Fancy dress always makes things extra fun for runners. As a runner, there are times when you might need to wear fancy dress. Reasons for fancy dress include a fun themed event, an anniversary park run, as part of your fundraising charity efforts, or purely for banter, to name a few.
Fancy dress is a fun way to spice up your running. In this article, I’ll drill down 30 of my favourite fancy dress ideas for runners. But, first…
Why can running in fancy dress be a problem?
Though fancy dress is meant to be fun and downright silly, it can (unfortunately) cause a few issues.
There’s a lot of choices
The first issue is deciding which fancy dress costume you will wear. There are hundreds of fancy-dress companies all supplying different costumes, meaning there are literally thousands of different fancy dress ideas.
With so much choice, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and spend ages analysing every possible option. It’s like being in a restaurant with the biggest menu in the world. We read the description of each item, consider it’s benefits and disadvantages, and compare it to every other menu item. We spend too much time choosing what to eat, rather than eating itself!
Too much choice is not a good thing, it’s handy to have some recommendations.
Not all fancy-dress costumes are suitable for running
There’s no such thing (to my knowledge) of a fancy dress ‘running selection’. Fancy dress costumes are designed for general purposes, for an array of occasions from dinner parties to work fundraising events. Therefore, some fancy dress costumes aren’t suitable for running.
Some garments are too thick and heavy which can be a health risk, causing you to get overly warm during your run and unable to cool down.
Other fancy-dress costumes might be too tight, and not allow you to breathe as naturally as you’d normally breathe whilst running which can be a health and safety hazard.
It’s helpful to have some recommendations of costumes which are suitable and appropriate for running.
Before you run, remember these tips
Practice in your costume before the big day– Don’t wait till race day to put your costume on for the first day. That’d be mad. Imagine if it didn’t fit, or rubbed you horrendously? Not only would you have an ill-fitting costume, you now have the pleasure of having to run with it too.
Remember, you’ve turned up and everything. No backing out now. Take your fancy dress costume for a test run before the big day. Preferably the test run should be outside to mimic the conditions of the run itself.
However, lots of runners feel embarrassed to do this so using a treadmill from a local gym or the comfort of your own home is acceptable too. When your running, make sure the costume is comfortable and doesn’t mash up the tender bids of your body. You won’t even need to run for that long. Just make sure you’re comfortable and happy with your fancy dress purchase.
Lube yourself up– Costume material is notorious for rubbing repeatedly against your skin which can result in nasty chafing. Anyone who has run a half-marathon or marathon only to find their nipples are incredibly sore will know what I mean. Therefore, it pays to get yourself covered in some lube before the race.
Use an anti-chafe product, like Vaseline, to rub onto your skin and create a thin layer between you and the costume. If the costume does rub, you’ll be protected and can enjoy your post-run relax chafe-free. Thank me later!
Don’t aim for a personal best– This is a big one, especially if you’re a competitive person. When wearing fancy dress your primary aim should be to have fun, not to get a personal best.
Often, costumes are a little heavy and will impact your usual running style. Fancy dress runs aren’t the time to be aiming for a personal best. Trust me. Leave quick times for another day, when you have your proper running gear on.
Bring a change of normal clothing– A common mistake for fancy dress runners to make is to rock up on race day with nothing on them but their fancy-dress costume.
Whilst that’s great for the race itself, you’ll find it’s annoying when you want to quickly slip off your costume for some comfy bottoms and loungewear post-race. Don’t make things difficult for yourself.
Take a spare set of comfy clothing you’ll be happy to slip into after the race. You’ll be glad you did when you’re sitting in the car in your favourite hoodie rather than your Mario costume.
Be ready for reduced form– If you’re in a costume, you probably won’t be able to maintain decent running form. It doesn’t matter if you’re Mo Farah, The Brownlee Brothers or Sebastian Coe, wearing a fancy dress costume can make your technique a bit awkward.
Your stride length might be a bit wobbly and you might feel a little weighed down by your costume. If you’re particularly worried about running with your form taking a hit, make sure you test of your costume before a race or stick to shorter distances at first.
You’ll become familiar with your costume and how it affects your form, so you can adapt your movements and get confident in your costume.
Without further ado, here are 30 great fancy dress ideas for runners
1. Power Rangers
Everyone knows the Power Rangers. These instantly recognisable heroes are best worn as morph suits and are a great idea for race day fancy dress.
Power Rangers outfits can be worn as a solo effort, or as part of a group for added fun. The morph suits won’t slow you down, are highly breathable and are naturally streamlined. What more could you want? It’s morphing time!
2. Where’s Wally?
The Where’s Wally series of children’s puzzle books have been entertaining children (and adults) for over three decades. Why is the costume so funny? Wally is a cartoon character who is known for being incredibly difficult to spot.
Ironically, his choice of clothing is unusual with his signature red and white striped jumper and hat giving Wally his distinctive look. One would think Wally would be easy to spot in the books, but that’s not the case! It’s common to spend 10 minutes at a time searching for Wally if you’re not careful.
Give runners and passers-by a great feeling. Not only will they be happy to spot Wally (kind of), they’ll also think back to many happy memories from their childhood.
3. Mario & Luigi
Perhaps the most iconic video game series of all time, Mario and Luigi are from the ‘Mario’ series which was created by Nintendo in 1981.
A hugely strange concept, the series follows Mario (a plumber) on his travels through a fantasy universe. His outings often revolve around trying to save Princess Peach from a villain (either Bowser or Donkey Kong). Mario is often joined by his brother, Luigi, who is famous for matching Mario’s red clothing but in green.
If you’re planning to run with someone else, assigning Mario & Luigi between the two of you will be huge fun.
As the name suggests, a superhero is a heroic character who performs deeds of a supernature.
Usually, superheroes possess superhuman or supernatural powers like being super strong or able to run quickly (something we all want as runners!)
Superheroes tend to originate from comics, and the two most famous series are DC and Marvel. DC created superheroes like The Flash, Green Lantern, Superman, Cyborg, Aqua man, Wonderwoman and Shazam. Marvel created Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, Spiderman, and Wolverine.
You have plenty of fancy dress costumes for running with superheroes. One idea is to simply wear a compression superhero top. Cheap to purchase and easy to run with, they make for a fantastic race fancy dress costume.
Superman, Superwoman, Spiderman Morph Suit, Deadpool Morph Suit, Captain America Morph Suit, Iron Man Morph Suit, Wolverine Morph Suit, Robin Costume, Batman Costume, The Flash Costume, Wonder woman Costume
5. Scooby Doo Characters
Scooby Snacks, ghosts and hidden clues all spring to mind when anybody mentions ‘Scooby Doo.’
This American animated franchise follows a gang of high school students, and their dog ‘Scooby’, as they take it upon themselves to solve mysteries. Being 1960’s stereotypes of American teenagers, the gang make for a fun and eye-catching fancy dress.
Wearing a light version of these character costumes on race day will make your fancy dress stand out, and you can pay homage to this fantastic cartoon series. Let’s split up and look for clues!
6. 118 guys
One of the most well-known adverts ever to grace our screens, the 118 guys are instantly recognisable.
Though the ‘118 118’ is a reference to the UK telephone number for a US owed directory enquiries provider, the 118 guys have become a cult figure amongst fancy dressers.
These costumes are super easy to run in because they’re just a vest and shorts. For 118 magic you can wear the wig and apply (or grow) a moustache, but that’s really your call (pardon the pun).
If you’re running with someone else, see if they’ll be the other 50% of the 118 duo and turn heads wherever you run.
7. Disco Fans
If the 70’s were famous for one type of music, it might be disco music. Disco music is a subculture and genre that emerged from American’s urban nightlife scene.
The music is characterised by a syncopated bass-line, string section, horns, electric piano, synthesizers, prominent rhythm guitar, and a load of groove.
Most disco fashion was very trendy. Disco goers would often wear glamorous, flashy and extravagant outfits on a night out which would certainly turn heads.
Think flares and spandex body suits. If you still have no idea, think of ‘disco Stu’ in The Simpsons!
The loose fitting of disco-inspired fancy dress means they’re great garments for fancy dress running.
Coming from the record-breaking ‘Despicable Me’ series, minions are strange yellow creates who live to serve. Ironically, they find themselves working for unsuccessful masters and the minions find themselves unoccupied and bored.
Their simple-minded nature and innocent have made minions a fan-favourite. Why not run as a minion? You’ll be instantly recognisable and make children (and adults) smile as they remember happy despicable me memories.
9. Santa Claus & Mrs Claus
When the weather outside is frightening’ and the fire is slowly dying, you can wear Santa Claus & Mrs Claus fancy dress costumes on your runs.
Perfect for the Christmas season, Santa inspired outfits to pay homage to the legendary figure said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas Eve. You’ll certainly instil some Christmas spirit with this fancy-dress costume.
Perhaps you could wear a Santa inspired costume on the Christmas day park run and bring some festive cheer!
10. Zoo animals
Regardless of how old you are, everyone loves a trip to the zoo. A zoo is a facility in which all the animals are housed in protected and safe enclosures, on display to the public.
The conditions which the animals live in are supposed to mimic how they’d live in the wild. For instance, the lion and tiger enclosures would mimic the African Savanna whilst the bear’s environment would mimic American woodland.
Dressing up like zoo animals is a fantastic running fancy dress idea because there are so many animals to choose from. Perfect if you’re running as a family or a group, everybody can assign themselves an individual animal.
That way you can easily identify with each other before, during and after the race. Choose your favourite animal and run in style!
Your skeleton is the hard structure that protects your internal organs and muscles. All the bones in your body join up to form your skeleton. Though you can’t see your skeleton you can easily feel it, and without one we’d collapse in a goo-like mess onto the floor. Nasty!
Skeleton costumes are ideal for running in the dark (due to their bright white skeleton colour), and for Halloween fancy dress runs. Get into the creepy spirit, wear a skeleton costume for fancy dress running.
For added jokes, try this little skeleton joke on fellow runners. ‘Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the Halloween party? He had nobody to dance with!’
12. The Incredibles
Imagine if you and your family were well-known superheroes. That’s just what The Incredibles is, a family of superheroes.
Created by Pixar, The Incredibles are a typical American family with a difference. They have superhuman powers. Mr Incredible is super strong, Mrs Incredible is highly elastic, Dash is quicker than lightning, Violet can go invisible, and the baby can transform into anything he wants. Far out!
What makes The Incredibles an excellent choice for running fancy dress, is their iconic red superhero outfits complete with signature ‘I’ in the middle of the chest.
Many of these costumes are breathable, lightweight and made of comfortable material. Get running and be incredible today!
Zombies have been frightening audiences for hundreds of years in stories, plays and folklore tales alike. A zombie is an undead being created through the reanimation of a human corpse. Though they look human and move, they’re anything but human.
You might be familiar with zombies if you watch The Walking Dead, have seen Dawn of the Dead (or Shaun of the Dead), or 28 days later. Zombies are terrifying because they live off a diet of live flesh.
Yes, zombies aren’t bothered about eating you alive. Thankfully, zombies don’t exist and they’re a fictional creation. Phew!
Give fellow runners and passers-by the heebie-jeebies with a zombie costume. Perfect for night runs or Halloween runs.
14. Wizard of Oz Characters
What could be more memorable than the lion who needs courage, or the scarecrow who needs a brain, or the tin man who fancies a heart? Nothing, of course! It’s the Wizard of Oz, and there’s no place like home.
This 1939 cinematic classic was ground-breaking in its day for use of costumes and special effects. Featuring a loveable cast, whatever costume you pick is sure to be colourful and eye-catching. Great for fancy dress running.
Maybe you’ll find the yellow brick road.
Is there life outside of Earth? Are there aliens in the universe? Who knows, but one thing for sure, going as an alien for a fancy-dress run is a great idea!
Humans have been speculating whether life forms from other planets exist for thousands of years. Perfect for sci-fi fans, alien costumes are great for running fancy dress.
To mimic the supposed thin and slippery skin of aliens, most fancy-dress costumes are designed to be breathable and thin. Therefore, they’re ideal for runners wishing to get into the fancy dress spirit.
Leprechauns are staples of Irish folklore. They are usually depicted as a little-bearded man wearing a green coat and hat, who partake in mischief and are said to know the whereabouts of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Many funny leprechaun fancy dress costumes exist, making for a fun and enjoyable race day costume. For instance, there’s the funny leprechaun ‘piggyback’ costume which gives the illusion you are being piggybacked by a leprechaun.
Popularised for modern audiences by the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, featuring Johnny Depp, pirates are a cool running fancy dress idea. Though glamorised for modern audiences, being accused of piracy back in the day was not good.
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship, typically at sea. Pirates were feared due to their malice and lack of mercy. Anyone convicted of piracy would be sentenced to hanging, to set an example to other would-be pirates. Gloomy, or what?
Never the less, pirate costumes still make for a fantastic fancy-dress idea. Most pirate costumes are loose and highly breathable, so they’re ideal for running short or long distances.
For added pirate vibes, get a toy sword to run with or stash on your belt. You could even get a fake parrot to proper on your shoulder.
Okay, maybe you got sick of hearing the song ‘let it go’ after it came on the radio for the millionth time. Never the less, Frozen makes for a fantastic set of fancy-dress costumes for runners.
Complete with a diverse cast for you to choose from, get festive with Frozen fancy dress costumes for your runs.
Maybe the most terrifying villain on this list, Negan is a fictional character in the TV series ‘The Walking Dead.’ Famous for wielding his thirsty bat Lucille, wearing a stylish leather jacket and red cravat, Negan is the perfect fancy dress costume for colder or Halloween runs.
Though you don’t have to run with Negan’s bat, Lucile, it’ll certainly be extra motivation for runners in front of you to get a move on! If you’ve seen the Walking Dead, try doing Negan’s signature whistle to inflict some terror. If you’re running as Negan, you’d better get into character, right?
20. Baywatch Life Guard
Get your swimsuits ready! Baywatch was a popular coastal series centring around a group of lifeguards in Los Angeles. The soap opera featured a lot of sand, sun and bikinis, but also tackled many serious themes and featured multifaceted characters.
Iconic for its slow-motion footage of lifeguards gallantly running into the water to save a drowning beach-goer, Baywatch has become a cult classic.
Be like David Hasselhoff or Pamela Anderson and get your lifeguard on for your fancy dress run!
Smurfs are little blue human-like creates who live in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest. Famous for their love able charm and witty banter, Smurfs are a relatively simple yet effective fancy-dress idea for runners.
All that is required is to wear something blue, paint your face blue, and to wear a white hat. Simple enough, right?
22. Fast Food
An ironic yet humour fancy dress choice, going as a fast food item is sure to turn some heads. Fast food is a mass-produced food that is typically prepared and served quicker than traditional food.
Often, fast foods are less nutritionally valuable and are worse for your health. The catch-22 is that fast food items, like pizza and burgers, taste so good!
As you’ll be running, putting in lots of work and physically exerting yourself, you’ll make fellow runner’s mouths water. Cruel, but hilarious all the same. Dare to give it a try? Dress up as your favourite fast food item for your next fancy dress run.
23. The Simpsons
The Simpsons are the most well-known animated family to ever grace our screens.
The long-running animated comedy focuses on the eponymous family in the fictional town of Springfield in an unnamed U.S. state. The head of The Simpsons family, Homer, is not your typical man. A nuclear power plant employee with an obviously low IQ, the show follows the adventures and mishaps that homer and his family get up to.
Long-time fans of the show feel like they’ve gotten to know the town and it’s many characters well. Simpsons fans will be able to conjure a face in their minds when someone mentions Nelson, Moe, Apu, Lisa, Disco Stu, Radioactive Man, Principal Skinner, and Chief Wiggum, to name a few.
With such an abundance of characters to choose from, there’s plenty of ideas for running fancy dress.
24. The Muppets
Kermit the Frog, Animal, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, all spring to mind when ‘The Muppets’ is mentioned. Created by pioneering puppeteer Jim Henson in the 1950s, The Muppets have been a staple of kid’s television for decades.
The great thing about muppets fancy dress is that there are so many fantastic characters to choose from. Everyone has their favourite! Pick yours, get some fancy dress, and make race day truly unforgettable in Muppets fashion.
25. Fairy Tale Characters
When we hear the phrase ‘fairytale’ we immediately think of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and so on.
Fairy tales are a type of folkloric story that typically features some magical entities like dragons, elves, fairies, magic lamps, or witches. Fairy tales are seemingly light-hearted entertainment, but they contain hidden messages and morals which aim to teach audiences how to live their lives better.
The variety of fairy tales which exist means there’s a load of fancy-dress costumes to choose from. Personally, my favourite is a Pinocchio costume. What’s yours?
26. Wacky Racers
Wacky Races was a hugely popular 60s TV series. It centred around a group of racers with distinct looks and personalities, as they battled it out each episode to come first place in a race.
Each racer had a car to match their personalities, and the show captured the interest of children all over the world. Why not bring the race from Wacky Races, to your fancy dress run?
27. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Who doesn’t love Roald Dahl’s classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The fantastic story follows a poverty-stricken young man, Charlie Bucket, and his adventure after finding one of the sacred golden tickets in a chocolate bar.
Charlie, his grandad, and four other lucky winners get the chance to explore the magical and mysterious factory of eccentric candy maker Willy Wonka. Complete with laughs, Oompa Loompa workers, and lots of chocolate, this story has been enjoyed by millions of fans all over the world.
Why not add some Roald Dahl magic into your fancy dress run?
28. Hawaiian outfits
When we think of Hawaii, our mind immediately goes to a scenic beach in the hot sun sipping cocktails and eating great food. Maybe you’ve been on holiday to Hawaii, or plan to go there in the future.
Hawaiians sure know how to spark a fancy-dress craze with their colourful and ocean inspired costume choices. Get into the Hawaiian spirit and get yourself a flowery shirt, headband, cuffs, and so on.
29. Mime Artist
A mime or mime artist is a person who uses mime as a theatrical medium or as a performance art. Miming involves acting out a story through body motions, without the use of speech.
When most people think of mime artists, they think of strolling through the majestic streets of Paris and enjoying a bit of street performance. Mime artists are eye catching thanks to their use of black and white colours, representing contrast and illusion in their movements and composure.
Running as a mime artist is a great fancy dress idea. The costumes are relatively cheap, easy to source, lightweight and look like you’ve gone to loads of effort.
You’ll certainly be a head turner as a mime artist on race day. It might even be worth learning a bit of mime, for added effect!
30. The Beatles
With 17 number one singles, hundreds of millions of albums sold worldwide, an incredibly diverse song catalogue, and perhaps the most iconic song writing team the world has ever seen, the fab four is fantastic fancy-dress idea for race day.
Pay homage to the music of these four icons, who changed the face of music forever, with a Beatles inspired costume. You could go for the groovy Sergeant Pepper outfits, which will certainly catch some eyes on your fancy dress run.
Enjoy your fancy dress run!
These are just a few of my favourite fancy dress ideas to run in. Whatever idea you choose and run in on race day, enjoy your run!
It might be difficult to run in fancy dress, but I can assure you it’s well worth the effort! Crowds and fellow runners will appreciate the efforts you’ve gone to and will often make appreciative comments to express their approval. Get those smiling muscles ready.
Remember, dressing up is supposed to be a laugh. Don’t take it too seriously and make some happy memories you’ll remember for life. That’s what running is all about, right?
Take a moment to speak to other runners and compliment them on their fancy dress choice. It only takes a moment to make somebody feel good and to get a conversation flowing. Bonus points for spotting somebody related to your fancy dress. I once found a Batman when I was dressed as Robin and we found it hilarious, getting a quick snap in the race village before things got going.
The importance of race day pictures
A mistake I’ve made countless times is forgetting to take a race day picture, when wearing fancy dress.
It’s annoying when you’ve had such a fun day, filled with laughs and banter, only to find you forgot to document it with a quick picture. It’s so frustrating because it literally takes a minute to either get a selfie, or ask a random passer-by to take a picture of you and your group in your costumes.
It might seem like a chore to get a picture. Especially if you’re tired and exhausted in your costume. However, I guarantee it will be worth the effort because the picture will spark a fond memory of race day in years to come. You will be pleased you decided to document your fancy dress run.
Additionally, uploading the pictures you take to social media sites like Facebook or Instagram will make your friends and family smile. They’ll comment and joke about what you’ve been up to. A great way to use your fancy dress running to connect with loved ones.
Remember to take pictures on race day. Make memories, document them, and treasure the good running times forever.
Don’t just use your fancy dress costume on race day…
It’s always worth having at least one fancy dress costume in the house somewhere. You never know when you might need it. Fancy dress parties happen on Christmas eve, birthday parties, themed weekends away, work bashes, hen and stag dos, and so on. Though it might not seem like it, fancy dress occasions are common.
People are caught out all the time when they’re invited to a fancy dress occasion, and leave it far too late to arrange an outfit. Don’t let that be you!
After you get your costume and have a memorable race, you can put it in storage or a far corner of your wardrobe for whenever you need it. Your future self will thank you for this.
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