The SHAPE Diva Dash is expanding to 10 cities in 2013 to meet the increasing demand for women’s-only obstacle runs. The series began as a single obstacle run in 2011, before expanding to four cities in 2012. Now they’re looking at their biggest year yet as they expand to 10 cities in eight states and Washington, D.C. The series’ first race takes off today weekend in Atlanta, Georgia.
One of the drivers in the current running boom has been the proliferation of women. A record 7.6 million ladies finished a road race in 2011 and women now account for 55 percent of all road race finishers in the U.S., according to Running USA. While men’s participation in road races has not quite doubled since 1990, female participation has increased more than 600 percent in the same time frame.
It’s no wonder that women-focused events have flourished as a result. In 2011 there were more than 200 women-only events in the U.S., where at least 95 percent of participants were women.
At the same time, obstacle-course runs have also been having a field day; it’s one of the fastest growing segments in the entire sporting industry. Forget growth — it’s been more like an explosion. In 2010, approximately 41,000 people entered about 20 obstacle runs in the U.S., according to Outside Magazine. By 2012, those 20 events had grown to 150 with 1.5 million people participating.
So it makes sense that someone had the sense to meld the obstacle race and women’s-only event.
Enter the SHAPE Diva Dash, organized by Boulder, Co., based sports marketing company Adventure Fit. The SHAPE Diva Dash is a series of women’s-only 5K obstacle runs sponsored by SHAPE magazine, LUNA and Oakley.
But unlike many popular obstacle runs, you won’t find mud trenches, fire pits or barbed wire. Instead, every race has a dozen obstacles designed to test overall fitness from strength and balance to agility. Obstacles include mazes, ropes, monkey bars, and more. It’s about empowerment, not mud slinging. Costumes are officially encouraged, and every participant receives a technical T-shirt and custom bib with their name on it.
The Diva Dash aims to appeal to women of all levels of abilities, including walkers. More competitive runners can sign up for one of the four timed waves that bar walkers. Women looking for a more casual experience can sign up for of the untimed waves that welcome walkers. All participants can select easy or more difficult options at the obstacles, or they can opt out of the obstacle challenges as they reach them. Though, women who want to compete for one of the top three prizes in each age division must finish all the obstacles in one of the timed waves. Waves start every 15 minutes.
To boost the camaraderie of the events, women can register as individuals or as part of a team with their friends and family members. Teams of 10 or more have the added benefit of being the first off the starting line in each wave.
After the race, participants can celebrate at the after party, which includes music, a beer and wine garden, and hourly drawings for prizes from the sponsors, including a grand prize drawing for a luxury vacation courtesy of SHAPE magazine.
The SHAPE Diva Dash series kicks off on February 23 in Atlanta, Ga. and will makes stops in San Diego, Austin, Boulder, Fort Worth, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, New York, and Miami. Entry begins at $55, increasing to $65 and $75 as each event draws near. For more information or to register, visit www.DivaDash.com.
Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runner’s lifestyle web show about running. She has completed six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.