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More than a thousand people will willingly dive through mud, slide down hills, heave heavy logs and run through fallen trees in a mad dash to the finish line this Sunday, Oct. 27.

The Russian River Mud Run will begin bright and early in Healdsburg with experienced and amateur runners getting down and dirty while navigating 5K and 10K courses. It represents a new format that provides experienced runners with a change of pace while also attracting newcomers, often for a good cause.

Becky Sani, 40, of Cazadero ran last year's Mud Run and will be joined by her family on Sunday. She is using it to build up to more serious races, she said, and has been training in the Windsor foothills, at Howarth Park and on the Laguna Trail of Sebastopol.

"I have been running on and off over the last six months," Sani said. "I am using the fun runs to build up to a half-marathon. My kids and sister and I have been having a blast."

"Dye runs" have a similar attraction, but with a different focus. Racers wearing stark white clothing are blasted with dyed corn starch at different legs of the race. By the time they cross the finish line, they are wearing a multitude of hues.

Tahryn Anderson, 35, of Santa Rosa loves all kinds of fun runs because she can get the whole family to participate, from those who are too young for serious races to those who hate running.

"With the color runs, I can get them all involved and we have fun together," Anderson said.

In May, she participated in her first running event — the Color Me Rad run at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds — with her oldest daughter and a group of family and friends.

"I am still getting the color out of my ears," Anderson said with a laugh. She appreciated the ease, with "no timers, no pressure, just lighthearted silliness," she said. "People dress up in costumes and just go to get messy. Anyone can do it."

Jessica Snowden, 38, of Santa Rosa participated in her first color run in March, an item on her bucket list. Rather than running the Color Run 5K in San Francisco, Snowden and her friend walked the 3.1-mile course while their kids ran ahead.

"What I remember most is how much fun it was to get all the colors on our shirts, the great music, the silly costumes and the fun spirit of the whole thing," she said.

"I figured that the Color Run would be an awesome first-time run because I'm an artist, and it's all about being happy and colorful," she said.

Fun runs often are ways to raise money for charity. Today's Russian River Mud Run benefits student scholarships and community outreach programs at Rio Lindo Adventist Academy. Last May's Color Me Rad 5K, held in Santa Rosa, partnered with the Young Life Foundation.

Next up is the Run or Dye 5K race on Saturday, Nov. 2, which benefits the Sonoma County Family YMCA. It starts and ends at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, with runners weaving past five dye stations. The cost to register is $40 as part of a team, or $45 as an individual. For more information, visit <a href="http://runordye.com" target="_blank">runordye.com</a>.