How to Pick (or Make) the Right Race Costume

Hey, you! Happy New Year! This is my first post for 2016, so I thought I'd have a little fun with it. (This is going to be a long one, so pull up a chair!) I also figured it was about time I said something about my Wipeout Run race, since it's only been, oh, 6 MONTHS since I ran it. Welp. Better late than never, right?

Now, if you followed Flecks of Lex throughout 2015, you noticed that, out of the dozen races I ran, only a few of my races were 5k. The reason, of course, is that I've become a race snob they always sell out before I can register I prefer to run longer distances, and I feel that the longer races are actually more value for your buck. $50 for 30+ minutes of running and a cotton t-shirt? No, thank you! What does convince me to run 5k from time to time, however, is the fun factor. If I know that I can get some of my family members together, or a group of friends, and that we can do something where we all look silly and can have a good laugh, I am down!

When my friend Lolita invited me to run the Wipeout Run 5k with her at RFK Stadium in DC, I was totally down! I love the show Wipeout, and used to watch it with my brothers. Nothing bonds a family better than watching people getting wrecked on the bouncy balls, right?

Side note: I got wrecked during the race, which is pretty much par for the course. I mean, it ain't called "Wipeout" for nothin'!

We ran as a team, called the DMV All Stars. Our team consisted of Lolita, my dad, my brother Carson, and me. Apparently there were also two random people who registered with our team, but we couldn't figure out who they were! The DMV All Stars decided to go dressed as superheroes. This was a brilliant idea (obviously). Of course, half the other people running the race had the same brilliant idea, and were going to dress up as superheroes as well, so our superheroes had to be extra super.

Let me back up a moment and just say that I love dressing up in costumes. If there is a costume party, or any type of theme party, I AM ALL ABOUT IT. I think that the keys to coming up with a costume idea are to be original (even if it's not an original character), stick to the theme, and truly embody the character. The only addition with a race costume is to make sure that the costume is functional. It's great to go all out, but if your costume is going to get you stuck on an obstacle, make it difficult to run, make it hard to see, fall off during the race, or even potentially cause injury to yourself or someone else, it's really not worth it! After all, you're not in a Halloween parade -- you're running a race!

When coming up with a costume, I like to make up my own characters. For this race, I came up with the name Lex Lightning. Obviously I love alliteration (Flecks of Lex, anyone?), and it sounds like a legit superhero, so why not? You can certainly use an existing character (such as if you're participating in a Disney race), but try to think outside the box a little and put your own unique spin on it. People love creativity in costumes, so you'll likely earn some bonus points for creativity if you're participating in a race with a prize for costumes! Is there a certain color you'd like to wear? Is there a nickname you have? Is there a certain passion you have? Use those to guide you in picking your costume. Let's say my friends know me as being a big pizza lover. Maybe I go as Pizza Rat, or something else in pop culture. Perhaps I love purple, and my name is Pamela. Maybe I'm just Purple Pamela, but I really exaggerate all of the purple I'm wearing. Love gardening? Maybe go as a big green thumb, or a character like The Lorax! Why not come up with your own alter ego? Make the costume work for you! If you have to think too hard about how to style a costume, it's not right for you. Seriously! Scrap that idea and come up with a better one. Enlist your creative friends for help! Having trouble coming up with a costume idea? Feel free to tweet at me or send me an email. I love brainstorming costume ideas!

Another side note (sorry): It turns out there was a character named Black Lightning who is a DC Comics character. My friend Jed suggested that I go as Black Lightning, without knowing that this was an actual character. This is all to say that I'm a nerd, and if you're a nerd like me, the story of Black Lightning is pretty interesting, and it turned out to be a pretty cool coincidence when you see how the rest of my team dressed.

The next step for me was to sketch out how I wanted the costume to look. I highly recommend coming up with a costume plan. Be sure to come up with alternatives to parts of your costume, if necessary. For example, I considered painting on a face mask, but later thought about whether paint would get in my eyes from the water slides and such. Instead, I opted to buy a pack of foam masks from the fabric store. I ended up giving a couple to my fellow DMV All Stars, and will use the others for some future costumes, I suppose.

I knew that I wanted to wear my hair in an afro, and that I wanted to have a black and gold costume. I didn't have more than a day to put my costume together, so I knew I mostly had to rely on clothing items I already had. I settled on wearing my Black Marathon Pro Compression socks, my Adidas spandex shorts that I usually wear for volleyball (I have several pairs from college, and they're my favorite!) and that I know I can dive and contort my body while wearing, and a black, cotton Hanes tank top. Lex Lightning would need a lightning bolt on her chest, so I decided to head over to Jo-Ann's Fabrics to pick up some fabric paint and a couple of paint brushes. (This is also where I purchased the masks, where I cut the eye holes out a bit bigger so that my jumbo-sized peepers had some room!)

If you know your hair is going to be included in part of the costume, you should also sketch this out and figure out if you're going to need pipe cleaners or any other pieces for your hair. I found gold glitter hairspray at Target, so I made sure to spray that all over my hair after I was done styling it. Everything else I did to my hair was pretty simple.

I really want to emphasize this point, so listen closely: THERE IS NO NEED TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY ON RACE COSTUMES! If you go out and buy a 3 pack of cheap tank tops from Target, and spend a couple of bucks on fabric paint at Jo-Ann's, that is a heck of a lot smarter than breaking the bank on some costume you might ruin and/or never be able to use again! What are the chances that you will wear this costume again? Will you be able to reuse parts of this costume in other ways? Can you use something you have at home as part (or all) of your costume? These are the things you should be thinking about as you sketch out your costume plan.

Time is of the essence. How much time are you going to have prior to the race? If you have a 24-hour turnaround, you might want to be careful with creating something where you will need paint or glue to dry. Be sure to read all of the instructions prior to purchasing the paint, and make sure it is the right paint for the right surface. Are you going to have time to test out your costume before you run in it? If not, you really want to make sure you're wearing something you've run in before and know fits you comfortably. I cannot emphasize this enough! So often, I see people running themed 5ks, and they end up ruining something they just bought, or hurting themselves from wearing something they never tested out. Fortunately, in the case of the Wipeout Run, I'd run in everything prior to the race, with the exception of the tank; however, I have run in this exact style and brand of tank top, so I knew I could run comfortably in this shirt.

Shy away from wigs, if you can. They can make you extremely hot, and if you're already running in warmer weather, this is not ideal by most people's standards. You also likely want to stay away from things that get attached to your shoes. You need those to be able to put the pedal to the metal, and will have difficulty doing that if you have something impeding your run.

Coordinate with your friends/family/teammates. If you're running as a team, why not look like a team? Our team ended up being some form of the Justice League, based on our costume choices. We received so many compliments on how cool we looked as a team!

Have fun! You're in a costume, for Pete's sake! Laugh a little. Smile a bunch. Ham it up!

Do you have pointers for picking out/making race costumes? Please share them in the comments! What's the best race costume you put together?

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