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How to Run Like a Man...In a Dress

Does clothing impact athletic performance? And exactly what does your attire say about your manhood? Decked out in dresses—for charity—six guys race against two dozen women through downtown Manhattan to find out.

That wasn’t the case for Meghann Foye, a veteran of the Rome (2009) and New York City (2010) marathons, who found her pink polyester gown to be constricting on her ribs.

“It was a bit tough to breathe running in this,” she says. “No way I could do the marathon in it. Women always wear the smallest dress size possible -- that’s great when you want to look fantastic at a wedding, but terrible if you want to exercise in it.”

Of course, that’s the whimsical appeal of a race like the Runaway Bridesmaids. Crowds get to see outlandish outfits that simply don’t belong in the heat of athletic competition -- or in the case of the male ‘maids, costumes you’ll never otherwise see on guys, period.

Around the world, co-ed Red Dress Runs for various charities have become a phenomenon, with ballgown stampedes happening nearly every weekend in a different city.  The collective effect of seeing groups of guys running in dresses is not really the same as campy drag comedy. There are no wigs or makeup. No one is pretending to be a woman -- and in the case of supporting women’s charities, that would be a formula for PR disaster. Think about how endearing frat party hazing is to a general audience, especially if participants try too hard to get the anatomy right.

The humor here is similar to those wooden “head in the hole” picture boards you see at tourist attractions, where you can instantly pose as a strongman or a mermaid. The joke also lies in the surprise of seeing how clothes designed for a woman’s body hangs (or clings) awkwardly on a guy’s frame. Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez generated a Twitter avalanche a few weeks back by posting pictures of his rookie teammates dressed as the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team. Grinning slugger Bryce Harper looks like he could still strike fear into the heart of NL pitchers while wearing his red Gabby Douglas leotard.

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