Those of us who frequent marathons have seen those “crazy” people who are all dressed up as Superman, Batman, a piece of food, a cartoon character or the endless plethora of elaborate costumes that would be impressive enough to witness on Halloween night, forget about while running 26.2 miles. When I first got into marathon running about 19 years ago, I never really understood the costume runner – why someone would choose to run 26.2 miles dressed up as Bart Simpson or in an inflatable sumo wrestler outfit. Some of the questions that ran through my head were the following:
Are these people just begging for attention?
How can they be comfortable running like that?
Don’t they want to see how fast they can complete this marathon?
They have to know they are going to be chaffing something awful, don’t they?
But I was looking at this from my skewed perspective. I was a serious runner – all business. Each time I lined up I was looking to set a PR. I ran 80-100 miles per week to get ready for a marathon (and had a 2:27.17 personal best to prove it!). I trained hard and pushed myself to my limits on many a training run. While I did enjoy the process, I didn’t have time for fluff like costumes come race day…
Looking back at these thoughts I had in my late 20s, I have come to one simple conclusion – I was a real jerk! What freakin’ arrogance I had! After coaching hundreds upon hundreds of people to run a marathon over the years, I have found there are many reasons why people come to running them…and you know what? Running a great time is way down on that list of why they decided to register in the first place for the majority of people.
Why is that just because someone is running a marathon in a sequined Elvis outfit that he is somehow any less committed to running a good race than me? Of course not. And while I may define a “good” race as running a specific time, many people consider a “good” race a dozen other ways than that they ran X hours and X minutes.
While I’m not telling you to rush out to your nearest local party supply store and buy one of the Avenger costumes for your next marathon, I am telling you “serious” runners out there to take a page out of the costume runner’s playbook.
Enjoy the Moment
I always tell my athletes that none of us are professional athletes – we don’t get paid for this, so enjoy all the hard work you’ve put into this event. Yes, you may want to run a certain time, but be proud of your commitment you’ve put into this.
I think many of our costumed runners next to us on the course are simply celebrating what they have already accomplished – being in the race!
Don’t take Yourself Too Seriously
This goes along with enjoying the moment. Just because you’re a local hot shot runner doesn’t mean you should live or die by your results. Again, unless you’re trying to earn an income by running (and even if you are earning a living) you have to enjoy what you’re doing. Training for a race shouldn’t be work, but something you choose to do for a number of reasons other than running a certain time – put your running into perspective.
I know seeing a 200+ pound guy in a red bikini wearing a long blonde wig with a natural Grizzly Adams beard come by you at mile 18 of a marathon is going to give you a little chuckle (even if it’s only in your head). While there is some “look at me” with people who dress up in costume at a race, I truly believe these people are festive adorned running angels to many of us. They are providing a needed service – taking our minds, only if temporarily, off the pain that comes with running for 3-6 hours on the roads.
So the next time you see one of these flamboyant costumed runners at the next marathon you are racing give them a thumbs up, a “thank you” or a pat on the back for the joy and perspective they are bringing to that day’s event.