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On your mark, get set, sew your running costume

When there’s danger of taking your running too seriously, it’s time to break out the costumes.

The race calendar is filled with Halloween-themed races that encourage costumes, from Pumpkins in the Park on Oct. 27 in Delaware Park to the EVL Half Marathon in Ellicottville on Oct. 26 and the Boo Bash & Dash on Nov. 1 at the Hotel Lafayette.

Those are all warm-ups, of course, to the biggest costume run of the year, the annual YMCA Turkey Trot.

For 124 years, the race has been a staple of the Western New York running community. And for the last 40 years, running in costume has become a hallmark of the event.

“We started a formal costume contest in 2012, but costumes have been part of the Turkey Trot forever. We have photos from the early 1980s and that’s when it seems to have started to take off in terms of tradition,” said Geoffrey Falkner, communications director for YMCA Buffalo Niagara. “With the Turkey Trot being less competitive and more about togetherness and family time together, costumes are a natural offspring. A lot of costumes show off that spirit and show off the spirit of Buffalo.”

There have been people dressed up as Shark Girl, the famous statue of Canalside, along with those dressing up as their favorite Buffalo athletes.

Falkner has run the 8K and has often ended up near three men who dress as the Buffalo Sabres French Connection -- Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, and Rene Robert.

“I’ve been running alongside the guys who dress as the French Connection and it’s especially fun as a runner because they have their little skits,” Falkner said. “They’ll run by the bus stop and make it into a penalty box and of a sudden someone is called for a penalty and they have to go stop in the bus stop. Those kinds of things, you just can’t replicate.”

There are people who run with canoes over their heads. Others who push recliners or alternate with their friends in shopping carts.

The official costume contest is judged before the race, with contestants asked to gather near the stage at the starting line at 8:20 a.m. for the guest celebrity judge to make the determination, usually with the help of the crowd. The winner gets “between 15 seconds and 15 minutes of fame,” Falkner said.

Last year’s individual winner was dressed as one of the crane games that grace the entrance of grocery stores, shopping malls, and arcades. The creativity turns the 14,000-person race into a partial parade into downtown Buffalo.

“Superheroes are popular,” Falkner said. “Most are turkey and fall-themed. People get very creative. There was a group that dressed up as a full table setting for Thanksgiving dinner and another that dressed up as different parts of the meal -- the turkey, the gravy, the mashed potatoes, etc.”

If that’s the look you’re going for, you better warm up your sewing machines since it’s unlikely you’ll be able to dash into a store to pick up a last-minute running costume. The majority are homemade creations. But there has been an increase in holiday-themed running gear -- shirts, hats, headbands, socks -- that can get runners in pretty much any holiday spirit.

“It’s becoming more popular but it’s not rampant,” said Ellen Brenner, the vice president and chief financial officer of Fleet Feet & YellowJacket Racing. “We don’t have our store filled with it, but some vendors have themed holiday gear. Some people like to wear festive items and Halloween is the most popular time frame for us. You’ll also see people wear themed gear for a race around the Fourth of July or a group of friends might dress like a team. But most of the costumes you see are homemade.”

Fleet Feet/YellowJacket Racing’s Pumpkins in the Park has a costume contest, but they moved it to social media. Photos are uploaded to Fleet Feet’s Facebook group page with people having 48 hours to vote for their favorite costumed runners. The picture with the most likes wins a $25 voucher to Fleet Feet.

The Boo Bash & Dash has its costume contest after the run at the Hotel Lafayette with winners 21-and-over getting a six-pack of Ringside Beer.

Running Calendar

Friday, Nov. 1

  • BOO Bash & Dash, 5K, 7:30 p.m., Hotel Lafayette, 391 Washington St., Buffalo

Saturday, Nov. 2

  • Veterans Race 5K, 9 a.m., Templeton Landing, Buffalo
  • The Mighty Fitz, 5K, 2 p.m., Brickyard Pub, 432 Center St., Lewiston

Sunday, Nov. 3

  • Boys On The Right Track Fall Fun Run, 5K, 9:30 a.m., Nike Base, 2982 Lakeview Rd., Hamburg

Saturday, Nov. 9

  • Lindsay's Legacy Run, 5K, 11 a.m., Clinton Park, Clinton and Broad streets, Tonawanda

Sunday, Nov. 10

  • Iroquois Foundation 4-Miler Salutes Veterans, 4 Miles, 9:30 a.m., Iroquois Central School, 2111 Girdle Rd., Elma
  • 914th ARW Veterans Recognition Run, 5K, 11 a.m., Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, 10405 Lockport Rd., Niagara Falls

Saturday, Nov. 16

  • Michelle's Memorial 5K, 9 a.m., Middleport Fire Hall, 28 Main St., Middleport
  • Take A Breath For Life, 5K, 11 a.m., Hamburg Fair Grounds, Lower Grandstand, 5600 McKinley Ave., Hamburg

Thursday, Nov. 28

  • 124th annual YMCA Turkey Trot, 8K, 9 a.m., Delaware Avenue YMCA, 2564 Delaware Ave., Buffalo

Saturday, Nov. 30

  • Home For The Holidays, 5K, 9 a.m., Orleans County YMCA, 306 Pearl St., Medina
  • Tacky Sweater Run, 5K, 9 a.m., Palace Theater, 2 East Ave., Lockport

Saturday, Dec. 7

  • Niagara PAL Santa Dash, 5K, 9 a.m., Sheraton At The Falls, 300 Third St., Niagara Falls
  • Holly Jolly, 5K, 10 a.m., The Orchard Fresh Plaza, 4050 N. Buffalo St., Orchard Park

Saturday, Dec. 21

  • Caroler 5K Run, 9 a.m., The Irishman Pub & Eatery, 162 Main St., East Aurora
  • Holiday 5K at Old Fort Niagara, 11 a.m., Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown

Tuesday, Dec. 31

  • New Year's Eve 5K, noon, Fort Niagara State Park, Youngstown








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