The event, a 0.1-mile sprint down 17th Street NW from the corner of R Street to P Street, attracts drag queens and kings decked out in glitter, costumes and, of course, heels that do not appear to be made for running.
The event began as a drunken contest between friends, running from JR’s to Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse on Halloween night. Over time, it evolved and grew, though for much of its existence it was informal and kitschy — and that was the point.
Over the past two decades, the event has become more formal with permits and police and a designated route. It was moved from Halloween night to the Tuesday before to mitigate congestion.
Last year, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) attended the race and posed for photos with spectators and participating queens. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and Police Chief Peter Newsham were also in attendance.
Though organizers kept the news under wraps, the mayor’s office had been planning to take the reins of the race, said Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Affairs.
“The baton was being passed to us since last year,” said Alexander-Reid, who will take over as the event’s organizer. “At a time when hate is on the rise and oppression of LGBTQ rights seems to be on the rise in the country, and around the world, it’s so great to have a mayor who not only supports this race, but really embraces it and the community it represents.”
Some members of the District’s LGBTQ community were less than thrilled about the event’s change in leadership, which was first reported by DCist.
Alexander-Reid said she understands why longtime supporters of the event might be apprehensive.
“I think they’ll be glad to see that nothing has changed,” she said. “We know what this race means to the community. We know the tradition of it. We want to make sure this race remains here in the District of Columbia and remains at the level it’s been in the past.”
She added that though the event will be run by Bowser’s administration, the hope is to institutionalize it as a city event and ensure it will continue beyond the mayor’s tenure.
“D.C. is such a progressive city that I don’t think anybody is going to be elected mayor who does not support this race and who does not support the LGBTQ community,” she said.
An event landing page on Facebook created by the city appeared to imply that tickets are required — but officials clarified that the event would remain free and open to the public, no tickets required.
The tickets, which are free and available online, will be used to aid in a head count, officials said. With more than two weeks until race day, Alexander-Reid said, more than 2,000 people had requested tickets.
The event will kick off, as usual, with a sequined parade down 17th Street NW ahead of the race, which is usually over in minutes.
Bowser, who has sounded the horn to begin the sprint, is expected to do so again this year, Alexander-Reid said.
It was not immediately clear whether any D.C. government officials would be running in heels, however.
“The mayor has a large number of LGBTQ cabinet members, so maybe someone will want to put on some heels,” Alexander-Reid said. “You never know. What I can tell you is it won’t be me.”