One D.C. Race Is Not Political: It’s More Like a Running Joke

One D.C. Race Is Not Political:
It’s More Like a Running Joke

By Elizabeth Seay
Wall Street Journal
Tuesday, September 30, 1997

Washington in autumn: a crispness in the air, trees changing color along the Potomac — and hundreds of men in red dresses running up the Capitol steps.

Last Saturday the Hash House Harriers held their fourth annual Red Dress Run, a five-mile sprint through the nation’s capital. The group, which calls itself a drinking club with a running problem, was founded in the 1930s by British expatriates and now has chapters all over the world. And once a year, the D.C.-area chapters put on a show for everyone who thinks Washington’s an uptight town.

All that was required on Saturday was some sort of red outfit, but most participants — 470 in all, nearly 75% men — went further. The selections ran the gamut from a demure, long-sleeved shift with white collar and cuffs to a red bustier; a see-through negligee with a skimpy lace bodysuit; a flouncy housedress in an African print with matching headdress; and a long, slinky number with black hat, pearls and long gloves.

Why red? Why not? “We do a run where everybody dresses up like a Dalmatian,” says Don Kresal, a network analyst in a pointy princess hat.

“People kept asking what we were marching for. Everyone in Washington has to have a political point,” said Tom Ball, a 6-foot-3 runner in a size 22 dress with fat white beads, perfectly applied lipstick, and no particular political point to make.

Mr. Ball, a lawyer at Virginia’s Hunton & Williams, had to shop around for his dress. “Initially, I flattered myself into thinking I was a 16,” he said.

Eliot Daye, another runner, said one of his friends had a dress altered for the occasion. “Sometimes you can go too far,” said Mr. Daye, who wore a cocktail dress with pearl buttons and a blond wig.

The run followed a spotty trail of flour that included some dead ends. It wended its way toward the Mall, up the Capitol steps, down around the Washington monument and behind the White House.

Inevitably, the runners drew crowds. A singer at a street festival stopped and yelled, “Hey, what’s with the red?” Three teenage boys collapsed on the Mall grass in giggles. A woman called, “Nice hat.”

Later, at a bar, runners began taking off torn, sweaty dresses. “We’re just everyday professional people who want to get out, put on a red dress and run,” said Mr. Kresal. “Then everything’s back to normal Monday morning.”