Tips for Athletic Cosplay

As a resident of Central Florida, I often take advantage of the many events within the local theme parks. I’ve attended lock-ins at water parks, after-hours college parties in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and concerts at Universal. However, after months of training, I was finally able to participate for the first time in an extraordinary, one-of-a-kind event. On February 26th, amidst fireworks and pixie dust, my mother and I ran the 2017 Disney Princess Half-Marathon.

Prior to this race, I had run two other half marathons, a 15K, and numerous 5Ks, but nothing compares to what we ran through on this course. The race took us through both the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT and the highway connecting both parks. There were several stops for photo ops with face characters along the side of the course (we stopped for Mrs. Incredible, the Beast, and Mushu) and giant screens displaying highlight reels of inspiring Disney princess moments.

But the costumes worn by the runners were what really stood out. They ranged from the very simple – a purple tank top and green shorts to pay homage to Ariel – to the beautifully elaborate – a French maid outfit with a feather skirt to evoke Babette the feather duster from Beauty and the Beast. While I didn’t realize just how many people would dress up or how much fun it would add to the atmosphere, I knew enough about the race ahead of time to want to wear a costume of my own. I didn’t want to dress up as any old princess, however. I wanted to stand out and give a nod to a Disney gal that doesn’t always get the love she deserves. I wanted to dress up as Maid Marian from Robin Hood.


Maid Marian from Disney’s “Robin Hood”

When I was a child, I’d wrap my pink baby blanket around my head and prance around the house, pretending to be Maid Marian. Throughout the movie, she remains a wonderfully kind and graceful character, and I always admired that. She derives her power from her gentleness and love, and I wanted to carry that spirit with me as I ran the half marathon.

However, I soon found out that running cosplay is not all that simple, and hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and experience to create a one-of-a-kind cosplay for any upcoming themed races or athletic events that you may have.

  1. Wear running clothes. You are, above all, running a race. You should be dressing to fit that first and foremost. Make sure your attire doesn’t hinder your movement, weigh you down, or in any way keep you from doing what you’re there to do: run.
  2. Begin with your desired character’s color scheme. This serves as an excellent jumping off point for your cosplay. Browse online and at your local sporting goods store for pieces in these colors. This will begin to give you ideas of what base pieces you can work with or modify.
  3. Do not be afraid to deviate from your character’s outfit. Maid Marian wears a long dress. There was no way I was going to run 13.1 miles in a dress that went down to my feet (although it should be noted that some runners at this race did just that). I instead compromised with a spandex running skirt and tights. Think of your running cosplay as more of an homage to the character rather than the faithful recreations you see at cons. You want to hit the main visual cues (color scheme, basic shape, any simple and portable accessories, etc.) while leaving the rest to comfort.
  4. Little details matter. If there is a motif that surrounds your character, try to find a subtle way to incorporate it into your outfit. For example, my mother wore a yellow tank top and a yellow skirt to channel Belle from Beauty & the Beast. She set her outfit apart from the others by adding a thin yellow headband adorned with a red silk rose. It was the perfect way to show off her unique love for the character while still keeping her outfit functional.


    My mother and I after the race.

  5. Be mindful of your fellow racers. Make sure that your cosplay does not interfere with anyone who might be running a foot or two away from you. The headpiece that I wore as Maid Marian was fine if it trailed behind me naturally. For some of the course, however, we were on the highway that goes through Disney’s property, and the wind picked up considerably during these stretches. That meant the veil of the headpiece often drifted to the side, and I had to gather it in my hands to keep it from flying in the face of the other runners. Which brings me to the next tip…
  6. Consider aerodynamics. If you’re planning to wear something that juts out more than a few inches from your body, make sure it is well secured. Otherwise, you may end up holding that piece of your costume after it has broken off or you may end up ditching it altogether. My Maid Marian headpiece consisted of a cat-ear headband wrapped in silk and draped with a lighter fabric. It sat on my head comfortably while walking and running before the race, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. I did not factor in the wind. When the course was on the open road, I ended up running with the headpiece in my hand, although I didn’t mind since it was lightweight and compact. Fortunately, when we ran in the parks, the buildings blocked most of the wind, and I was able to run with it on my head with no issues.  
  7. Do not alter your shoes for the sake of your cosplay. Especially if you are running a race that is five miles or longer, you should be running with the shoes that you have trained with. If you’re set on having every part of your outfit match, purchase your shoes well in advance of the race and begin training with them. That way, come race day, there are no surprises as to how the shoe rubs against your foot or how the shoes affect your footfalls.
  8. Take it on a test run. Despite how silly it feels, I highly recommend wearing your cosplay during one of your training runs a few weeks before the race. It gives you time to adjust or substitute the pieces that aren’t working, and it lets you have a taste of the fun that you’ll have on race day. That small inspiration can help to pull you out of a training slump and remind you of why you’re doing this which is to…
  9. Have fun! Your cosplay is ultimately for you. Dress as the character you want to dress as. Pick a character that inspires you or one that you have a strong personal connection with. Cosplay is meant to bring joy to you, and if your outfit becomes such a hassle that you’re not enjoying the anticipation of the event or the event itself, evaluate what needs to change in order for you to be happy.

I wish you the best of luck in all of your future athletic events, and I hope you have the opportunity to participate in themed events that reflect your nerdy interests. If you have any additional tips for athletic cosplays, I would love to see them in the comments section.

Happy running!

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