CosRunning: A Step-By-Step Account of Running in Costume
When Jennifer and I decided to run every RunDisney weekend of 2015, we knew it was going to be a big commitment: all the miles spent doing training runs; all the money spent on registration and travel; AND all the time spent deciding what to wear! For most casual runners, what to wear is a pretty easy decision… we tend to find our favorite running gear and stick to what works.
I won’t run in anything except Injinji socks and Mizuno Wave Inspire shoes (for me, that winning combo has never once resulted in a blister or missing toenail… not once). Under Armour and Nike tend to be my go-to brands for most other running gear. Bottom line: I stick to what works for me.
So, for a lot of Casual Runners, the idea of wearing a costume for a race violates this very basic need we all seem to have. For some of us, however, dressing up as a favorite character is just too much fun to resist. Add to that the large number of Disney characters to draw inspiration from and the prevalence of costume running at runDisney events, and there’s no way Jennifer and I could resist cosrunning all of our 2015 races.
Sometimes the hardest part is coming up with a good idea for a costume. Sure, we all have our favorite characters, but you also don’t want to be just another Elsa in a sea of Elsas. Coming up with an original costume is a near-unattainable feat, but Jennifer and I try to come up with something that hasn’t been done a thousand times before, or at least put a spin on it if it has.
One of our most original costumes was P. Sherman (totally Jennifer’s idea). It was probably the simplest costume we’ve done, but it earned us some really positive responses. On the other end of the spectrum was my Ariel costume. Disney princesses are some of the most common costumes on the course and Ariel is one of the most popular, but when a dude puts on a red wig and fish scale leggings, the crowd goes wild. I got more positive comments than I could have imagined, even a “Best costume ever!” and a “Best Ariel all day!”
Even more important than a good idea is the ability to actually run in the costume. I can’t help but go back to my innate need to stick with what works… looking good always comes in second. I’m not saying you can’t run in a full X-Wing fighter pilot costume with helmet and head-to-toe jump suit – we saw a couple of them running the Star Wars Half – but it’s really not practical to run in. Using a little creativity, I was able to make X-Wing pilot costumes that were easily recognizable, but were made entirely of athletic wear. I also like to strike a balance between going full character and going so subtle with a costume that no one gets it. If you’re cool with only being recognized by a select few who know the character well enough, go for it… getting the look of recognition from someone “in the know” can sometimes be worth multiple compliments you might get from an easily recognizable costume.
Once I have a concept in mind, I research the character to make sure I get the details right. It usually just involves doing a quick internet image search or sitting and watching the character’s movie. Whether it’s getting the color of Wreck-it Ralph’s overalls right or making sure Vanellope von Schweetz has the right number of stripes on her leggings, the details are important to capture the character.
After getting the details pinned down, I start looking for running gear I can alter or put together in the right combination to put the character together. I also take into account if the costume needs graphics or if graphics can help achieve the look I’m shooting for. My Lightning McQueen costume and Jennifer’s Carla Veloso costume were very graphics intensive and wouldn’t really have been costumes without them. While Wreck-it Ralph didn’t need the clasp on his overalls for the character to come to life, the little detail was a nice touch. Some of the simple graphics can take me an hour or two, while the complicated ones can take me 40+ hours of tinkering to get them just right.
Sometimes, putting the costume together is as simple as getting dressed. Put on a white shirt and shorts, add a couple gold accessories, and throw on a wig…all of a sudden I’m Peeta Mellark. Other times, it’s not that easy.
Since I only run in one type of shoe with limited color options, I’ll sometimes use a permanent marker to alter them. I spent about an hour with a Sharpie to black out my shoes to use for both my Lightning McQueen and X-Wing Luke costumes. I plan on using them again for at least one more future costume, so I think it was worth the time.
If I’m using graphics, I do test prints to make sure I get a good color match. It’s rare when I get it right the first time, it usually takes a few tests to get a perfect match. When the graphics are ready to become part of the costume, I print them onto iron-on transfer sheets, cut them to size (usually the most tedious part), and iron them onto the costume. Ironing is almost as much an art form as drawing the graphics; getting the heat just right and knowing how long to leave it on takes some trial and error. I recommend having extra transfer sheets handy and practicing on a test piece of a similar material before moving on to the final piece. If you do make a mistake on the final piece, sometimes you can iron a fresh graphic over the top of the messed up one, so don’t give up without giving it another try. I held the iron a little too long over a couple of my Lightning McQueen graphics and they got a little dark. After ironing new ones over the top, no one knew there was ever a mistake.
[Not every costume requires a test run, but if I’m wearing something outside my normal race gear, I’ll usually take it out for a training run. If you can identify any potential problems before race day, all the better.]
All the planning and creating leads up to the event itself. We all like to think everything is going to go off without a hitch, but problems do pop up from time to time. The weather might not cooperate. You fly to Florida to escape the cold only to find it’s hovering around 30 degrees, and all of a sudden that Slave Leia costume doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Maybe the temperature is perfect, but it’s pouring down rain like it did at the 2014 Wine & Dine Half Marathon (catch Part 2 here), and the wig you spent a couple hours hair spraying to perfection is not making it out on the course. God forbid you encounter a wardrobe malfunction a mile into a half marathon!
You can’t plan for every possible scenario, but planning ahead as much as possible/feasible is a good idea. Jennifer always carries extra safety pins on a run, so she was able to fix a potentially embarrassing wardrobe issue and finish the race without a worry. We also pack for various temperatures and even plan costumes in advance to allow for warmer clothes underneath. A little race-day rain might not thwart every costume, but an extra set of regular running gear might be a better choice if it’s pouring buckets. If you’re running multiple events over two or more days, consider swapping costumes if one works better in the rain/cold than the other you might have planned on wearing that day.
For even more of Jake’s and Jennifer’s awesome race costume looks and ideas, check out the gallery on our Facebook page.
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