Running in Costume: Testing Your Costume (Part 3)


2012 Runaway Pumpkin where it rained the entire race. By mile 4 my makeup was gone and the orange hair color was bleeding down my face. My costume also felt like it weighed a ton.

This series was initially published by us in 2013 – prior to us moving over to our current web format. Maryalicia was a costume-running guru, and with the Holiday Half coming up, we thought we would re-post these through November. Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Once you have your idea- it’s time to test it out! I really mean it – how do you know it will be functional and feasible if you don’t run in your costume first? And I don’t mean waiting till the race to find out. Look for an out of the way paved trail and forget vanity. Vanity will only chafe you…literally. Practice with your full costume and all its accessories. Why? Because costumes can be too heavy, bulky, you may overheat. Or the costume may bunch up, twist, turn, keep going in places that prevent you from running, or make it more difficult to run. Murphy’s Law may come into effect wearing makeup that could run and bleed all over you, and your costume, depending on how much you sweat or if it rains.

Practice runs ensure you don’t chafe or have a sequin rub you the wrong way. Costumes can ruin the experience of a race due to the fact that you are constantly distracted by the bounce of your headpiece, too hot to continue running, or your pointy necklace blows into your face and gouges you in the eye? All hypothetical of course, but do you want to find out what could go wrong during the race, when you could have prevented it before hand? Practicing with your costume avoids having additional issues piled onto the normal issues races could bring without running in costume. Just this past January, as I ran along the Tinker Bell Half Marathon course in California, I saw so many costume pieces and props that didn’t make it: wings, wands, tiaras, etc. Don’t let your costume become a casualty.

Here are some reasons you need to practice:

1. Casualties on the Course. You spent all this time and energy on props for your costume, but you need to know if they are going to casue problems on race day.  Props like ninja sticks, an umbrella, or a sign may become too heavy, or annoying, and then may get ditched before you even hit mile 6. Practicing may help you decide the piece is not right or give you time to make it work for you.

2. Preventing Wardrobe Malfunctions and Chafing. Practicing is a good way to find out if there are scratchy spots that need duct tape or show you that you need to secure a prop to your costume. Running helps indicate excessive jiggling, movement, or props unexpectedly flying up and hitting you in the face. You don’t want your costume to become a hindrance. Are sequins or other scratchy material hitting your skin? Testing the outfit will help find these areas before they leave a lasting mark. Running also identifies weak areas in stitching or the fabric that may separate while you run and allows you time to reinforce.

3. Identify the Correct Size of your Outfit. Is your outfit too big or too small? I bought a Bluebell Fairy outfit for the Run Like Hell Half Marathon, only to test it out and realize it was just a wee bit small in areas (that and it did not look right with a sport’s bra underneath). Testing allows you to find out if the length of skirt, dress, shorts, or tutu is good for you. Is it too long? Too short? You don’t want to DNF (Did not Finish) a race because you find running 13.1 miles in a mermaid tail cut is not feasible. You may find out before the race that your costume is constantly bunching up and going between your legs while running. Tutus are notorious for this issue. Identifying issues like this before the race can help you correct, trim to correct length, or buy another size.

Disneyland 10K.JPG

Disneyland 10K — Karen Oakes dressed as the Chesire Cat with her son (Alex Yonetani, Portland) as Tron, and daughter (Jessica Yonetani, Fremont, CA) as Miss Piggy. Karen old me that she “chopped up the Cheshire cat from a Leg Avenue Halloween costume, took off the bodice and just made the dress into a skirt, thigh high socks became leg warmers and then had an etsy seller do the print on the neon pink under armour shirt.” She then added a frilly petticoat and chopped up Cheshire cat ears to fit on a white baseball hat.

4. Will your normal Running gear work with the Costume? There are many normal running gear additions, but I will focus on the Hydration belt (a hydration backpack may have the same issues though). If you wear a hydration belt, you will need to test it. I am surprised at how many people forget this item. They don’t use it while testing their outfit on a 3-5 miles run, but feel they will need it for their long distance race. Test this out! Find out if that hydration belt goes with the costume in terms of look and feel, and see if you make the belt become part of your costume.

Testing your costume can be pointless or futile if you add a new piece on race day. Especially if you are going for aesthetics and that belt doesn’t look so good with your costume or hides an essential costume piece you were proud of. Belts can add friction points as it molds the costume to your body. Fill the belt too, as if you were running the full distance, to see how it works with your costume. Does water spray out and leave a chance for your costume to bleed? Is the belt interfering with your wings? (Tip: Sometimes you can use your fuel belt or race bib holders to attach your costume pieces.)


Kimberly Pender Wiezycki in her Tower of Terror 10 Miler Red Queen Costume. She used Urban Decay All Nighter Setting spray and makeup. She said it worked great in the humidity.

5. Preventing Makeup Issues. Are you wearing a lot of makeup or a little? Test it to see if makeup works with your running. IS your makeup smearing from your sweating? Is it not even remotely staying in place once you sweat? Do you touch your face a lot and is that smearing your makeup? IF either of these are happening consistently, makeup might not be a good option for you. If intent on makeup, say for example your Smurf outfit, I recommend trying Theatrical makeup, such as Ben Nye, if you are serious about wearing some great makeup that lasts. There are also durable long lasting 24 hour cosmetic makeup that will last for long distance runs as well.

Read here for cosmetic makeup that lasts while running.

 6. Preventing Overheating.  Practicing lets you know how hot you may become and adjust your outfit before the race. Costumes pieces often become financial losses once you become too hot while running, even when you thought the costume would be fine. Masks and wigs can be especially hot or cumbersome and sometimes add a headache to the heat problems. If you test it around the house and you are hot, imagine it while running even just ½ of a mile. The fluffier the outfit, the more material, the hotter it will be. Cotton is a horrible race material that does not breathe or wick away your moisture. Even shoe covers can add heat to your feet causing excessive sweating.


Teresa Wymetalek admits to feeling extremely hot overall in just this half-mask at the 2013 Hero-Up Half

7. Ensuring your Costume Jewelry will Work.  Is the Jewelry Feasible? Test runs indicate if your necklace will bounce too much or if it is scratching your neck and face beyond comfort. Are the earrings staying where you wanted them to or are they catching in your hair as you run? Maybe your jewelry is making too much noise. Is that headband ready to be tossed to the wayside because it keeps slipping? Maybe the 100 bangle bracelets for your 80s costume run sounded like a good idea before your test run, but now they are slowly driving you crazy.

But What if I Can’t Test My Costume?

There are numerous reasons to test your costume before a run. However I understand not everyone will be able to do so before race day. So what can you do if you are unable to test run your costume? It could be vanity, time, or maybe you want your costume to be a surprise. Whatever the reason, if you absolutely cannot try your costume on a run before the race, I recommend trying it at home. Wear your full costume around the house during cleaning or another activity that keeps your busy and moving. You need to be doing something other than watching TV. This may help find some scratchy areas, or issues that you can address, or work on, prior to the race. I also recommend lots of lots of Vaseline on any point you may think may be a problem area.

But What if I DID Test My Costume?

Finally, what do you do if you run into issues along the course AND you did test your costume. There is hope in case you run into problems due to distance, environment, or something else that you did not ‘run’ into while testing. I recommend bringing two things that willmake your life easier. First bring a small baggy of Vaseline. Vaseline can also be used for chafing or rub spots or even to place a small amount along your eyebrows (think light unibrow) which help prevent sweat running into your eyes, and prevent further smearing of your makeup. Second, take a safety pin and attach about eight more safety pins of various sizes to the original pin. These can be used in case of emergencies along the way. These ‘Emergency Costume Aid Kit” pieces are small enough to fit in most small spaces, like a pants or waterbottle pocket, and help you in a pinch.

Do you have another reason why you should test run? Or have an example of what happened to you because you did not do a test run?

See Below for more Costumed Runners! These ones are from our area!


Stephanie Backman (as a chicken) for the 2011 West Linn Turkey Trot


Stephanie Backman (Frosty the Snowman) and Kelly Barnard (sporting her Christmas vest) at the Portland Holiday Half Marathon.


Stephanie Backman (as a pilgrim) at the 2012 West Linn Turkey Trot


Mel Ortiz dressed as a rum drink for the 2013 Energy Event’s Rum Run (seen here with friend Maddy Mulhern). This is another example where she used the race theme to create the costume idea.

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