Last week my running friend, Ally, told me about the “Tacky Light Fun Run” that she discovered on Facebook. The local running store in Carytown would be coordinating a run through Richmond to see holiday lights in the Fan, Oregon Hill, and downtown. Ally asked if I wanted to go and suggested that we dress up. I thought it would be fun and clicked attending on Facebook alongside Ally.
The day of the run, the event hosts posted the route and wrote,
Hope to see you at 6 PM! Dress up :)
I didn’t have anything festive to wear other than electric blue tights so I hurried to the Dollar Tree in the afternoon and bought green tinsel, an elf hat, a bell ornament, glow-in-the-dark sticks, and a big red bow to decorate myself. That evening I donned it all and walked over to Ally’s.
“Is it too much?” I asked her, wondering if running 8 miles while jingling all the way would grate on me (or others).
“The bow might be too much,” Ally said. She was wearing her mom’s ugly sweater vest and her own elf hat (one without a bell).
I considered taking off my bow, then decided if I’m going to be tacky, I might as well be tacky.
We walked to the running store in Carytown for the start of the run. My hat jingled all the way there. We passed a small dog who yipped at me and ran away to his owner. “See, your outfit’s scaring the dog,” Ally laughed.
“Maybe the bow is too much,” I reasoned and stuck it to Ally’s sweater. I retained my green tinsel and the bell ornament hanging from my chest.
“What if we’re the only ones who dressed up?” I asked as we drew closer to the store. “It said to dress up. Right?”
“I don’t know,” Ally replied. “Did it?”
“They posted it on their Facebook today. And where else did you get the idea to dress up?”
But I began to spot other runners on the sidewalk, heading to the running store, dressed in traditional running gear. No tinsel. No lights. No bells.
Those had to just be the Scrooges, I told myself.
Finally, we stepped into view of the store. A hoard of runners stood around, waiting and stretching, all in black and neon and tights. But no costumes. Not a single bell. Not a single ugly sweater.
Ally immediately burst out laughing.
“But it said dress up!” I protested. “What do we do?!”
I reevaluated our situation. Ally and I were dressed like Santa’s elves, wreaths and all, and no other runner here was prepared to bake cookies at the North Pole. Instead, they looked ready to race a marathon. What happened to the “fun” run?
“Let’s walk around the block,” I decided.
“We should just own it,” Ally said.
“We have no other choice,” I agreed. Then: “We could just run it by ourselves and never go into the store?”
“No, that’s not fun!”
“But why is no one dressed up? It said to dress up on Facebook!”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes!” I pulled out my phone and clicked on the event. I read that day’s earlier post:
Hope to see you at 6 PM! Dress warm :)
Oh my god.
Dress warm. Not up.
Oh. My. God. We did not.
“You’re right,” I said, “we just have to own it.”
We came back to the running store. Another runner passed us, dressed in a purple pullover and black tights. No Santa cheer.
“So we just walk in and say we’re here for the run?” I tried to pep talk us.
“Wait.” I ripped the bell ornament off of my chest, which I had tied to me with the tinsel, and tossed it into a trashcan.
“Okay, now,” I said.
“Do you think you look better minus one ornament?” Ally asked. “You’re still in tinsel and an elf hat.”
The door dinged as we opened it. The runners glanced at us – in our elf hats and tinsel and ugly sweater. We were immediately sized up as those festive folks who probably wouldn’t keep pace and came here for fun, not PRs. Well, you’re right!
“Hey, are you all here for the run?” an associate asked.
No, we thought you hired some of Santa’s helpers and needed us here at 6.
“We are,” we replied.
As we waited for the run to begin, no one asked why we were dressed for Santa’s lap. I spotted my roommate who I had invited for the run. I had also bought her a snowman headband to dress up with us, but she wasn’t wearing it.
“I was going to put it on, but decided I couldn’t do it,” she told us.
“Smart choice,” I replied.
“At least you all are in the spirit!” someone else commented.
“Everyone, let’s get a group photo!” the store associate yelled.
Somehow, Ally and I ended up in the middle of the photo. I managed to quasi-hide in the back of the photo, but Ally was pushed to the front (and she kept laughing out loud, and I wanted to tell her to stop laughing, because it was drawing too much attention to our attire, but our attire probably did that for us, so whatever).
“Okay, let’s go!” someone said.
And the group was off.
Jingle, jingle, jingle
My elf hat ring-ring-ringed the whole route. I kept waiting for someone to shout, “Stop your jingling! It’s so annoying!” But no one did.
By mile four, the group had split into smaller groups. Ally and I ran by ourselves, two lone crazed elves running through the city. I questioned how much more ridiculous we looked without even a group to back up our costume choices. Did we look like two runners who just decided to don Santa hats and bells and go for a late evening jog?
Then again, that’s sort of what we had done. No shame. We just had to own it.