This is a post from the seventh edition of my (mostly irregular) Week of Lists where I bring you seven list-type posts, one per day starting on Saturday, October 25th and ending on Halloween, leaping from the darkest corners of your internetz and scaring you into mild confusion. Stay tuned!
There is a (perhaps not so) new trend in modern running: theme runs. Run an obstacle course. Run an adventure course. Run in a funny costume. Run as a character… like Elvis. Run through a theme park. Run in the dark and let people throw glow in the dark paint all over you.
I think it’s great. Anything that encourages more people to get out and get active is awesome. But having all these “spirit runs” means that contrary to good running advice, many people show up in costumes that may or may not be ideal for running.
Being that it is approaching Halloween –and also seeing as I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’m going to wear in the Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon in January– here are a few pitfalls I’ve noticed that tie into a running costume design…
4 Tricky Things About Running in a Costume
I distinctly remember running down the Las Vegas Strip in November of 2012 and passing by a rather slow moving ostrich. So, no, it wasn’t a real ostrich, of course. But someone had braved the moderate Vegas autumn wearing …how to describe it? …well, an inflatable six-foot plastic suit in the shape of an ostrich. It covered about 60% of his body, and given how much sweat he was producing when I passed him at about 10 klicks into the half marathon, it 100% did not breathe. I assume he survived, if only because I didn’t hear of any darwin-award-type deaths occurring in the race that year, but I can’t imagine he has the same positive memories of that night on the strip that I do.
Your body is a machine and when you run the various bits of you that sweat do so to dissipate excess heat. Wrapping those bits –or worse, wrapping ALL of those bits– in the kind of cheap fabrics that make up most off-the-shelf costumes is asking for trouble.
The other side of the too hot coin is obviously falling into the too cold trap. But there are bigger issues –I think– with wearing a skimpy costume.
See, some of that fancy running gear has other roles to play in your mad dash to the finish line. If your poor little running body is used to a certain set of gear, say, you need to follow one of those key rules I always tell, tell, and tell again to my clinic students: don’t switch things up on race day. Never switch things up on race day. WEAR something FAMILIAR on race day.
Do you know why that is?
Things chafe. Things ride. Things cause blisters. And that sucks.
So, yeah, you’re in a costume race and you’re not going for a PR…. but that’s no reason to finish with five blisters, bleeding nipples, a set of road-rashed inner thighs, and a sunburn in places where your tender skin has naught before been exposed to the powerful UV of the mighty sun. Is it?
3. Impaired visibility…
Big heavy costumes aren’t always a bad thing. A few years ago a bunch of us ran the local Halloween race, so… y’know… costumes were involved. It turned out to be a really cold run. The snow had chosen race day (a few days prior to Halloween day) to make it’s first appearance of the season. We are seasoned winter runners in this part of the world, making a good third of our year’s training out in the ankle deep chill of snow and ice-layered paths. But there is something about that first run in the snow, no matter how cold the rest of them get, that is tricky.
Race day? Magnify that chill. Race day in a costume? Fold over that impact once more into an even thicker pain in the butt.
I was following a guy in a big, bulky costume down a trail with a fresh layer of new snow, so new that we were among the first footprints in the white path. His costume had a little too much up top… in that I’d bet he had warm cheeks, but not great views of the winter wonderland scenery through which we were running. And actually, that showed through when he face-planted after tripping on a curb. No harm, no foul, and he got up and kept going… but if you’re going to wear a costume in a race, making sure you can see seems like a priority.
In mid-September, just a few weeks ago actually, a small group of us opted to participate in one of those throw-paint-at-you runs. I’d heard good things about the concept, but this particular installment was a new twist on an idea now a few years old: the neon run.
Readers of this blog may remember that our experience was less than awesome. In fact, it was terrible. The race had stumbled severely in it’s preparations, getting the permit boot just a day or so prior to go-time, and needed to re-route to a last-minute change of course. That wouldn’t have been such a huge deal for a local organizer, but the race crew were from out of town and fell back to the otherwise awesome Google maps for their last-minute course change. Long story short, what the map said was a path, well.. it was, but not a path appropriate for a couple thousand runners in the dark.
And you guessed it. A lot of us were in costume… because, hey, it was a fun race. The sight of a thousand glow-in-the-dark, glowstick-adorned, tutu-wearing runners climbing zombie-apoacalypse-style up the side of a grassy riverbank is a memory I will cherish forever. The takeaway lesson there was simple: if you’re gonna wear a costume to a race, keep in mind that crazy can sometimes happen and you may find yourself in position where the last thing you want is to be wearing a costume. So, have an escape plan.
So… wear a costume. Just pick one that’s gonna give you a good run, too.