Welcome to the world of party racing— costumes highly recommended

Somewhere outside of our nation’s capital, there is a man in running shorts trying his best to hula-hoop for one minute. He might be required to chug a beer at the next checkpoint five miles away. This man, and 120 more runners just like him, are participating in an ultra-secret ultra-marathon.

“It’s not that we don’t want to people to join us,” says the president of the club responsible for this 50K fun run, which features a handful of aid stations with bizarre challenges and optional alcoholic refreshments. “We want people out there running the trails. But the problem is, this run is so popular, registration fills up before most of our members can sign up.”

There are at least a dozen more bizarre semi-underground events like it in our region. In Greenville, runners climb 15-foot walls and carry teammates on stretchers. In Charlotte, there’s a bike race and scavenger hunt that sends cyclists traversing downtown, stopping to do the limbo or a splash down a Slip n’ Slide at various checkpoints. And then there’s the Warrior Dash, where runners tackle a course with fire pits and junkyard car obstacles. While many traditional races are struggling to find sponsors and participants in these lean economic times, these crazier competitions are selling out.

Gut test: nothing like a pickled egg and beer in the middle of a 12-hour bike ride.

“We wanted to come up with a different kind of event, so we decided to combine all of our favorite things: bikes, adventure racing, live music, and beer, ” says Josh Kravetz, creator of the Urban Assault, a bike ride scavenger hunt that has grown from a small underground event in Austin, Tex., to a ten-city national tour with a stop in Charlotte, N.C. It combines the route-finding of adventure racing with a mix of off-the-wall activities. In the Denver race, bikers stop at one point to ride a roller coaster. At another checkpoint, they go swimming in a city pool.

Not only has Kravetz’s Urban Assault grown into a national tour, but its original Austin race has evolved from a humble 10-person event to 2,000 participants each year, making it the largest bike race in Texas.

Eric Wever puts on a brutal two-day mountain bike race in Pisgah National Forest called the Double Dare, which is known as much for the crazy challenges scattered along the course as it is for the biking. At one mandatory checkpoint, bikers in the 2010 edition of the race had the option of either knocking off a target with a slingshot or eating two pickled eggs.

“One girl liked the eggs so much, she ate three,” Wever says. “Have you ever had a pickled egg? They’re not good.”

But the concept of riding 20 miles deep into one of the most rugged forests on the East Coast and coming across a loaded slingshot and giant jar of pickled eggs is appealing—at least to a certain type of athlete.