The East Coast's Weirdest, Wackiest, Coolest Running Race: The ODDyssey Half Marathon

Yep, it's a medal that doubles as a bottle opener!
(Photo source)
Imagine running through the streets of one of the country's most historically significant and populated cities dressed as a bumble bee, a pirate or a Greek goddess while getting hit with water balloons and climbing through bouncy castles. Last year, over 2,000 people from 31 states and three countries did just that. And on May 26, 2012, thousands more are going to do it again.

The ODDyssey Half Marathon is the coolest, wackiest running race on the East Coast. It's also one of the best road races in North America. Spelled "ODDyssey" rather than simply "odyssey," this race is a reminder that running doesn't always have to be serious; it can be downright ridiculous. Race founders Carl Ewald and Carrie Snyder both have storied running histories, but the noticed a need for a spring half marathon in the Philadelphia area. With the 10-mile Broad Street Run three weeks earlier, the ODDyssey is scheduled perfectly to help runners transition to the longer half marathon distance. Carl and Carrie founded the ODDyssey in 2010, and since then, it's become a must-do for anyone with a passion for running.

Friend Andria dressed as a Greek goddess.
(Photo source.)
Runners are encouraged to dress in costumes and to compete in the race's costume contest, but it's not required, nor are the various obstacles the race directors have come up with. Carl mentioned his favorites from the inaugural 2010 race included a couple dressed as a baker and a gingerbread man, and a guy who "actually juggled the entire way."

The fact that it's organized by runners for runners, and Philadelphia-based runners at that, means participants can rest assured the race is designed to give them the best possible experience.  If you're new to running, they've even put together a training team to help you prepare. The race takes runners through Philadelphia's beautiful Fairmount Park, through the Horticultural Center, Japanese gardens, and along the Schuylkill River. Then, it's on to the post-race party, complete with participant medals that double as beer bottle openers, free massages, live music, ODDyssey pint glasses and brews from this year's sponsor, Sly Fox.

But the ODDyssey isn't just about crazy costumes, delicious beer and running over 13 miles. The race's official designated charity is Students Run Philly Style, an organization that matches students with mentors who help them prepare for a full or half marathon. Students Run encourages kids to live active lifestyles, provides them with after-school mentored activities and instills the belief that with hard work and discipline, they can achieve extraordinary things.

Though I won't be running this year, I'm looking forward to volunteering and taking note of all of the amazing costumes. If you think this sounds like the perfect race for your first, second, even tenth half marathon, click here to register. But don't delay, the entry fee increases $10 on April 1st!