Runner take part in The Color Run, an organization that raises money for charities, stages a party-like race to benefit the Atlantic City Boys & Girls Club at Bader Field in Atlantic City Saturday, Oct 11, 2014.

Edward Lea

Call it gimmicky. Call it themed. Call it fun.

Those words don’t (just) describe the obligatory company holiday party, nor the “Gone With The Wind”-inspired wedding. More and more often, the adjectives precede the word “run.”

Non-traditional runs — think the ones involving mud, obstacle courses, colored powder and other extraneous bits — have grown in popularity throughout the country. Running USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to distance runners, introduced a Non-Traditional Running Events Special Report in 2014 because such events exploded on the running scene.

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Participation in races caked in mud, splashed with color and overrun by zombies — only a few options — multiplied 40-fold, the report states. Runners finishing these races increased from a low six-figure number in 2009 to about 4 million by 2013.

South Jersey is no exception to the trend: Several races taking place in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties this year are opportunities for both first-time runners and seasoned racers to pep up their steps and inject some fun in their runs.

Mindy Solkin, founder, owner and head coach of The Running Center LLC in Atlantic City, recommends that first-time runners give themselves between four and six weeks to properly train for a 5K (3.1 miles), the distance of most fun runs. That means it’s time to start getting ready for some of the summer’s biggest fun runs now. Here’s what you need to know about upcoming South Jersey races, how to prepare for them, and Solkin’s tips for beginner runners.

Get a little mud on those sneakers

Mud runs are pretty self-explanatory: You run on a mud-laden course. But there are often obstacles to challenge the runner even more.

Take the Warrior Dash happening in Millville in August.

“As an obstacle race, Warrior Dash invites athletes of all calibers to take to the course and test their strength and agility,” said Lauren Gardner, a media contact for the event.

The Millville course will have challenging obstacles with fierce names: The Pipeline, Chaotic Cargo and Goliath.

Solkin, of the Running Center, says people should be wary of doing mud runs if they’re not properly trained because of the slippery conditions.

“(Fun runs) can be kind of hard on the body. When you’re slipping and sliding around, you can get injuries because of that,” Solkin said. “Although it’s a bunch of fun, you need to be careful with it. Listen to your body.”

Local races

Aug. 8: Warrior Dash, 8000 Dividing Creek Road, Millville: Waves at every 15 minutes, starting at 9 a.m. Registration costs go up closer to the event. Expect to pay $70 to register before Wednesday, and that price will go up. For more information and to see runner tips, visit warriordash.com.

Sept. 19: Bill Bottino Mud Run for Cancer, Cumberland County Fairgrounds (3001 Carmel Road) Millville: Runs will start after noon, and there’s a barbecue as well. There are two different runs — the mud run and another for children between 5 and 10 years old. Registration prices range from $25 to $69 (with barbecue tickets at $25). For more information, visit njmudrun.com.

Color runs

You’ve probably seen photos of people who looked as if they walked through Jackson Pollack’s studio, neon-bright powder splattered on grinning faces.

They’ve most likely participated in a color run, a (usually) non-timed race during which colored “paint” is thrown at participants. The paint is really more of a hue-saturated powder.

Don’t worry. The cornstarch-based powder thrown at races like the upcoming Color Run 5K in Atlantic City isn’t harmful, for the most part.

“May of our runners cover their noses and mouths through the color zones for added protection,” said Jamie Miller, public relations manager for the Color Run.

Color runs are popular picks for first-time racers. Miller said close to 50 percent of people who participate in Color Runs are making their race debut. Last year, there were several other color runs organized by Color Vibe in Atlantic County and Millville.

“The Color Run is an attainable goal that novice runners can work to achieve and hopefully will act as a catalyst to inspire continual healthy living,” Miller said.

Local races

Aug. 22: The Color Run Shine Tour, Bader Field, Atlantic City: This 5K has four color stations. The race starts in waves by 9:15 a.m. Team registration starts at $45, and individual registration starts at $49.50, with prices increasing closer to the race. For more information, visit thecolorrun.com.

Other fun runs

Aug, 15: Insane Inflatable 5K, Bader Field, Atlantic City: This 3.1 mile run brings in inflated obstacles — bouncier ones than those you’d see in a mud run. Races start at 8:45 a.m. with waves coming every 15 minutes. Registration starts at $59, and goes up as the race gets closer. For more information, visit insaneinflatable5K.com/atlantic-city.

Aug. 22: Battle the Beach, Boardwalk and Oak Avenue, Wildwood: A 3-plus mile hybrid of an obstacle course and running through a sandy-and-watery course. The race will be timed, and faster participants may receive awards. There’s a $20 deposit to register for the event, with fundraising minimums of $75 and $85. Money raised will go toward the Special Olympics New Jersey. For more information, visit battlethebeach.kintera.org.

Contact: 609-272-7256

Twitter @ACPress_Tracey

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