There are 5Ks with bubbles and neon paint and foam. There are races for fans of superheros and Disney characters and dogs. And now there’s a “fun run” for those who love cannabis.

The 420 Games are returning to Santa Monica on April 1, with a couple thousand people expected to pack the pier for the race and festival that follows.

It’s undoubtedly a light event, with runners known to wear weed-themed costumes and a finish line “village” packed with cannabis industry vendors, live music, performances by professional BMX riders, a beer garden and more.

But creator Jim McAlpine – a ski industry executive from the Bay Area – said the 420 Games are also focused on spreading some serious messages about defying the “lazy stoner” stereotype while celebrating the benefits of marrying cannabis and fitness.

“I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I’ve used cannabis as an athlete my whole life, from surfing to skiing to lifting weights,” he said.

McAlpine said he primarily uses the plant before he works out or does sports. He said smoking a bit of weed helps to quiet his brain and gives him that “eye of the tiger” feeling so he can focus on what he’s doing – a practice many professional athletes have told him they’ve also come to rely on.

Others use cannabis after they work out as part of their recovery, he said, to ease muscle soreness, prevent injuries and help them relax.

But given his day job as an executive, McAlpine said, “It’s been one of those secrets I’ve had to keep hidden.”

In 2014, he decided it was time to come out of the green closet.

McAlpine was looking for a way to keep busy anyhow, after California’s drought once again cut the snow season short.

He wanted to break away from the stoner-oriented festivals. And so the 420 Games were born that summer in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

“If you can make working out more fun, people will do it more and do it more often,” he said.

That message has clearly resonated, since the one-off event has become a nationwide tour.

The 2017 tour kicks off April 1 in Santa Monica before heading out to six states and eight cities, with stops later this year in San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Boulder, Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas.

This will be the second time Santa Monica has hosted the 420 Games. McAlpine said the city was a bit skeptical last year. But after seeing that they don’t allow public cannabis consumption during the games and how smoothly everything went, he said Santa Monica welcomed them back for this year’s games.

Runners do yoga to stretch out during the 420 Games in Santa Monica in 2016. (Photo by Larry Gassan)

Before the April 1 race, hundreds of people are expected to participate in a beach-side yoga session to warm up.

Runners will then go from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach before heading back for a 4.2(0)-mile loop. They can walk, jog, ride or skate the coastal course – or even follow nearby via stand-up paddle board.

A normal 5K equals out to just over 3 miles. So organizers are encouraging participants in the 420 Games to “go the extra mile for cannabis.”

McAlpine said the 420 Games are more about camaraderie than competition – made clear by the fact that everyone wears the same 420 bib number. But there are prizes and plenty of fun waiting at the finish line.

X Games skaters and BMX athletes will perform for the crowd. Lagunitas Brewery will host a 420 Beer Tasting. There will be music, food and more than 100 industry vendors.

There will also be a Power Plant Fitness challenge, named for the cannabis-themed gym McAlpine is opening in San Francisco with NFL player Ricky Williams later this year. During the challenge, competitors will complete an obstacle course with the goal of being named 420 Fitness King and Queen of the Beach.

There village will also include a keynote address by California cannabis industry pioneer Steve DeAngelo, of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center. And several NFL athletes will be running and speaking, including Kyle Turley of the New Orleans Saints, St Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs; Eben Britton of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears; Reggie Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals; and Boo Williams of the New Orleans Saints.

To cap it off, there will be an after-party that will run into the evening.

The 420 Games have started to attract more mainstream sponsors, with companies such as Bare Naked Granola on board. But McAlpine is still looking forward to the day when cannabis becomes so mainstream that they can land a big name from outside the industry.

“I’ll know we’ve been a success when we have a Nike or an Under Armour sponsoring our event,” he said.

If you go

What: 420 Games fun run and festival

When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 1, with an after-party 4:20 to 8 p.m.

Where: Santa Monica Pier

How much: Tickets start at $4.20 for either the run or admission to the finish line village; other packages for beer tasting, the after party and more range from $15 to $60

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