How to Run Like a Man…In a Dress


Personal trainer Matt Daniele went from groom to bridesmaid in just 30 days.

Preparing for the “Runaway Bridesmaids” charity road race, a special heat of the New York Road Runners’ Fifth Avenue Mile, the newlywed recently slipped into a sequined turquoise dress and matching sneakers and surprised his clients at Asylum Fitness.

His new training wardrobe got a lot of laughs but didn’t impede his speed during a succession of 50 sandbell jump squats, 40 side-to-side burpees, 40 pullups and 40 Hindu pushups.

“I thought he looked hot,” jokes his bride, Valeria Daniele, who cheered on her husband and 30 other elegantly dressed runners last weekend in Manhattan. “I like the way his muscles glisten in the dress.”

“Matt’s the most confident guy I know,” she adds. “If anyone can pull off this look, he can.”

Daniele has no plans to offer a regular “Bridesmaids” workout at his New York gym, but he says his dress was as loose and comfortable as the shorts and t-shirts he usually wears.

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.

I’m no Bryce Harper or Gabby Douglas in terms of cardiovascular fitness, but kind onlookers did say that I “rocked the purple dress” while huffing and puffing to the finish line.  Although I have no plans to go clubbing in that outfit (at age 44, I don’t actually “club” at all), I was surprised at how much I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek compliments.
So who was the fastest Bridesmaid?  I won’t pull a Paul Ryan and fabricate my personal time (you can see the full results here), but I am proud to have achieved my goal of being the “Fifth Fastest Guy in a Dress.”

I ran an 11:18 mile, well behind Olympic runners Matthew Centrowitz and Bernard Lagat, who each ran the 20 city blocks in less than four minutes. I wonder how their times would have been impacted if they, too, had run in satin.

The top two Bridesmaids finishers were Matt Daniele, the personal trainer, and Holly Cassandra Corbett, who plans to run the New York City Marathon in a similar outfit for her charity, New Light India.  

Daniele (5:55) had enjoyed a comfortable lead over his rival for most of the race, but Corbett (5:57) snuck up on his heels and had the crowd egging them on for a nail-biting finish. One of the chants from the sidelines that may have pushed Daniele over the top was “Don’t Let a Girl Beat You!”

“It wasn’t about that,” Daniele insists. “I didn’t want to get beat by anyone, period. If I’m going to race in a dress, I am going to bust my butt and do my best to win it.”

“Bridesmaid” Darren Garnick is now training for New Hampshire’s Renegade Playground Challenge race. Check out his tips for running with broken ribs or follow him on Twitter @darrengarnick.  A special shoutout goes out to the Marry & Tux Bridal Shoppe for providing Darren’s eggplant A-line dress, which his wife Stacy calls “classy.”


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