Late Summer Means Fun Runs – And Possible Pitfalls

In recent years, the number of fun runs – themed races such as Color Runs and obstacle and Mud Runs – offered to racing enthusiasts and beginners has grown significantly. Though many of these races deliver on their promise of fun and adventure, there have been some issues in recent years. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) offers some tips to help runners look out for potential problems and keep their racing schedules on course.

“The running community is very wired in and passionate,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Because of this, problems runners have had with different races in the recent past have attracted a lot of attention – which helps other runners.”

In 2014, a number of 5K Foam Fest races – including events scheduled to be held in Duluth, Rochester and St. Paul – were canceled after previous races fell through without notice. It was later determined that the entity supposedly organizing the races had done little more than create an official-looking website to collect registration fees upfront. However, issues with races aren’t just limited to Fun Runs. In early June of this year, the Minneapolis Marathon was canceled after organizers failed to secure the required city permits.

Whether you’re thinking about participating in a themed Fun Run or a much longer race, here are some BBB tips:

  • Do your research. Check out the race organizer’s BBB Business Review and look online for additional information before signing up. Read customer reviews from runners who have participated in previous races or events.
  • Don’t be fooled by a well-designed website. Scammers can easily create an official-looking website. Look for misspellings or poor grammar, which is a sign you might be dealing with fraudsters.
  • Check the local venue. Contact the park or host venue to confirm that the event is on the calendar. It’s also a good idea to contact city offices to ensure race permits have been obtained.
  • Pay with a credit card. Charges made on a credit card can be disputed after a purchase, whereas debit, cash or wire transfer transactions cannot.
  • Understand the terms and conditions. In a lot of cases, promoters say right on their websites that they don’t offer refunds. However, many consumers don’t read the fine print before hitting “I agree” when registering for a race.
  • Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online registration process, you should receive a confirmation receipt. Print out and keep a copy of the confirmation and any supporting documentation for future reference.
  • Check out the charity. Many fun runs are for-profit, but some have a charitable aim. If race organizers claim a portion of the proceeds will go to charity, ask for more details. Contact the charity to make sure there’s a connection. You can also do your research on to make sure your donation is going to a trustworthy charity. Be wary of sound-alike names similar to those of more established charities.

Fun Runs can indeed be fun, but have also led to headaches in some cases. Just as it’s a good idea to stretch out and train before undertaking a race, it’s also a good idea to do your research ahead of time to ensure your race will go off without a hitch.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at or 651-699-1111, Toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.