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Locker Room

The good, the bad and the ugly… sweaters


Ugly sweaters come in all shapes, sizes, colors, textures and even lights.

Ugly sweaters come in all shapes, sizes, colors, textures and even lights.

Every year it is the same: The cold is somehow unexpected, families who haven’t seen each other all year get together twice in as many weeks, and the pre-Christmas season keeps sticking its nose in months that end in “-ber.” Happy freakin’ holidays!

Along with the Christmas season comes a festive favorite: the ugly sweater. Instead of reserving it for an invite-only party, why not sport the homemade sweater on the streets of downtown Des Moines?

“First and foremost, we hope that this event can be a really fun break from the madness of the holidays,” said Josie Owens, marketing coordinator of Human Movement Management (HMM). “It’s great to get out and do something active with family and friends, and the tradition aspect of the race is really important to us. We want it to be a highlight of everyone’s holiday season.”

HMM’s Ugly Sweater Run has visited Des Moines for the past five years. Nearly 1,500 people turned out for last year’s event. The jolly celebration unites runners and walkers of all ages as they make their way around the 3.1-mile course through downtown, along the river.


While there may be some who take the run a little more seriously than others, all are welcome to jog, walk, prance or dance their way along the route, which features inflatable decorations, endless holiday music and hot chocolate stops.

“This event brings out runners of all ages and types. Typically, we see a lot of families come together to run as a holiday tradition. Kids under 5 are free, so it’s a family-friendly affair for everyone,” Owens said. “College students and young adults typically love the event, too — especially because of the ugly sweater component. It’s a wide range, and we love it.”

The merriment doesn’t stop at the race. Following the run, folks are encouraged to stick around, take a much-deserved break from the shopping frenzy and celebrate the run with a Sam Adams beer and other holiday goodies. Awards for Best Real Mustache, Best Fake Mustache, Best Beard, Worst Sweater and Best Sweater will also follow the race.

“Great mustaches are acts of love and great effort,” said Owens. “I think ladies definitely stand a chance, but they’ll have to come up with some creative solutions to really stand out from the crowd. We aren’t ruling anything out.”

So what sweaters are the crowd pleasers?

“All ugly sweaters are great in their own way, and we’ve certainly seen some great ones at this event. Homemade ones that are created with lots of care and over-the-top decorations are usually pretty great. Anything that lights up is a plus,” Owens said. “It’s always a blast to see thousands of them in one spot. The effect is pretty overwhelming and hilarious.” CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Ugly Sweater Run
Saturday, Dec. 6 at Principal Park at 11 a.m.
Solo Runner/Walker: $40 day of registration
4-plus Person Ugly Sweater Teams: $35 per person day of registration
Donations to Save the Children may be made during registration or throughout race day. The funds raised will benefit Save the Children’s “Make the World Better with a Sweater” holiday campaign to give children living in poverty in America and around the world a brighter future.

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