Runners wear some weird stuff. At a race, you might see running shoes in Day-Glo colors or shoes that look like they escaped from a Crayola factory. You’ll a great deal of spandex. There will be men in tights with bright checkered prints or stripes or tribal patterns. There might be women in running briefs (ie, spandex underwear), sports bras, and a smile. While all this would be pretty darn weird for a jaunt around the mall, it’s pretty normal for a race – practical, really. It’s the folks who take it to the next level that really make me smile – the ones that run in costume.
As far as I can tell, there are two significant advantages to running in costume.
1. If you’re lucky enough to have someone (or several someones) there to cheer you on, a costume, or at least a funny hat or T-shirt, will help them find you in the herd. See, races are usually pretty crowded events. There can be thousands of people running a course, and once a crowd that size gets together, it starts getting hard to pick out individuals. Your cheering section might be waiting for you to run a couple miles before you get to them. If you’re wearing a Storm Trooper outfit, they’ll probably either be able to see you further off, or they’ll be tipped off by your approach by the cheering of the folks further down the course.
Which brings me to the second advantage…
2. Spectators and volunteers (particularly those at a long running event) have a potentially long wait until the end of the race. In the meantime, all there is to do is cheer for the sweaty people running by. In my admittedly limited experience, people LOVE to pull for the unusual runner on the course. It’s a lot more fun to yell “Yeah! Go, Santa!” than it is to yell “Yeah! Go, guy-in-the-plain-white-tshirt!” It really, really helps a lot to hear someone cheering for you. Even if you’re someone very shy of praise (like me), it’s quite a boost to hear someone rooting for you. You’re putting in a hell of a lot of effort to do something, and someone is noticing and is pulling for you. It’s a great feeling and it helps a lot.
(It’s also nice to entertain the volunteers and spectators – it’s a big deal to put on a race event and the volunteers make or break it. And a race without spectators just wouldn’t be the same. So if it makes them smile on race day, then I’m all for it.)
The only time I’ve seen people cheer louder for someone not in costume was at last year’s Philadelphia Marathon. A woman came around the corner, setting an amazing pace…running on a prosthetic leg. There was a half beat of surprise while we registered what we were seeing (I was a spectator), then the crowd went nuts – “Yeah!!! Wooooo!!!” If it had been a movie or a cartoon, we all would have had handfuls of confetti that we would have thrown in the air. The runner pumped her fists in the air a couple times to acknowledge our appreciation. I’m tearing up remembering it – it was awesome. Anyway, back to costumes…
Some of the costumes and crazy things I’ve seen on courses…
I’ve seen Santa Claus, and a half dozen elves. I’ve seen people juggling as they run a course (running faster than me, while they’re at it). I saw a guy running the JFK 50 Miler in a shark costume. These are all not counting the costumes at the Halloween 5K I attended this past year… those were some fun costumes.
I did a couple quick searches online for fun race-day costumes, but didn’t find as many as I had expected. I’ll have to make sure to get photos of the best costumes at this weekend’s half marathon. It’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend, so there are sure to be some fun St. Patty’s Day themed costumes.