Looking back, John Biel considers the very first time he ran in costume a bit of an amateur affair. He dressed as one of the little green aliens from “Toy Story.” It may have been simple—“but I was super proud of it at the time,” he says.
Since then, Biel has run more than 30 races in costume. A TourPass holder for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, Biel was a giant taco at Arizona and a loaf of sourdough in San Francisco. He’s also done a number of partner costumes with his friend Sarah Lupien. (They were dressed as “the longest walk of shame ever” at Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas.)
For Biel, it’s a creative outlet and a way to make running more fun and interesting. He even took a children’s sewing class a couple of years ago. “There is no right way to run a race,” he points out.
Fernando Landeros opts for hilarity over technical execution. The official “Costume Contest” winner at the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon always keeps it interesting. His award-winning costume was supposed to be a clichéd female opera singer. But people thought he was a “sexy Viking,” so he went with it.
There are some challenges to costumed racing. “It can get tiring,” says Landeros, especially since he also runs with a boom box or speakers. And you might have to deal with unexpected hurdles. Landeros learned the hard way that leather makes for a tough run. And Biel found out foam can be (unfortunately) quite insulating on hot days. But neither has abandoned a costume.
Once they’re gussied up, it’s all about running their own personal race in character and getting that one-of-a-kind finish photo.
Pick Your Poison
“The hardest part of the entire process is coming up with an idea,” says Biel. “I love to make the costume fit the theme of the race or city.” In Chicago, he was dressed as a giant bag of famous Garrett Chicago mix popcorn. And for the anniversary of Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego, he and Lupien dressed up as the King and Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll (above).
Landeros collects odds and ends from Goodwill and old costume stores and lets inspiration strike. He’s been Super Mario, a cowboy, a regular office worker and Richard Simmons.
“Whatever you do, have fun. Pick something you’re passionate about,” says Biel. “And if your costume isn’t coming together, don’t be afraid to walk away from that idea. It’s better to have a few top-notch costumes each year and have fun.”
Hot Tips (No Chafing Needed)
- Use inspiration from your interests or the race’s website.
- Do a test run of your costume (and disregard strange looks).
- Train! “Make sure your training is there,” says Biel, so you’ll know you can finish.
- Friends make it more fun and expand the costume possibilities.
- Commit to the character. “Once you put it on, you have to figure out a way to own it,” says Landeros.