Sunday, November 4, 2012

How to Run An Ultra in Costume

Many October races encourage participants to run in costume. And while most of the mid-autumn 5k's  and 10k’s are packed with freakishly dressed loonies displaying their Halloween spirit, the Autumn Leaves ultramarathons have had a dreadfully disappointing costume turnout the last three years, despite impressive prize basket incentives put together by Gail.

As I see it, there are three main reasons people don’t don the crazy clothes and wacky wigs at a race.

#1) People who don’t ever like costumes. You know the people who won’t even get dressed up for a costume party, people who show up in sweats and then make up a lame story instead of wearing a costume (“I’m Lady Gaga on her day off.”).  I think a lot of perfectionist types may fall into this category, too afraid to let loose and make a fool of themselves. Ok, people, sure it is nice to have an alphabetized spice rack, but not everything has to be so serious! Lots of costumes don’t require you to be all out zany (cowboy, doctor, fireman, etc.). So let loose for one day and have a little fun. The world won’t end if you put the Cinnamon in the Cumin spot!

Do you need to let loose a little bit??
#2) People who don’t mind the costume, but don’t like the effort of putting a costume together. My husband fits in this category. He’s not super creative and so the idea of getting a costume together stresses him out. But he has no problem wearing a costume if I put it together for him. Oh, who are we kidding? Mac’s favorite movie is Mulan Rouge! Mac might actually prefer costumes to regular clothes…as long as I pick it out for him. So if you fall into this category, get a friend or your significant other to help you out. Or just go buy a prepackaged costume at a party shop – no creative effort required!

Even Mac likes a good long as someone else puts it together
#3) People who will rock a costume for a party, but who don’t want to run in one. This can go one of two ways: either you are worried that you can't run fast in a costume or you are worried it will be too annoying to run in. Adam Campbell ran a marathon in a suit in 2:35; Mike Wardian finished a marathon in full Spiderman gear in 2:34; and Ian Sharman has a 2:40 marathon dressed as Elvis. So yeah, plenty of fast running can be done in a costume! The annoyance factor can be minimized by picking the right costume. Helpful hints:

- Find something that isn't restrictive. I find skirts (even denim once as Annie Oakley) to be very easy to run in. Spandex or other tight pants work well, too.
- Go for a test run. I usually do this on the treadmill in the privacy of my own home. Because running a race in costume is good for a lot of laughs. Running by yourself in costume is good for a lot bizarre stares. You can also test a piece at a time or wear a jacket over (if cold weather) to camouflage your costume on a regular day.
- Use a lot of lube. Most costumes really aren't that irritating, but they weren't made for running either. A little extra Vaseline will save you some unnecessary pain.
- Forget that whole "Cotton is Rotten" Mantra. Yeah, cotton is no good in extreme conditions, but on your typical day, it does just fine. I started running in 1989 and didn't own my first tech shirt (excluding polyester racing singlets) till 2008. Yes, really. So as long as you aren't running through the mountains or in the snow, don't be afraid to wear cotton for a day.
- Avoid "bouncy" objects. I have run with plastic snakes in my hair and on my clothes, in fairy wings, with a belt and (fake) holsters, and in a pillow case. I find things don't really bother me as long as I make sure they don't bounce around. Safety pins of a few quick stitches with a needle and thread can be helpful here.
- Work it! The best part of running in a costume is having fun with the people around you. And other runners are always looking for a distraction.

You've got almost a whole year to plan next Halloween's running costume. If you act quickly, you could probably still find some great discounts on this year's costumes. Autumn Leaves is right after the 100k Worlds next year, and there is a good chance I won't be running it, so the costume contest (with its massive prize basket) could be wide open!

So who's run a big race in a costume? And who still thinks racing in costume is the stupidest thing ever (actually, my husband is in this category, too)? 

1 comment:

SteveQ said...

When I saw the first photo, I was really hoping you dressed as a can of "PAM" cooking spray.

I've worn costumes (I was a rabbit recently), but not when racing - I'm not serious often, but I try to take racing seriously.