First-time participants who weren't sure what to expect yesterday in the 15th annual Ed Barron Hangover Classic run probably got a good clue as they lined up for the start of the eight-kilometer run around the Reflecting Pool on the Mall.

The announcer advised runners who were "pushing a baby carriage or with a dog, or other, I hate to say it, hindrances," to please run off to the side so as not to impede unencumbered runners.

On a glorious crisp, sunny New Year's afternoon, 1,328 men, women and children, and several dogs on leashes and babies in strollers, participated in the run, a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society sponsored by the Potomac Valley Seniors Track Club. The race was expected to yield a $1,300 donation, organizers said.

The annual exercise in healthy irreverence is held in honor of former club member Ed Barron, who died of cancer 11 years ago.

Jeff Darman, who has organized several races in Washington, including the Nike Women's Challenge and the Nike Capital Challenge, said the Hangover Classic is more about fun than serious racing.

"It's more of a celebration race," Darman said. "A higher proportion of people are out there to celebrate the New Year, not so much to run their personal best."

While serious runners participate yearly in the Hangover event, it is more informal than many other Washington races, with many runners competing in costumes or forming "centipede" teams in which they run the course linked by ropes or chains.

Because of its relatively short distance -- the Marine Corps Marathon is 26.2 miles, for instance -- it is one of the more accessible of Washington's better-known races. In addition, it is not as competitive to enter as some other well known races, such as the Nike Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race, which each April draws an international field of top runners and an overflow of applicants for 5,000 coveted slots. The Marine Corps Marathon drew 13,000 runners last fall.

The Hangover route started at the Lincoln Memorial playing fields on the west side of the Reflecting Pool, went past the memorial and through the park along Independence Avenue and back to the Reflecting Pool. The course consisted of two laps.

The field of participants included grim-faced serious runners, occasional joggers and a few people whose pained expressions suggested they may not be back for the 16th annual classic.

And though it was not necessary to be suffering a hangover to compete, a number of participants said they did feel the effects of the previous night's reverie.

"Oh man, that's not easy to do after you've been out 'til 3 in the morning," said D.C. physician Paul Rudolf, moments after completing the 4.97-mile run.

Regina Powell, of Bowie, had other worries after completing the race.

"I want my mommy," the 8-year-old said after finishing in about 39 minutes, well ahead of many adults.

Regina, who has a running trainer, said she liked the race "a little bit." Her favorite part? "Going around the pond."

The event kicked off with a costume contest, judged by crowd applause, in which dressing suitable to one's gender appeared to be a disadvantage. The winner in the women's category, Becky Bosley, of Falls Church, sported a Fidel Castro mask and military uniform, while the men's winner wore a black dress, black fishnet stockings, silver-colored beads and running shoes that matched neither the dress nor each other.

"I went to a costume shop for the outfit, though the shoes are mine," said Warren Snaider, of the District, the men's costume winner. Snaider beat out a man dressed in a waiter's outfit who sported a tray with drinks and offered to quench the thirst of anyone who applauded for him.

As for the race, Lynn Patterson, of Fairfax, was the first woman to finish, with a time of 28:28.

The race was one of the closest ever, with Michael Regan, of the District, edging Trevor Nelson, of Berkeley, Calif., by two seconds. Regan's time was 24:43.

Regan said he entered the Hangover because "it seemed like a fun way to start the New Year."

Nelson, who was in town visiting friends, had another motive. "My girlfriend's dad is running, so I figured I'd look good for him," he said.