5 Nov

Fancy (Dress) Footwork

Christine AppelOdds are that at least some of the runners in the last race you went to sashayed, galloped or shuffled their way round the course in fancy dress. Part of the reason for this explosion in sprinting Buzz Lightyears and 26.2-hungry Elvises is simply down to how popular and accessible running has become. It stands to reason that the more runners you have in any given event, the more Mr Blobbies and Cinderellas you’ll have too.

But the very popularity of our sport has also had unintended consequences for the significant part of the field running to raise money for charity. With even casual runners taking in more races than ever before, many charity runners feel they need to show donors that the challenge they’re being asked to support really is challenging. And that’s where fancy dress comes in.

TeletubbyNik Robinson has as a Teletubby to raise money for Macmillan, as Superman (for Mary’s Meals and Mercy Corps) and as Austin Powers (for Befriend a Child). “Since I’d already completed a few 10ks and halfs, I decided to run in costume to make potential sponsors feel I was making a special effort,” Nik told southernrunningguide.com. “Running in fancy dress also gets people’s attention on race day and raises the profile of my charities.”

Getting the costume right is an important part of the fancy-dress challenge, especially if you’re one of the many hundreds of runners who set out to break records for running marathons in chain mail, wedding dresses and phone boxes each year. Most charity runners, however, simply go with what they have to hand, but a select few go that bit further, and design an outfit that will make their effort as hard, or as meaningful, as possible.

Tiger manPaul Goldstein, a wildlife guide and photographer, has run 11 marathons dressed in a suit inspired by the wild tigers of his own charity foundation in India. Since he began his ‘Worth More Alive’ campaign, Paul has raised over £100k to help save tigers. Based around a rucksack and made from foam, resin, fake fur and glue, Paul’s suit weighs 12kg (26lbs), and wearing it adds around two hours to his ‘normal’ marathon time.

“However I carry her, it’s never that comfortable, especially around my hips and neck,” he told us. “But in terms of pain, I always remember what tigers are going through.” That sense of being part of something bigger than themselves also gives a lot of charity runners the courage to carry on when the costume gets hot and the going gets tough.

For some runners, though, running in fancy dress is simply a fun way to mark a special occasion. Regular southernrunningguide.com contributor Christine Appel got suited and booted as Wonder Woman to tackle the Bennachie Hill Race in the northeast of Scotland, which happened to fall on her birthday last year. In addition to distracting her from the general trauma of turning the big 4-0, Christine also found that channelling her inner Lynda Carter had an unexpected bonus: “Dressing up made any of the usual pressure to get a good time just melt away. It’s hard to get worked up about splits and PBs when you’re wearing a cape and knee-high boots!”

So why not give fancy dress running a go? If you’re struggling for a costume, fancy-dress retailer Jokers’ Masquerade offers some of its surplus outfits to charity runners free of charge.