The Devil(s) went down to Salem … to run a 6.66-mile race

The crowd on the Salem Willows Soccer Fields before the races began. (Photo by Mads Williams/BU News Service)

By Mads Williams
Boston University News Service

Devils and clowns swarmed the streets of the Salem Willows on Saturday as a part of the Devils Chase, a 6.66-mile road race where participants run in costume. 

B&S Event Management, which hosted the race, has been running the Devils Chase in Salem for 15 years, according to co-owner Dr. Steven Dion. Dion and his wife, Brandi, have been running events like the Devils Chase for twenty years. Decked out in devil horns and a floor-length velvet cape, Dion said he’s been looking forward to the event since the last race in 2019.

“The day that the event ends, we learn from that experience and start planning for the following year,” said Dion. “It is a coordinated effort, not only within [B&S Events] but also with the city of Salem and other neighboring towns, Parks and Rec, [and] the police department. It really is a community-designed event.”

This year’s race was the first since before the COVID-19 pandemic, although virtual versions were offered last year and are still available this year. As the event was entirely outdoors in the chilly 50-degree Fahrenheit ocean air, no masks were required for competitors or spectators. 

The event is divided into two races that share the same skull-speckled finish line — the Devils Chase, a 6.66-mile race, and the Creepy Clown Run, a 3.33-mile race that was added five years ago as a “more manageable” option, according to Dion. 

The finish line for both races is covered in skulls, caution tape, and a dangling severed foot. (Photo by Mads Williams/BU News Service)

“It brought a nice spice of life to it, especially for those who are absolutely petrified of clowns,” Dion said. 

While most runners dressed to match their category, all costumes were welcome. Yaw Owusu-Safo ran the race in costume as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and he spotted other pop culture costumes running with him.

“There was a guy dressed as Billy Mays,” said Owusu-Safo. “He had a full dress shirt, dress pants, with a bottle of OxiClean while he was running.”  

Angie Knott and Bree Cummings, dressed in matching devil horns and red rhinestones, said that running in costume is easy — if you know what to wear. 

“You learn really quick what works and what doesn’t,” said Knott. “No tutus, unless they’re really short, and nothing too heavy. Wings don’t work. Make-up runs, so you have to be careful. I saw one woman completely painted red, so unless she doesn’t sweat, she’s going to be streaked by the end.” 

Dion has witnessed some costume mishaps in his years organizing the race. 

“We would usually have a few inflatable dinosaurs, and by the time they made it to the end, they were in shambles,” said Dion. “One gentleman ran in a sumo blow-up outfit. He made it, but he was exhausted.”

A volunteer holds up the medals that the runners will receive once they cross the finish line. (Photo by Mads Williams/BU News Service)

While all finishers received medals, the fastest runners completed the 6.66 miles in just under 32 minutes and the 3.33 miles in around 23 minutes. Owusu-Safo said he finished the Devils Chase in 34:10, the best he has done in races of this length. The race is open for everyone — pets and strollers are welcome — and there is no age limit for participants. 

The event saw competitors from all around the Northeast. Owusu-Safo took the train with his three friends from New York. Kylie Gross, who ran as Kim Possible, flew in from Pennsylvania with her friend the night before. Knott and Cummings drove two hours from New Hampshire the morning of the race. They all made the trip just to run in the Devils Chase. 

“I just really wanted to run a race in Salem in October,” said Gross. “Everybody went all out in costume … everybody falls into packs, everybody talks, so it’s kinda like a big community.” 

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