Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

11 Unusual Footraces

Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Regular 5K not of interest to you? Considering participating in one of these offbeat races, which go the extra mile to stand out.


The Krispy Kreme Challenge is an annual race in Raleigh, North Carolina that has become a tradition for students at North Carolina State University. The challenge is to run 2.5 miles from the campus to a Krispy Kreme outlet, eat a dozen doughnuts, and then make it back to the starting point. It began as a dare among students in 2004, and by 2006 it was an organized race that raised $800 for the North Carolina Children's Hospital. Last year, more than 8000 runners participated and raised $195,000, bringing the total the hospital has received from the race over the years to $1,149,000. The 2017 Krispy Kreme Challenge will take place February 4.


The Hash House Harriers is an international network of non-competitive runners dating back to 1938 whose motto is "A drinking club with a running problem." The Red Dress run originated years ago with the San Diego chapter. In 1987, a young woman named Donna Rhinehart went to a Hash event to meet a friend wearing a red dress and heels. The group assumed she couldn't run because of the way she was dressed, and she took that as a challenge, completing the run in her dress and heels. The next year, she was invited back, and the entire club staged the first Red Dress Run. Hundreds of runners turned out in red frocks. Since then, the Red Dress Run is an annual event to raise funds for various charities. It has spread to many Hash House Harriers groups worldwide, with about 100 annual events being held in different cities. The next two Red Dress runs in 2017 will be in Seattle on February 11 and Moline, Illinois, on February 18. You can keep up with the schedule of runs here.


The rules for a Beer Mile is that you drink a beer, then run a lap around a track, then drink a beer, then run another lap, until you've completed four laps and four beers. A British variation is called the Chunder Mile, in which pints are drunk (and throwing up is allowed). The National Beer Mile series has events across the U.S., but they haven't posted a 2017 schedule yet. If the schedule is like last year's, they will begin in March.


The Man v Horse Marathon has been an annual event in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales since 1980. A few horses and riders compete against runners on foot for 22 miles over rough terrain. Only twice in those years has a human ever beaten the horses (2004 and 2007). The winner among the runners gets a trophy, but prize money only goes to a runner who crosses the finish line before any horse. The pot starts at £500, and another £500 is added each year until a runner wins it. The race for 2017, which happens on June 10, will have a cash prize of £2000 up for grabs.


The Stiletto Run in Haarlem, Netherlands, is a 100-meter race in which runners are required to wear shoes with heels at least 3.5 inches tall. What makes this race a real draw for spectators is that it's not just women who race—many men participate as well. It's a fundraiser for the Free a Girl campaign, which helps girls in Asia, Brazil, and the Netherlands escape forced prostitution. The 2017 run will take place on June 11.


Sean-Franc Strang via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The half-kilometer Stiletto Run is an annual event in Buffalo, New York, to benefit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Runners aren't required to wear high heels, but to win first, second, or third place, you must be wearing heels at least 3 inches high. The date isn't yet set for the 2017 race, but it should be in summertime.


The Shamrock 5K Beer Run will take place on Saturday, March 11, 2017 in Indianapolis, and Saturday, March 18, in Chicago. Runners start with a 3-ounce beer, with 3 ounces more at four beer stations along the way, plus a pint at the finish line (for a grand total of 31 ounces of brew). The event isn't timed, and prizes are awarded for the best costumes—not the fastest runners.


Robin Myerscough via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins, is often called Pancake Day, a day to use up fats and sweets to prepare for fasting. Many communities hold pancake breakfasts, and some even stage pancake races. According to the town of Olney in Buckinghamshire, UK, they've held their Pancake Race every Shrove Tuesday for over 500 years. The race is open to Olney women over 18, who must run wearing an apron and headscarf, carrying a frying pan with a pancake in it. Runners must flip their pancakes before and after running the course. The runners in Olney compete with runners in the Liberal, Kansas, Pancake Race, as they have since 1950. This year's race will be held on February 28.


The two-mile-long New York City Pizza Run will hold its eighth annual race in September. The run—which has three stops where runners eat a slice of pizza—benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). For those who prefer sweets, the annual NYC Cupcake Run follows in October.


The Kona Underpants Run in Kona, Hawaii, began in 1998 as a protest against people wearing Speedos in public places besides the beach. It has evolved into an annual event welcoming people to the Ironman Triathlon World Championships (October 14 this year) and a fundraiser for various local charities. The 1.5 mile Underpants Run will be held the Thursday before Ironman on October 12.


Ann Arbor, Michigan, is the site of the annual April Fool's Day Twinkie Run. During the 3.1 mile race, runners must stop and eat a Twinkie at designated stations. (There is a class for Twinkie Skippers.) The Twinkie Run benefits Ann Arbor Active Against ALS.

Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.


As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.


Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.


A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.


Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.


The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.


The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 


All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters

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84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.


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