Marathons in costumes: good or bad?

Personally I find running a marathon hard enough in a pair of shorts, singlet and a trusty pair of shoes.  I try to stick to myself, find my rhythm and run the best race I can. If you have seen a mass participation marathon lately though you can clearly see that others have a different opinion and run to really bring fun to others, attention to themselves and some colour to races when they run in costumes.

From superheroes to sports stars, surgeons to celebrities, the extent of the costumes appear to be limited only by imagination. Personally I have seen Superman and Wonder Woman, a man dressed in a bride’s gown, a number of fairies, a baby, a squadron of storm troopers and a devil while overseas fame has been achieved by people ‘running’ as a deep sea diver, a gorilla, a camel, a sumo wrestler, running on stilts, dressed as a banana, tiger, lion, Spiderman and Batman and of course Santa Claus!

The reasons behind why people wear costumes in race seem to fall under two categories; to help raise money for a charity or for the attention that such an outfit naturally brings.  Comments on the Let’s Run and Cool Running forums on running in costumes are generally supportive and include “I can highly recommend running in costume- it’s a hoot. For me I found that people cheered, waved, high fived, offered drinks and young women occasionally displayed interest”.

Do costumes take away from the purpose of the marathon or add colour? (Photo by Jed Leicester/Getty Images)

Not all runners share the same enthusiasm though. Marathon aficionado Toni Reavis asks the question ‘Is it really road racing anymore?’ in a blog that questions whether stunts like costumes have undermined the competition and elite level of marathoning.  I can certainly concede that the natural attention from the media that costumes draws does distract from the achievements of the elite in the mainstream media, however the counterargument would be that what level of media interest would there be if the focus was purely on the elites. The human interest and common man angle is something that allows mainstream media to connect with marathons in a time when the dominance by the Africans means that for most Western media cannot not otherwise build a story.

The debate will continue as to the appropriateness, but it should also be noted that just because these entrants are in costumes does not mean they are not running respectable times. Races of note while dressed in costume include Adam Campbell running the fastest marathon dressed in a suit (2:35:53, 2012), Michael Wardian running fastest in a superhero costume (2:34:56, 2011), Kevin Harvey in a nurse’s uniform (2:51:37, 2012), Michael Brigham as a baby (3:11:53, 2012) and Naomi Garrick in a wedding dress (3:41:40, 2012).

Have you ever ran a marathon in a costume? Do you think they add to or detract from an event?


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