A grateful shout-out to SFFR member Anne Ludwig for her major contribution to this month’s column.
The Little Black Dress Run is a longstanding tradition with SF FrontRunners—and the event that year-over-year attracts the most female participants. From sexy little numbers to widow’s weeds, from witch’s cloaks to over-the-top showgirl attire, women and men alike get increasingly creative with costumes that they can actually run in.
The Little Black Dress Run (LBDR) is a classier take on the Red Dress Run started by the Hash House Harriers nearly 25 years ago. Here’s the origin story, according to www.reddressruns.org (link):
In 1987, a young lady wearing a red dress emerged from an airplane that had landed in southern California to visit a friend from her high school years. Shortly thereafter, she found herself transported to Long Beach, where her friend intended to introduce her to a zany running group called the “Hash House Harriers.” One member, noting her gender and attire, urged that she “just wait in the truck” until her host returned. With that goading, she ran into history sporting her red dress and heels.
A year later, to commemorate the event, the San Diego Hash House Harriers sent “The Lady In Red” an airline ticket to attend the first annual Red Dress Run. Hundreds of male and female hashers adorned themselves in red dresses for a spectacle widely covered by California newspapers and TV news. In addressing the crowd, The Lady In Red suggested that Hash House Harriers hold the Red Dress Run annually as an opportunity to raise funds for local charities.
Fast forward to the year 2000. Anne Ludwig of SFFR and Terri Hill of the Baylands club organized the first LBDR. Baylands was a big part of the early success of this event and continued cohosting for the first couple of years. Attempts to rotate the venue among Baylands, San Jose, and San Francisco didn’t gel, and SFFR has been the sole host since 2002, which was a banner year for the event. Why? Because the annual International FrontRunners conference was held the prior year in San Diego, and there was a desire to host an event for West Coast clubs. The turnout was spectacular, with members coming from the Bay Area and beyond: Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Orange County, and San Diego. The LBDR has become an annual fundraiser for the Sydney Frontrunners (pictures at www.sydneyfrontrunners.org (link)).
Today, SFFR’s LBDR usually attracts members from other Bay Area clubs, new runners, more women, members of the media and local celebrities—some of whom have even served as guest judges, like Donna Sachet and Jose Cisneros (though the discerning eyes of SFFR members Chuck Louden and Leslie Adams have added grounded dignity to the proceedings). On some occasions, the SF Chronicle has even turned up to cover the event.
Prizes are awarded according to both time-honored categories (Best Female, Best Male, Best Hat (or other accessory), Best Slut, Best Strut) and brand-new categories inspired by the inventiveness of the participants (too soon to tell). Expect some handmade prizes to be treasured for a lifetime, along with fabulous accessories that no exhibitionist should be without.
Just as with the club’s recent Superhero/Supervillain themed run, all humans great and small—and their pets—are encouraged to take part. Kids and dogs are never too young to sport a little black dress.
So, get cracking! Start shopping, borrow a dress, and raid the vintage clothing shops in the Haight and on Valencia Street for clothing, tiaras, cosmetics, and other must-have items. In a pinch, Cliff’s Variety and Walgreen’s will do, too. Give thanks to “The Lady in Red” who kicked off this whole affair a quarter century ago, and to the women in FrontRunners who can show us all how to really work a dress.