They came sporting green hair and shamrock antennae, emerald-colored derbies and top hats shaped like overflowing beer mugs, but most importantly, the thousand-plus runners who tore down West Street on Saturday came wearing crisp wool kilts, their undergarments fanned by the morning breeze.
In a blizzard of plaid, these joggers without Spandex or Lycra tried for the fourth and final time to break the Guinness world record for largest kilt run: 1,764 participants, a mark set by the Canadian-based Running Goats of Perth in 2012.
For a grueling 1 kilometer, they led a pants-free trudge around Glenwood South, some runners limping, some with their arms in slings, several playing bagpipes and at least one of them only 2 years old.
But at the finish, they fell short of their record-breaking goal, a disappointment offset by more than 300 taps available at Raleigh Beer Garden just up the hill.
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Jerry Winegarden, 64, brought up the rear dancing a jig and carrying a kitchen broom. “I’m the sweeper in the race,” he said. “I’m here to make sure everybody gets home.”
The nOg Run Club, a nonprofit whose runs benefit 14 charities, created the kilt challenge to stand out as downtown Raleigh races boomed in popularity. Roughly 2,300 people registered for Saturday’s event, which was a precursor to a longer St. Paddy’s 8K that began immediately after, but the chill and gray skies foiled big numbers.
“This one might be elusive,” said Elizabeth Pagano, run club president, “but we hold the world’s flip-flop record.” She referred, of course, to the club’s 2015 Guinness record for 613 people running in thong sandals.
None reported trouble Saturday jogging in a knee-length, pleated skirt, which is traditional to Scotland but has increasingly come to represent the wider Gaelic culture, hence its appearance in close proximity to St. Patrick’s Day. Pagano noted that runners have won the larger 8K race without shedding the kilt first.
“It’s just a little flowier,” said Will Lahti, 27, of Raleigh, “a little more breeze. I am wearing shorts underneath, though, so I’m not one of the truly brave.”
Three Fort Bragg soldiers made the Raleigh trip in kilts and green mustaches, stretching their legs for what is likely their shortest-ever run.
“Just for the fun of it and to look at funny outfits,” said Kyle Dorsch, 30.
“And beer,” added William Todd, 21.
And though the runners didn’t find global acclaim – the Canadians had already registered more than 3,000 for their next kilt run – they showed Raleigh at its greenest, hairy knees and all.