Photo: The Scottish Government

On April 7, while many New Yorkers were still snoozing from a wild night out, 10,000 runners decked out in kilts, face paint, and temporary flag tattoos lined up to race in the 10th annual Scotland Run in New York City's Central Park. A small but mighty group from Greatist joined the crowd that assembled at 8 a.m. to give this themed race a shot.

Every April, the Scottish Government, VisitScotland, and Scottish Development International host a week of events including parades, plays, art shows, and concerts around the country. During the week’s festivities, Scot-o-philes across the U.S. and Canada celebrate Scottish ancestry and learn more about the land of haggis and sheep. This year the overarching theme, “The Year of Natural Scotland,” highlights the environmental beauty and plentiful outdoor activities (including plenty of running races) north of Hadrian’s Wall.

Greatist’s business development director Meg Costello and I were psyched to be a part of the event — even if it didn’t actually involve traveling to Scotland. On our way to the starting line we passed runners in kilts, tartan-print shorts, and the event’s signature knit hat emblazoned with the Scottish flag. The Greatist delegation gave the elite athletes a wide berth, joining several thousand excited runners towards the back of the pack. As we began the slow walk-jog to the starting line, we could hear the bagpipes blaring and see the blue-and-white flags flapping at the official start area. After a medley of inspiring songs, some traditional folk dancing, and a few words by Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, we were off in a sea of blue and white.

I was a little bit nervous about pounding the pavement for a full 10K, but the race zipped by in no time. The bright, clear weather, infectious crowd atmosphere, and the pipers situated at every kilometer made the 6.21 miles fly — even as we scaled the park’s notoriously tough Harlem Hill. After crossing the finish line, we swung by the post-race festival that included dancing, live music, and a raffle to win a free trip to Scotland. My only regret? That we couldn’t find any kilts to wear during the race!

Have you done any fun themed races? Which was your favorite? Tell us in the comments below, tweet the author @SophBreene, or share your thoughts in our brand new Greatist Community forums!

Photo (bottom) by Meg Costello

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