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Top-10 running prop bets

19 May 2014

Yesterday I ran my first 5K in about five years. I was happy with the performance overall, but still have a hard time getting used to the fact that I'm nowhere near as fast as I was when I ran for my high school and college cross country and track teams. (My time was about a minute slower than my race five years ago, and five minutes slower than my high school best, but still much better than I could have done three months ago.)

The best part of my day, however, was watching my 7-year-old son cruise through his 1-mile race in 8:09, finishing third in his age group.

I didn't have any wagers on my race, but I kind of wish I had. If I’d had some money on the line, maybe I would have been 30 seconds faster and broken 21:00.

In 15 years of running, I've been known to make a wager or two on a race. These bets are usually for humiliation, not money. And I've had to wear some pretty ridiculous hand-crafted T-shirts as a result, but it's always made the race much more fun.

Whether you're a veteran racer or a running newbie, here are some great ways to bet on running.

NOTE: Always consult a doctor before implementing a new exercise regime. And some of these challenges shouldn't be attempted by anyone, ever.

10. Beer mile race
If you know someone who is a little faster than you, but not as good at drinking beer as you are, then a beer mile challenge may just level the playing field enough to make an interesting wager.

A beer mile consists of drinking a beer, then running a lap around a 400-meter track. After each lap, you stop and drink another. In order to be an "official" beer mile, you can't shotgun the beer, and it can't be in a wide mouth can.

The "world record" for this feat was recently set at 4:57 by James Nielsen, which is truly impressive.

9. Over/under race time
If you have some spectators coming to watch your race, negotiate an over/under line for your performance. Most of the time you'll have to argue down their expectations; your friends are likely far more optimistic about your fitness level than you are, or they're just trying to be nice. Or they could be pretty shrewd bettors, trying to give you an impossible time to beat. Of course, if you find that you're in better shape than you've ever been, this is a great chance to surprise everyone and put together a solid race that smashes the line.

8. Most improved/closest to PR
A head-to-head matchup in a running race can be extremely exciting if the participants are evenly matched, or it can be inherently uninteresting if one person is much faster than the other. A great way to even the playing field is to compare your time to your personal record (aka your "PR"). If you improve your PR in a 5K by five seconds and the other person is 10 seconds slower than their PR, you win the wager.

7. Over/under intervals at set pace
A key aspect of any serious running program is interval training. Intervals are typically short runs at a set distance with a set target pace and rest period. My favorite interval workout for long-distance races (I'm running a half marathon in four weeks) is Yasso 800s. Most runners start with six and increase the number by one each week until they reach 10 about two to three weeks before their target race.

My favorite (fictional) workout of all time is Quenton Cassidy's 60 x 400 workout from the cult running classic Once a Runner. In this workout, Cassidy ran three sets of 20 x 400s (one lap around a track) at nearly 4-minute-mile pace. He had a 100-meter recovery after each interval, with a 400-meter recovery period after every five and a complete rest after each set of 20.

The workout is simply impossible (and likely would do more harm than good), but it makes for great reading, and it would make for a great bet. Set a time that you have to beat with someone that wants to bet against you, then set the over/under line on how many you can do before you miss the target.

6. Lane assignment draft
Get some people together to draft runners for every race that is contested in lanes on a track (typically everything that is 400 meters or shorter). You can assign them randomly (pick lanes out of a hat) or allow a full draft for every race. Keep in mind that seeded races (events where competitors are assigned by their qualifying times) will place the fastest runners in lanes four and five, so get those lanes if you can!

5. 100 miles, 100 beers in one week
Known in running circles as "The Bicentennial," it's considered the height of degenerate running to log 100 running miles while also downing 100 beers in a seven-day period. For those that don't want to do the math, that's better than 14 miles and 14 beers each day (though how you split up the miles and beer is up to you). This isn't particularly healthy, and you probably shouldn't have to accomplish much else if you undertake this Herculean task. But it will be a week that you will always remember — unless you don't.

4. Over/under miles in a 24-hour period
If you're a real ultrarunning freak, set an over/under line on the number of miles you can run in a day. You may have heard the story of Ashton Griffin, who won a $1 million prop bet with Haseeb Qureshi when he logged 70 miles — all on a treadmill, no less — in 24 hours. Once again, this is an extreme example and I'm pretty sure most doctors would advise against doing this. But it’s still a great prop bet.

3. "Lodden Thinks" race times
The beauty of this bet is that no one actually has to run. In Lodden Thinks, you guess what someone else thinks and whoever comes closer to that person's guess wins. In a running context, you could ask someone how fast they think you could run a 5K. Find someone else and bet with them what they think that person's answer will be. Whoever is closer wins the bet.

2. Good old fashioned foot race
If you have runners that are evenly matched, a head-to-head matchup is the best way to settle a bet. It can also be fun to match sprinters up against distance runners by meeting somewhere in the middle. There was a great deal of speculation about who would win in a 600- or 800-meter race: Mo Farah or Usain Bolt. All I know is that's a race I'd love to watch.

1. Treadmill last longer
In a treadmill last longer, two or more people set a pace and incline and run until only one person is left running. The beauty of the treadmill last longer is it allows handicapping; so long as everyone agrees to the pacing, people can have different inclines and speeds. To make things interesting, make everyone bump up the speed 0.1 miles per hour every five minutes and bump up the incline 1 percent every 15 minutes.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.