They spoke with the two companies who produce Dirty Girl events, 100LLC and Human Movement. You can read what the Gazette discovered here.

This morning, we reached out to Jeff Suffolk over at Human Movement to discuss the future of Dirty Girl, and this is what he told us.

We’re working diligently with all remaining venues to try and save the series. We love this brand and have no comment on 100 LLC or the owners of Dirty Girl. We care about the participants as much as anyone and have demonstrated that by saving Run For Your Lives and other recent bankrupt companies. We were here in the beginning and we’ll be here at the end, just hopefully our industry isn’t too scarred at this point.

We also reached out to Dirty Girl/100 LLC this morning, and they gave us a quote not unlike the statement they previously released.

Dirty Girl Mud Run sincerely thanks the city of Charleston, WV as they worked diligently and closely with us to take all possible steps to help us put on the event. We regret it can not be held due to circumstances out of our control. Again, we would like to thank the city of Charleston as well as the city officials for all the assistance they’ve provided. No refunds will be issued.

What are your thoughts on the state of the industry?


Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.
  1. Not sure why they wouldn’t allow transfers to other events. Certain local businesses have picked up the slack by offering discounts on their services to runners who were stood up.

    1. Shouldn’t those who attempted to put on the event still be compensated for their time and effort? As a participant it sucks to be out the cash but it was a luxury expenditure anyways.

    2. I have run about 20 races this year, a combo of themed road races and ocr. I only had an interest to run some of the themed road races once although there are several other local road races that I enjoy participating in yearly. I run the ocr in the open wave and continue to enjoy the obstacles. Mostly I enjoy running with my team, MUDRUNFUN!!!!!
      I was looking forward to partaking in the Foam Fest I’m 2015 but sigh…….

  2. Isn’t it interesting that the two companies that just went under were both produced by Human Movement? If Suffolk is such a powerhouse in the industry why are his two biggest clients going under within weeks of each other? Why did his biggest client, The Color Run, drop him after the first year? This article is ridiculous. Because two mud races are going under you’re asking if themed runs are done? No it’s just a great lesson of who to work with in the industry and who not to.

    1. It’s probably fair here to bash writer for asking if themed runs are done but to bash Suffolk for being the one still in business and trying to help put these events on is ridiculous.

  3. Craft beer. Now I’m no expert on running races or brewing beer but let’s compare anyway. Not to long ago you had mass produced crap American beer and it was good and it was accepted. We’ll refer to this optionless variety as the Marathon, the Half, the 10k and the 5k. You could get all of them anywhere. They all tasted about the same and you knew exactly what you were getting. Then some guys in garages said this sucks we want to enjoy our beer. And over night a cornucopia of flavors crept onto the market. Stouts, Imperial Stouts, Porters, Seasonal Ales, IPA, Lager, Pils, Weisens oh my! Oh and the pretty labels how was one to decide? Slowly leadership arose in local markets. One or two went National and then the fallout. Those with the product and professionalism succeeded others faded away. Prices evened out. The craft beers don’t outsell the crap brewery’s some labels were absorbed by the big boys or at least joined with them for distribution. I think you will see this with OCRs. Good solid races will eventually develop within a single market or region. Their product will strengthen. The larger races will be more nationally and internationally recognized. Their product will be standardized will specialty flavors leaving the smaller regional races to have a unique taste and flavor of their local region.

  4. I’d have to agree … I used to think that HMM was a pretty upstanding company but now I am not so sure about that anymore. If they are doing so well as a business how its is that everyone that hires them is going out of business? Why are they so quick to disavow all knowledge of the failures? 5K Foam Fest and the Dirty Dash were all featured in their event list until just before the bankruptcy … now I expect Dirty Girl to follow a similar fate. Just last week the Mr Suffolk was on a podcast talking up how great Dirty Girl and the 5K Foam Fest were … he obviously knew there were serious issues with both events at the time. Its great that they play the white knight and offer customers registration in another event … but that rarely works out for anyone and they know it, all publicity stunting.

    I am beyond frustrated with the OCR industry at this point … I had it arranged to run 1 race a month from May through November … May (Zombie Run – Erie, PA) and June (5K Foam Fest – Batavia, NY) went well … July got moved to September and then cancelled (Dirty Dash – Batavia, NY) … August (The Zombie Mud Run – Batavia, NY) isnt looking to good since its disappeared from the calendar with no email to the racers yet … September (Buffalo Zombie Mud Run – Buffalo, NY) and October (Mendon Zombie Run – Rochester, NY) are probably fine since they are locally owned and produced races … November (RunDead – Rochester, NY) seems fine as well its run by a charity for the past couple years. So whats the common thread here? Stick local, forget the national series unless its a biggy (Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, etc) and just mix any of the hundreds of locally operated traditional 5K road races in with the OCR stuff when you can.

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