Demetrius Snaer has memories that live among the afro puffs and big-collared shirts of the disco era, but he swears that wasn’t his motivation.
He and business partner Dale Hancock simply wanted to liven up a 5-kilometer race in such a way that it was fresh and fun for the entire family.
“Dale will say that I came up with that idea,” Snaer said with a chuckle, “because I’m the old one … because I grew up in that era.”
Turns out, disco isn’t dead.
The latest craze sweeping the West Coast adventure race scene is the Neon Night Run, a road race wrapped in a glowing dance party and hosted by Snaer and Hancock’s blossoming business venture, Healthy Fit Families.
There are no chalks or dyes or splashes of paint. The course is free of mud bogs, slick monkey bars and mountain climbs.
The Neon Night Run won’t test your threshold for pain so much as your ability to boogie to a beat, bounce down a path and rock along with a DJ.
“Dale and I sat down and tried to come up with something fun; something more family friendly,” said Snaer, who teaches health and fitness at Modesto Junior College.
“There are a bunch of daytime events, so it was like let’s put on a nighttime one, bring out a DJ and let everyone dance in a family atmosphere.”
Healthy Fit Families launched the Neon Night Run in October at Tracy’s Eagal Lakes and came away from the event with mixed emotions.
There were mistakes and oversights, but also an overwhelming show of support from the local running community.
They wanted more.
So Snaer and Hancock went back to the drawing board and developed Version 2.0.
Neon Night Run returns to the Central Valley on May 25 at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock. Already the race has nearly doubled its registration, jumping from 500 in its debut at Eagal Lakes to nearly 1,000 paid runners this time around.
The two hope to break 2,000 by race day.
“Our goal is to get people off the couch and get them active,” said Hancock, a former Marine and Ceres High graduate. “I grew up in the valley and our biggest gripe was that there was nothing to do. It feels good that we’re staying true to our health and fitness backgrounds, but that we can also bring an event of this caliber to the Valley.”
The course is more Chuck E. Cheese than Tough Mudder, with its 2-foot walls, bubble machines and black lights, ball pits and live entertainment.
Snaer is a veteran of the mud run scene. The accomplished track coach and sprinter is also a two-time Tough Mudder and survivor of the Warrior Dash.
While it’s fun to get dirty, he and Hancock wanted to create a safe alternative for the novice and new, as well as the families.
Then again, that’s always been their target audience – families. Snaer is a father to two daughters. Hancock has two daughters of his own and a third on the way.
The two formed Healthy Fit Families in the spring of 2010, after fielding a series of fitness-related questions from their students. Both teach health and fitness and coach track at Modesto Junior College.
What began as a blog spot grew into a virtual resource center for the Central Valley family. Snaer and Hancock weren’t just answering questions, they were providing at-home, machine-less workouts, tips on healthy eating and posting activities.
Soon, Snaer and Hancock found themselves coordinating and hosting family bootcamps in Manteca-area parks.
“It started out with just our families and friends from the neighborhood, but people would see and it grew into a lot,” Snaer said. “That’s when we came up with the idea to start doing these mud runs and adventure races.”
Healthy Fit Families also puts on the Recon Run and hopes to start Rid Kid Obesity, a nonprofit effort that will pay for children to attend bootcamp workouts and other training sessions.
For now, though, the Neon Night Run is their shining star. There are plans to take the event to Oregon, Washington, Texas, Gridley and Fresno.
“I want people to walk away and say the run was great, and remember the before and after as well,” Snaer said. “I want them to remember they were with their kids, as well.”