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2013 was the year fitness got fun

Germaine Koh made the most innovative contribution to recreation in Vancouver this year.

Running isn’t just for runners anymore. And racing wasn’t something only racers did this year.

In 2013, the stamina sport of barefoot purists, weekend trailblazers, lanky Kenyans and P.E. teachers found legions of new fans thanks to anti-establishment events that put the dance into endurance. Yes, I wrote that.

The emergence of playful 5k runs is an answer to the punishing military-inspired obstacle courses like the half-marathon distance Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race. Only suckers sign up to suffer. (I’ll be doing the Tough Mudder next year.)

Instead of boot camp abuse, repetitive circuits and urban fitness regimes to prepare for barbed wire, 10-foot walls, frozen water and electrocution, the preparation for these gentler, more playful events amounts to little more than lacing up a pair of shoes and showing up with a group of raucous friends, ideally without a hangover. 

The softer, light-hearted side of exercise doesn’t mean you can slack off. You still signed up to run; you just expect to keep a smile on your face the whole time.

The most incredible development in Vancouver recreation this year, however, focused on mental exercise as much as physical exertion. Credit to Germaine Koh for founding League, an open organization that emphasizes problem-solving as a form of play.

Koh is an artist who holds a three-year residency at the field house in Elm Park. On the last Sunday of each month, League meets at the Kerrisdale location at noon and everyone is invited to “drop in to exercise your strategic instincts, stretch rules and limits, and workshop ideas for action.”

December was dedicated to board games and League will meet, as always, on the last Sunday of the month. Join them Dec. 29 to play a newly invented game at Elm Park (at Larch and West 41st Ave.). For more details, visit league-league.org. 

Here is a run-down of one-off events you don’t want to miss in 2014.

Dirty Dash

Brings its filth July 5, 2014

Strap on your piggy snout and your most sturdy cleats for this obstacle course through massive puddles and down grimy slip-n-slides. The Dirty Dash makes one of two Canadian stops in Vancouver in the middle of the summer when you’ll welcome the cooling sensation of heavy, wet mud coating your back and sliding beneath the top of your shorts.

thedirtydash.com

Color Me Rad

Opens a box of Crayons August 2, 2014

Forgive them their U.S. spelling and rejoice in the motivational art of the colour bomb. If “Zoloft and animal balloons can’t seem to raise your spirits,” as these race promoters like to say, this technicolour walk-at-your-own-pace five kilometre course might do the trick.

colormerad.com

Night Race

Shines a light November 2, 2014

This family-friendly 5 and 10k run begins at sundown in Stanley Park. Runners trace the course with head lamps and try not to trip or roll and ankle. Like eating a meal in the pitch black, this event tests your instincts and challenges you to keep a constant pace when you’re not sure where you’re putting your feet.

nightrace.ca

Electro Dash

Turns up the voltage in the fall 2014

This flashing neon dance party is spread over a five-kilometre course that, in October 2013, chanelled brightly hued runners around the PNE during Fright Night. Racers waved glow sticks and danced to a live DJ.

electrodash5k.com

Zombie Chase

The apocalypse hits Vancouver… sometime

Launched in Calgary this past year, this Canadian event has ambitions plans to expand across the country but has yet to announce any dates. Numerous runs are tentatively planned for the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver.

zombieproductions.ca