NEW YORK, February 7, 2012—When running a themed race, like Disney’s Princess Half Marathon or Bay to Breakers in San Francisco, it’s awfully tempting to run in costume. Wearing a super hero cape for a Spartan race or fairy wings for a Disney run can be a fun way to get into the spirit. But for the women behind Team Sparkle, it’s more than fun. It’s a way of life.
Kelly Lewis, Carrie Lundell and Elise Wallace are spreading the power of sparkle with their line of sparkle skirts, sparkle sleeves, racing legs and fairy wings for runners. They encourage runners to put together do-it-yourself costumes made of running-friendly fabrics so they can spread the sparkle spirit at races nationwide.
“You can wear something fun, you can wear something technical and still run fast,” Lewis says of the Team Sparkle spirit.
I met the ladies at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon and was struck by their passion for flair. They manned their booth at the race expo as Tinker Bell, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. For the half-marathon itself, Lewis ran as Captain Hook to Lundell’s Peter Pan (pictured above). Every costume they come up with is built around an appropriately colored sparkle skirt and an assortment of other items that they either have in their closets or found for the occasion.
Some runners rely on ready-made store-bought costumes, like the one I wore for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. But not every fabric is made to swish. My Tinker Bell costume sure was cute, but it rubbed me the wrong way, literally. To avoid the dreaded chafe but still get your costume on while running 13.1 or even 26.2 miles takes a certain kind of know how.
“You can actually make a functional running costume,” Lewis says, rather than wear a children’s costume made of scratchy, unforgiving material. “I knew there just had to be a better way—to wear something that was comfortable, that you could run fast in and not chafe and still have fun in.”
The three friends, who are long-time runners and triathletes, started Team Sparkle three years ago almost by accident. A seamstress by training with a college major in fashion design, Lundell had been making sequined skirts for her daughters to play dress-up. When one of her daughters insisted on wearing the skirt on a mountain biking trip, Lundell was surprised to find the skirt helpful; she could see her daughter from far away as her skirt sparkled in the sun.
She had an idea for the Surf City USA Marathon in Huntington Beach, Calif., which the three women were planning to run together.
“Carrie said, ‘You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I think we should wear these sparkly skirts for our race,’” Lewis remembers. After all, eye-popping colors and unusual clothes are easier to spot in a sea of runners than the usual parade of black shorts and white tanks.
“We got so many people complimenting us and asking us about them during the race, that we thought maybe we should see if we can sell these,” Lewis says. Thus Team Sparkle was born.
While they initially made the skirts themselves, their business quickly outpaced their ability to sew. After all, Lewis, Lundell and Wallace are all busy moms with eight kids between them, ranging in age from 2 months to 9 years old. Team Sparkle’s skirts and racing sleeves are now manufactured in California, and their racing legs are made in Kentucky. All of their materials are runner friendly lightweight poly-nylon or poly-cotton blends.
But it wasn’t until Lewis ran the Disneyland Half Marathon in September of 2010 that she got the idea to start a costume guide for runners.
“There weren’t a lot of people who dressed up for it,” she says. “I ran as Tinker Bell and it was just so much fun to run as a character. That’s so much of what the Team Sparkle spirit is about.”
After the Disneyland Half, Lewis was completely taken by the idea of running in costume. “I thought, ‘Okay, what else can I dress up as?’”
Lewis’s ideas are abundant. Simply perusing the Team Sparkle costume guide shows she’s given this a lot of thought. One of my favorites: running as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee from Alice In Wonderland. Lewis’s own personal blog, According to Kelly, also includes tips for runners wearing wings and other accoutrements.
It’s one thing to run in costume at a race like the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, where half of the runners are wearing something with flair. It’s another thing to do it at any given race.
“You get the true sparkle experience at a normal race when everyone else is in shorts and you’re in a sparkle skirt,” Lewis says, like when she ran the Las Vegas Marathon dressed as Elvis, complete with a pair of sunglasses—at night.
“Accessories are the key,” she says. “They can make a costume.”
She gives an easy Ariel costume for The Little Mermaid as an example. “Wear a purple sports bra and a green skirt,” she says. “If you put on a red hat and a seashell, everyone knows who you are.”
Accessories are also one of the best ways to signify who you are without having to wear heavy, hot, or scratchy clothing.
“When you’re talking about the Disney princesses, one of the best costume accessories that you don’t want to overlook are arm sleeves,” Lewis says. Her next race is Disney’s Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 26 in Walt Disney World. “Arms can get hot and uncomfortable, but you can easily adapt arm sleeves to give people an idea of what you’re doing.”
Another key princess accoutrement, she says, is headgear. “All the princesses wear headbands or a crown,” Lewis says. “And don’t forget the shoes. Wear pom-poms for Tinker Bell shoes. As Snow White, put big red bows on your shoes.”
To build an entire look, she says, you don’t have to spend a lot of money. “Keep it simple and look at stuff in your house,” Lewis says. “Utilize your kids’ stuff.”
And of course, always give your costume a test run. “Make sure you can handle the distance you’re going to run in it,” she says. “Make sure it doesn’t chafe or bob. If you can do 6 miles in it, you can do 13.”
Team Sparkle hopes their sparkle skirts and sparkle sleeve can help inspire an endless number of costumes for runners, no matter the race they are targeting. Their costume guide is constantly growing and includes Disney characters, super heroes, elves, pirates and more.
Visit Team Sparkle at www.Team-Sparkle.com.
Karla Bruning is a veteran journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.
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