Behold: The Power of The Tutu
Most of the time, "revolutionary" running gear comes in technical, highly engineered packages that involve nanoseconds or featherweight materials, molecular tweaking or muscular-load redistribution.
And then there's the revolutionary running gear that truly starts a revolution.
Enter the running tutu, made of simple tulle.
THE TUTU DEBATE
The tutu has been trending nationwide, from mud runs to marathons. More and more women are lacing up their running shoes and realizing that running, a sport that formerly carried an intimidating sheen and was dominated by intense men in too-short shorts, is now a come-one-come-all activity populated with women of all shapes, sizes, paces -- and outfits.
It even has its own controversy: The recent tutugate, in which a magazine openly mocked two marathoners wearing tutus.
Despite that, the tutu serves as a universal welcome mat: If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can be a runner. No matter if you were the fat kid who never got picked for capture the flag in fifth grade. No matter if you've never run a step, let alone a mile. No matter if your knees feel weak and your lungs weaker. No matter if your only running gear is a pair of shoes, a tutu and a smile. Put them on, and you can be a runner.
Running is lovely in its physical simplicity and its immediate payoff: Each mile directly affects your confidence, your physical health, your mental state, your perspective on life. Although wearing a running tutu is optional, owning the newfound strength -- and kickass quads -- that develop through your running journey is most definitely not.
That said, when you cross a starting line in a tutu, you may as well be wearing a superhero costume. Onlookers cheer extra hard for you, a breath of fresh air among black Lycra, while fellow runners take notice, and comment on your fashion sense -- if they have the breath to do so. Meanwhile, as you cover the miles, a tutu brings an important lightness to your running as the race clock ticks away. Yes, you're going to do your best, but you're still going to live it up. You're out here, after all, in this pack of runners and you're not just fitting in, you're thriving with every step as your tutu bounces beneath you.
We've seen the tutu influence as we've written about running; the effect on your mentality is so powerful, it's likely you'll leave people in your wake. After all, the legs under the tulle are just as strong and capable as those wearing shorts. They're just having a much better time.
We asked some of these runners to share their stories with us, and got back some fun, moving examples of tutu power.
Tina Spagnoli, Las Vegas:
"Here I am with Kim, my best friend, who used to hate, hate, hate running but began to enjoy it when we started training together for her first 5K.
Kim made these tutus, which we wore in the Foam Glow 5K in Las Vegas. I love that tutus have become so popular during these events; I've actually made friends at races just because we were both wearing tutus."
Elizabeth Reininger, Monticello, New Mexico:
"This is Michaella Mitchell, who is a friend of mine. We connected on a Facebook running group. I made Michaella -- who is a Marine, a mother of four and an all-around amazing women -- a patriotic tutu.
"I told her my uncle was a Marine who was a victim of terrorism during the 1983 Beirut bombing, and she wore the red, white and blue tutu during the 2014 Marine Corp 17.75K.
"She dedicated her run to my Uncle Jim; the tutu was embellished with 10 stars followed by 23 stars to mark the date of Oct. 23, 1983.
"I never thought a tutu would have meaning, but this brought tears to my family's eyes."
Bonnie Yezukevich, Norton, Massachusetts:
"This pic was from my Boston Marathon fundraising and training this past spring. To promote donations, I promised my supporters I would do a 4-mile training run in a tutu when I reached $5,000. At $6,000, I ran with a tutu and hot pink boxing gloves. In the end, I raised over $8,500."
Jodi Snowdon, Kingston, Ontario:
"My team, K.Lo's Krew, was created in honor of my colleague Karen, who is now a badass mother runner and survivor!
"At the time these pics were taken, she was quite ill and in treatment. She did come watch us in the CIBC Run for the Cure, though, and later told us that our team helped her through the darkest moments.
"In fact, she was so inspired that she decided to start running when she got healthy and she is now my co-captain!"
Mae Anne Hale, Manchester, Tennessee:
"I had a cape trailing behind me to add a little extra awesome to the situation. I was in the middle of the Warrior Dash, and felt very much like a badass mother runner!"
Marla Lenox, Union Hill, Alabama:
"This is my mom, Martha Lary, Buzz Lightyear and me in the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon.
"My mom and I have done a few 5K's together, but, at age 62, she wanted to really challenge herself and tackle a half-marathon -- and she did! I'm so glad I was there to witness her conquer her goal."
Laurie Higgens, Eugene, Oregon:
"Here is my best friend, Heather Leonard (right), and me running the 2011 Columbia River Power Marathon in Umatilla, Oregon. We both set a personal record at that race -- 3:49 and 3:51, respectively -- and we have yet to duplicate our times. There was something truly magical about wearing such a fun outfit; the crowd support we received was amazing. The extra cheering for us had a direct impact on our times. It's hard to have a bad race when there are so many people telling you how awesome you are!"
Jessica Turner, Elizabethton, Tennessee:
"This is Chloe, my four-legged child, and me in matching tutus to support my good friend and celebrate her being cancer-free at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Kingsport, Tennessee."
Nancy Barlow, Ridgefield, Connecticut:
"I don't consider myself very girly, so a tutu didn't appeal to me. However, I wore it in a team relay, and became a total tutu convert! So much so that I wore one for the Philadelphia Marathon last November.
It was my second marathon. I didn't hit the wall, and I had a 28-minute PR. Must have been the tutu. (The weather was warmer than planned so I made some last-minute changes to the outfit, which is why I look like a bag of tropical Skittles.)"
Marie Conway, Castalia, Iowa:
"I turned 40 last September and to celebrate that occasion, I decided to do one race a month. I did the Ugly Sweater Run in the Quad Cities and enlisted my daughter to run with me. We had a blast!"
Lisa Bryant, Richmond, Virginia:
"The Color Me Rad 5K in Richmond was the first time I ran with my dear friends Sarah and Kim, and I'm pretty sure it was the first official 5K for all of us.
"I have since run two other 5K's, one 10K and am signed up for my first half-marathon in October. I'm continuing to challenge myself because of #megsmiles, which honors a mother runner who was killed by a drunk driver during a training run."
Julie Strean, Atlanta:
"Leigh Helberg took on her run after kicking breast cancer's ass at the Color Run in Los Angeles. These days, she is still healthy and running strong."
Krista Kruger, Cuba City, Wisconsin:
"A group from around the country ran the Washington, D.C., Ragnar Relay last year, and had such a good time in our tutus, we had a reunion at the Chicago Ragnar this year. Tutus are great because you can easily spot your teammates."
Monique van Tetering, Toronto:
"The Midsummernight's Run, a 15K race on Toronto Island, started around 5 p.m., so the last part of the race is magical as the sun starts to set over the water. I don't know if it was the tutu and fairy wings or the golden glow in the air, but I have never felt more energized during a run than I did here."
Michelle Flores, Portland, Oregon:
"This picture was before the Happy Girls Run Sisters trail half-marathon. Another tutu-wearer, Kelly, was taking the picture early Saturday morning and making us all laugh; my eyes were closed, I was laughing so hard. This was actually the first time we wore tutus; because the run was on trails, the tutus kept getting snagged on branches. We will most likely do them again, but will definitely make them shorter next time."
Gwen Walker, Albuquerque:
"This is the Albuquerque Sole Sisters Running Club. We like to wear tutus and "good game" each other at local races. We also show up in droves at races that support worthy causes."
Jill Broderick, Albuquerque:
"I'm celebrating being finished with my longest of three legs at the Chicago Ragnar; I'm so happy to be done with running in the heat and humidity."
Laurie Johnson, Portland, Oregon:
"Our team of two moms and three daughters ran the 2014 Starlight Run. I made the tutus that we wore, and we covered them in glow sticks. It was a blast!"
Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea are the co-authors of "Run Like a Mother" and "Train Like a Mother," and the mother runners in chief at AnotherMotherRunner.com. Their third book, "Tales from Another Mother Runner," will be out in March of 2015.