No longer is it enough to simply lace up your running shoes and pant your way through a marathon.
Nowadays, you can add fun to your long-distance race by dressing up as a superhero, coating yourself in neon or seeing if knocking back glasses of wine before running boosts your endurance.
Though the United States seems to have the biggest taste for wacky races, there are other global options worth checking out.
Here are 11 of the coolest themed races in 2015.
Color Me Rad (Worldwide)
Color Me Rad runners hit five-kilometer routes, during which they’re doused with a barrage of color bombs throughout the course (different colors represent different sections).
Two million people have taken part in the runs, which have been held in Asia, the United States and Europe.
Proceeds go to local charities and the after-parties are legendary, with top DJs, kids’ games, dancers and “color throws” every 30 minutes.
Races are held throughout the year, with the next event taking place in Corpus Christi, Texas, in February 2015.
For more information and to find a race near you, visit Colormerad.com.
National Trust Night Runs (UK)
The UK’s National Trust’s Night Runs, which have distances ranging from 2.5 to 7.5 kilometers, take place between November and March and allow runners to gain a unique insight into the UK’s most spectacular protected buildings.
“The Night Run events are a fantastic opportunity for people to try something different when the doors are normally closed, while being inspired by amazing outdoor landscapes,” says Rob Joules, the National Trust’s sports partnership manager.
The next race takes place on February 7, in the Plymbridge Woods near Plympton, Devon.
The area is famous for its riverside meadows, ancient woodlands and the wilderness of Dartmoor.
For more information visit Nationaltrust.org.uk.
Electric Run (Worldwide)
Electric Runs are multi-colored, Day-Glo running events open to participants of all ages.
The races feature a five-kilometer course dotted with glowing trees, tunnels of light and UV lakes.
The rave-like after-party is the highlight of the events, which take place worldwide – the next U.S. one takes place in Miami on April 11.
Proceeds go to anti-poverty charity One.
“I love the Electric Run because of the amazing environment,” says regular attendee Jenelle Casarez.
“It’s incredibly beautiful and there’s a fun party atmosphere – it’s just like a rave!”
For more information and locations, check out Electricrun.com.
Superhero Scramble (United States)
Wannabe comic book stars can slip into some Lycra for the Superhero Scramble, which takes place throughout the United States.
Participants tackle 6.5-, 13- or 21-kilometer courses, which are filled with obstacles (slime, nets, water).
Proceeds go to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
The next event takes place in Dallas on March 28, 2015.
“It’s a unique experience,” says long-distance runner Eddie Kotlyarov.
“It gives keen athletes the opportunity to challenge themselves, but also invites runners of all skill levels to achieve personal goals in a fun, party-like atmosphere.”
For more information head to Superheroscramble.com.
Swissotel Vertical Marathon (Singapore)
Probably the most challenging race on this list, runners in the Swissotel Vertical Marathon have to scramble up the 1,336 steps and 73 stories of the Swissotel The Stamford, which is one of Southeast Asia’s tallest buildings.
Held every November, proceeds go to different local charities.
The fastest participants finish in just under seven minutes.
Visit Swissotelverticalmarathon.com for more information.
Hot Chocolate Run (United States)
Nothing beats a running event that encourages participants to satisfy their love of chocolate while burning off the calories. (Except, maybe a running event that encourages participants to drink wine. More on that below.)
Hot Chocolate Runs – participants choose either a five- or 15-kilometer route – take place throughout the United States to raise money for Ronald McDonald House charities.
Participants get chocolate bar-shaped medals while at the post-race party runners are given mugs of hot chocolate and can gorge on chocolate fondues.
“The last Hot Chocolate Run sold out for the seventh year in a row,” says event chief executive Steve Ginsburg.
“We’ve just announced the season-ending, ultimate destination race: Hot Chocolate Las Vegas on May 17, 2015.”
Locations, sign-up information at Hotchocolate15k.com.
Minnesota Monster Dash (St. Paul, Minnesota)
For this annual event, runners are invited to dress up in their most terrifying monster costumes.
It takes place in St. Paul, Minnesota, each October and attendees can opt for five-kilometer, 16-kilometer or half-marathon routes.
Prizes are awarded for the best monster costumes and proceeds go to Team Ortho, which raises money for orthopedic research.
“The Monster Dash is such a fun event,” says local pavement pounder Bob Waltz.
“There are bands all along the course, people dress up in all kinds of costumes and the race is mostly downhill. From a spectator’s standpoint there are plenty of good vantage points.”
To register for this year’s race visit Minnesotamonster.org.
Marathon du Medoc (Medoc, France)
For those who insist a little booze does wonders for their endurance, there’s the Marathon du Medoc.
This annual festival of wine, running and bizarre costumes takes place every September near Bordeaux, France.
Competitors strive to complete 26 miles and almost as many glasses of local wine.
Organizers lay out extra water stations and medical provisions to help runners cope with the rigors of a boozy run.
The race weaves through scenic vineyards in the Medoc region, starting in the town of Paulliac, where some of the best Bordeaux wines are produced.
The run has a time limit of six hours and 30 minutes and is nicknamed “the longest marathon in the world” with little exaggeration.
For more information, head to Marathondumedoc.com.
Black Light Run (United States)
During Black Light Runs, participants (who are given white T-shirts to wear) are covered in neon glow powder as they pound the five-kilometer course, which is dotted with black lights designed to make the runners light up.
At the after-party, “glo-throws” take place every 15 minutes and involve clouds of powder being tossed over the finishing runners.
The next events take place in Phoenix and Miami on January 31.
“The Black Light Run is a great event for people of all skill and experience levels,” says runner Michael Kappel.
“It’s basically a huge party for a good cause that happens to have some walking and running.”
More dates/locations at Blacklightrun.com.
Gorilla Run (Denver)
Denver’s annual Gorilla Run (it takes place each November 1) features thousands of gorilla suit-wearing humans running five kilometers around the city center to raise funds for the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund.
“Denver Gorilla Run is one of my favorite races,” says Kimi Puntillo, who’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first woman to run a marathon on seven continents.
“You can compete or just come and have fun. What other race gives you the chance to wear a gorilla suit?”
More information at Denvergorillarun.com.
Zombie Evacuation Race (UK)
You’re much more likely to score a personal best when you’ve got a bloodthirsty zombie running behind you.
This is the premise of Zombie Evacuation Races, which take place throughout the UK.
Racers – or evacuees, as they’re referred to – are chased by actors dressed as zombies as they navigate the courses, which vary in length.
Dates for 2015 events will be confirmed shortly.
For more information, visit Zombieevacuation.com.
Tamara Hinson is a freelance travel writer based in the UK.