LAST UPDATED: 30 March 2023
14 Fun Run Theme Ideas For Your Next 5K
Looking for ideas for your next fun run or 5K? Here's the most popular fun run themes for you to choose from for your next 5K run concept.
Thinking of putting on an event to support your favourite cause or are looking to expand your event management activities into a new niche? You've come to the right place!
We've looked far and wide, and we have collected for you a list of the best fun run themes and 5k run ideas for your next fun run project. We've got it all: superheros, zombies, donuts, bubbles and every possible combination in between.
So here's what's hot in fun run land - in no particular order.
1. Seasonal runs
Seasonal runs like Santa Dashes and Turkey Trots have been around since just about forever. And with many people looking for fun ways to shift those few extra holiday pounds, they're more popular than ever.
Working with seasonal themes can be a great advantage for you, the race director, but it can also throw up some challenges. After all, there's only so many Halloween runs your local area can accommodate, so competing with a similarly themed run may be a problem.
If you are set on a seasonal theme, be creative and throw in a few spins and clever tag lines to make yours stand out.
Examples of seasonal runs: Pensacola Beach Turkey Trot, San Diego Santa Run, Providence Monster Dash
2. Boozy runs
Despite the fact that alcohol and running make odd bedfellows, alcohol-themed 5Ks and fun runs have exploded in popularity with more and more beer miles and wine-sampling runs popping up across the country.
Beverages on the lighter end of the alcoholic spectrum, like beer, wine and cider, will probably be the best choice for your boozy run. And reaching out to your local breweries for sponsorship and support will be one of your key priorities, even before launching your race.
Note: make sure you fully understand your legal responsibilities (including permitting, health and safety etc) when it comes to offering alcohol in your event. This will vary depending on your jurisdiction and will not be very complicated in most cases, but still keep it in mind.
Examples of boozy runs: Wicked Wine Run, Washington Beer Run, Ciderthon
3. Savoury runs
There's a simple enough rule when it comes to food-based fun run themes: if you can eat it, you can run for it.
Bacon, burgers, pizza, all of the things people run to be able to eat can make great centrepieces for your fun run. You can offer your treat of choice in aid stations, at the finish line or make consuming a certain amount (a burger a mile) part of the race.
Getting a sponsor for your food-based fun run should also be easy with plenty of suppliers eager to provide all the food supplies you'll need in exchange for brand placements and other promo opportunities.
Examples of savoury runs: Great American Bacon Race, NYC Pizza Run, Corndog Classic
4. Sweet runs
If sugar's more your thing, then why not try your hand at a donut or cupcake run?
Not surprisingly, sweet-based fun runs have been a huge success with races like the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K breaking into the nation's list of most popular races.
Even you don't base your entire event around a sweet-based theme, a sweet treat in your race may help to boost your fun run's appeal, like Toronto Waterfront 10K's famous donut wall.
Examples of sweet runs: Hot Chocolate Series, Great Candy Run, Krispy Kreme Challenge
5. Zombie runs
Zombie runs are a fantastic choice for a fun 5K. You can either choose to have a zombie costume run, where people run the race dressed up like zombies, or put together a more challenging (but so much more fun!) zombie chase.
If you decide to go with the chase, you'll need to sort participants into two groups: zombies and humans. Zombies chase humans, humans try to escape zombies. Unlike a real zombie apocalypse, everyone's a winner!
A bonus of the zombie chase format is that you can get more (and less athletic) people involved in the race as zombies. In fact, the slower your zombies, the more fun your run will be for your evading runners!
Examples of zombie runs: The Zombie Dash, Zombie Evacuation Race
6. Mud & obstacle runs
Let's be clear: mud and obstacle races are perhaps on the more challenging end of the race-directing spectrum. There's more moving parts to juggle and a lot more infrastructure required.
However, this shouldn't put you off if you're thinking of going with an obstacle/mud theme for your 5K. If you decide to do it, there's plenty of race management companies who can help you set up your course and provide all the obstacles you'll need - or, even better, provide their own obstacle course for your use, all set up and ready to run.
Examples: Epic Series, Dirty Girl Mud Run, Pretty Muddy 5K
7. Tower runs
Tower runs and other stair-climbing events are definitely not for the faint-hearted. But they do make for great, fun events, particularly fundraising runs, because of the hight sympathy factor for the runners having to take floor after floor of punishment!
What's more, stair-climbing events are actually very good choices for first-time race directors. Not only is your course contained and easy to manage (assuming there's an elevator available!), you can actually hope to get lots of people interested in your race because of the relative novelty of this type of event.
Examples: Fight For Air Climb, NSPCC Gherkin Challenge
8. Inflatable runs
A bit like their cousin, the obstacle run, runs involving inflatable obstacles and all kinds of bouncy craziness can be great fun to put on, but perhaps not very suitable for first-time race directors or small race-directing teams.
That said, again, the complexities shouldn't hold you back.If you really want to get bouncy just make sure you've got adequate insurance and keep a puncture repair kit handy at all times!
Examples: Insane Inflatable 5K, Gung-Ho!
9. Color runs
If you haven't heard of color runs, you must have been living in a cave. As fun runs go, they are the undisputed daddy of fun.
You may wonder what's so appealing about being pelted with flour paint as you go around your 5K. But, fact is younger generations absolutely love it (not least because of the endless Instagram opportunities it offers)!
So if you're looking for a tried-and-tested theme that will get younger crowds signing up for your race, you can do worse that going with color. Just mind the trademarks and pick a name that doesn't impinge on someone else's.
Examples: The Color Run (the original)
10. Bubble runs
Similar to color runs, where participants are showered with color, bubble runs offer equally exciting opportunities for a messy 5K through the power of soap water.
Like color runs, trademarks around major bubble run series are an area you'd want to navigate very cautiously when choosing your event name. So make sure you do your research and don't end up treading on anyone's toes.
Other than that, keep the bubble machines well stocked with soap and you're in for one majorly fun event!
Examples: Bubble Run, Bubble Rush
11. Night runs
Night runs are another type of fun run proving very popular with younger crowds of runners - particularly as many events combine a run with an after-run party.
If you are choose to go with a night theme, you'll going to need glowy stuff and lots of it: bracelets, glow sticks, fluorescent face paint and T-shirts and anything that adds to the party atmosphere. A DJ would also come handy at the finish and as always, don't forget to mix things up, as Foam Glow Run decided to do, mixing up glow and bubbles in a single run!
Examples: Night Nation Run, Glow In The Park
12. Costume runs
Costume runs are the archetypal fun run with many of them preceding even the use of the term "fun run".
What kind of costume should you go for? Well, anything goes, from superheroes to ballerinas. Just keep the theme consistent and carry the branding through from name to finisher T-shirt - consistency is the only thing your fun run should be serious about!
Examples: Awesome 80s Run, Super Hero 5K
13. Scavenger hunt runs
Organizing a scavenger hunt run can be a fun and easy way to raise funds for a charity or cause.
Scavenger hunts work great with teams, where groups of 3-5 will run together "collecting clues" from a list provided by the organizers (evidenced by taking photos on a smartphone) in the shortest possible time.
Examples: Scavenger Hunt Beer Run, Love London Scavenger Hunt Run
And our wild card: Ploggas!
Last but not least, if you want to combine putting on an event with doing something nice for the community, consider organizing a plogga.
No, plogga is not a naughty word. Rather it's a Swedish portmanteau of "plocka" (to pick up) and "jogga" (to jog), as what's involved in plogga-ing is running around with others and collecting trash.
If you love the idea of an event with a positive impact and don't mind straying away from the traditional race model, then we would love you to take on the plogga for your fun event and send us some pics we can share in our race directors group.