9 tips for running in fancy dress

Gorilla Steve takes on his local trails. Getty Images

Related: The definitive guide to running the London Marathon 2018

1/ Practise in your outfit before the big day

You know the rules - nothing new on race day, hilarious costumes included. Take your fancy dress out for a test run before your goal race – maybe a local 10K if you’re aiming for a half marathon. ‘This will bring to light all manner of awfulness such as how animals respond to you, where it rubs, chafes and generally mashes up tender bits of your body,’ says Jim Mowatt, who horns his way through Parkruns in a rhino costume to fundraise for Save the Rhino International.

2/ Adapt your costume

Once you’ve undertaken your test run, make tweaks to your fancy dress if necessary. ‘Though I had to lose a little cuteness, the tail of my rhino costume made me want to massacre everyone within a five mile radius after only about 5 minutes! I had to unfortunately tuck it up and out of the way,’ Mowatt says.

3/ Get lubed up

As with any running attire, costume material rubbing repeatedly can result in nasty chafing. After probably finding out the hard way where this is likely to occur during your practise race, you can safeguard your skin by lubing up with Vaseline or a specialist anti-chafe product. We've rounded up the best anti-chafe products for runners here. Make sure you use plenty while you’re at it – ‘Better to be safe than chafe!’ says marathoner Tim Jones, who's taken on 20 events in full Superman attire.

4/ Set your sights low

Let’s be honest, if you’re dragging round a hefty costume for miles and miles, it’s not the day to be aiming for a PB. ‘If your costume weighs a lot, you will have to allow extra time when competing,’ says John Wallace, who’s undertaken 297 marathons since 1986 dressed in his very own Superman ensemble.

5/ Think practical

Take into account practical issues such as how you’ll get to the toilet – easier said than done in an all-in-one get-up. If your costume covers your head or includes a mask, make sure you can drink in it without it causing you major bother. If they obscure your vision (for example, a Big Ben outfit), get a running buddy to accompany you. ‘Having a friend that can help prevent you ploughing through the crowd and causing a major incident is not a bad idea!’, Mowatt recommends.

Bear in mind that if your costume if particularly hot or heavy, that can bring its own issues. ‘Take care not to overhydrate, but remember you might sweat more and thus need to drink more,’ advises Jones.

6/ Prepare for form to take a hit

If you’re in a particularly heavy or bulky costume, it may be very difficult to maintain your usual running form. Until you’re confident you can get through a long distance without compromising technique and risking injury, stick to shorter races or, dare we say, less outrageous costumes. To give yourself the best chance out there, get in relevant training – Jones suggests running with a weighted backpack.

7/ Include activewear

Most fancy dress costumes are designed for no more activity than swanning from party to party, so they aren’t made from optimal running materials. Mowatt suggests wearing a dry-fit or similar short-sleeved technical running top underneath to help reduce sweat saturation, plus a headband to keep sweat out your eyes.

8/ Choose your race

While it’s not uncommon to see a multitude of costumed runners at any big race, some events go all out on the fancy dress vibes. Surrey Bacchus Half Marathon and France’s Medoc Marathon are both fancy dress extravaganzas (with a little wine added for good measure).

9/ Enjoy!

In amongst a sea of sweaty, tired runners, you are a dazzling mermaid (figuratively, and perhaps literally). ‘Crowds love the effort you have put in to run in fancy dress and engage with you,’ says Jones. If you can get past the physical effort of running in full costume, soak up the atmosphere, high five the spectators and enjoy the experience!