Scotland Run racers take it to the kilt
NEW YORK -- It was around the sixth kilometer at the Scotland Run 10K in Central Park on Sunday when Mike Hill began to hear crickets.
But they weren't crickets.
It was the sound of his upper legs chafing, and he will forever refer to the experience as "kilt thighs."
Hill, 43, was one of the many runners racing along the outer loop in a kilt, in a show of tartan solidarity during New York's Tartan Week festivities -- but he had failed to take the necessary precautions.
"There's rubbing where guys don't usually experience rubbing," said Hill, who lives in Brooklyn. He finished in 43:22.
For anyone considering running in a kilt, Hill recommended a generous application of anti-chafing balm, plus a lightweight fabric with sewn-down pleats to correct against any surprise breezes.
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of David Hume, a Scotsman and revered philosopher. The occasion probably was lost on most of the nearly 8,500 runners, but no matter. Everyone can be Scottish for a day, and the New York Road Runners partnered with the Scottish government to create such an event for the eighth consecutive year.
"The Scotland Run is highly competitive up front, but it's so appealing to all kinds of runners," said Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of NYRR. "There is such lore to Scotland and the Scottish culture. And I think the whole idea of a man in a skirt is fun and intriguing for Americans."
Kumsa Adugna Megersa, 24, from the Bronx, set a Scotland Run record by crossing the finish line in 29:33, two seconds faster than the previous mark, set last year. Unfortunately, he did not wear a kilt.
One runner in tartan leggings finished ahead of Brooklyn resident Todd Zino, 33. But Zino was the first to cross the line in a kilt. He came in at 39:14, using the event as a tempo run in preparation for next Monday's Boston Marathon. Although he has participated in the Scotland Run three times, this was his first race in a kilt.
"This is one of my favorite runs," Zino said. "It's one of the first races of the spring where you're not freezing. I have absolutely zero Scottish heritage, though."
Zino, who said he travels to Scotland frequently and hopes to retire there one day, designed his own kilt.
"I bought the fabric, wove the material myself and found the tassels at a store," he said, adding that it was harder to run in a kilt. "I like the DIY approach."
Then there was Carlos Lopez, 30, from the Bronx. He went full Braveheart. He had the kilt. He had the wig. He had the face paint. There were unconfirmed reports that he carried a club, but photographic evidence suggests not. He finished in 40:49.
"I was worried about the updraft, but it went OK," Lopez said. "Honestly, I ran about 10 seconds faster than I usually do. Gravity will take care of everything, but chafing is big. You better lube up."
David Greig, 42, from Edinburgh, Scotland, wore a MacGregor tartan kilt and finished in 42:54.
"As a kilt snob," Greig said, "I think I was the only one wearing a proper kilt."
Alan Clements, 49, from Glasgow, Scotland, was in New York on business but packed his kilt for the race.
"If you're a true Scotsman, you never wear anything underneath," said Clements, who said it was his first time running in a kilt. "But for this race, I made an exception."
Clements ran in a traditional kilt, made of approximately 8 yards of material, and he accessorized with a sporran, a pouch that often accompanies the pocketless kilt. He estimated an additional 10 pounds of weight, and although he said he felt free and breezy, the kilt positively did not improve his performance. He finished in one hour even, pushing himself to finish with American spirit and Scottish pride.
"It's not about rank," Clements said. "It's about what's inside of you. And that is an American and Scottish tradition."
Ken Derry is a New York-based writer.