Cara Darpino dresses up for everything, so it's expected of her at this point, she says.

But when she committed to wearing a full flannel leprechaun suit with jacket, knickers, top hat and orange wig for Sunday's 5K race in Santa Rosa, she hadn't expected it would be sunny and 76 degrees the afternoon of the run.

"It was like a sauna," Darpino said, sipping an after-race beer at Juilliard Park, still in full costume as afternoon headed toward evening.

But Darpino was cheery — if "a little loopy from my over-heated run" — as she and fianc?Andy Brennan caught their breath, surrounded by like-minded, green clad folks.

Perhaps she was buoyed by the certainty that others in kelly green mustaches, beards, hats, tutus, wigs and otherwise odd apparel also contended with heat, wind resistance and general annoyance. All those bright green afro wigs could not have been comfortable.

Nine-year-old Iowyn Eddleman was an exception to those challenged by their dress. Her multi-colored cape prompted one of the other runners to call her a "super-hero leprechaun."

Her super power? "The ability to run fast," she said.

Sponsored by the City of Santa Rosa Recreation and Parks Department, the third annual St. Patrick's Day 5K drew close to 900 participants, the largest crowd since its inception, said Adriane Mertens, marketing and outreach coordinator for the parks department.

It was created after a two annual fund-raising runs organized to save the city's public pool on Ridgway Avenue from closing proved so successful that, even after the facility was financially secure, the city wanted to continue with a similar event, Mertens said.

Holding it in the afternoon instead of having a more typical morning race, followed by beer and root beer, food and live music makes it attractive to families and folks who may not be super serious about running but want to get out and have fun, she said.

Proceeds still go toward the city's aquatics programs at Ridgway and Finley pools. The race was expected to net more than $15,000, thanks to generous sponsors who helped pick up the $10,000 or more in hard costs, Mertens said.

Participants for the original St. Patrick's Day-themed race were urged to wear green, but many went all out with costumes. So the city just decided thereafter to hold a costume contest as part of the event, Mertens said.

Santa Rosa resident Ted Young, whose authentic Irish beard came from a friend on the Emerald Isle, said it just makes it more fun.

"It's the crowd-sourcing thing — you feed off the energy," he said.

Megan Grossman, so uncomfortably warm in her green felt cap and mustache that she "wanted to walk" the whole course, said of the 'stache, punctuating with air quotes, "This I want to rip off right now, but I'm trying to be 'festive.' "

Her friend, Jennifer Carroll, whose shimmering green eyelashes continually brushed against the inside of her sunglasses, said you just gotta do it.

"We're Irish, so it's like Christmas and New Years for us," Carroll said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or