A year ago we lost our beloved dog, Dillon, at the age of 6 1/2 years to hemangiosarcoma, a very nasty cancer. The weekend after he died, I decided to enter a 5K to help get my mind off losing him. Surprisingly, I got 2nd place in my age group. First place was awarded a pie (for second place I got a Dunkin Donut hat). I decided to enter the same race again this year. I had high hopes that I would finish in the pie. I could tell when we lined up at the start that this year there were more women runners in my age group. I had my eyes on a pie and I was in better shape than last year. My best efforts on race day weren’t good enough. I finished 3rd – out of pie placement.
I know many people who strive for podium finishes at races. Heck, I am just happy to finish a race and not hurt for days afterwards. If you can’t earn a spot on the podium, you can always try for a world record. I don’t mean a record like the fastest marathon (which is 2 hours 2 minutes 57 seconds set by Kenyan Dennis Kipruto Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon) or the fastest half marathon (58 minutes 23 seconds set by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea at the 2010 Lisbon Half Marathon). Those records would be a real challenge for recreational runners like me to beat. Recreational runners have the best shot at breaking world records that most people ignore. Things like the fastest marathon dressed as a dairy product, or a plant, or even carrying an 80-pound pack. Elite runners don’t train for those kinds of records. From what I saw on the Guinness World Record website, as long as you are willing to put in the training effort (and be a bit creative), you can get a world record too.
I got interested in the world records last year when I was writing about Harriet Thompson who became the oldest woman to complete a marathon. I went out to the Guinness World Record website and started searching “fastest marathon”. There are so many world records associated with the marathon and the half marathon, it would make your head spin. Many of them are set by people dressed up in a costume. I can’t imagine running a race dressed as a cactus or a toilet or wearing over 61 pounds of medieval battle armour. What was even more difficult to believe was these runners are completing a marathon dressed as a toilet or a banana or whatever considerably FASTER than I can run one dressed as a regular runner. (Oh, and the guy who ran dressed as a toilet – he beat out competition from two other runners dressed as toilets in the same race! It brings new meaning to “the toilet is running.”)
In looking over all the marathon world records, I noticed that many of them are set at the London Marathon. At the 2012 London Marathon a man set the record for fastest marathon run dressed as a vegetable (in his case, a carrot) of 2 hours 59 minutes 33 seconds. That was also the year that a runner completed the race wearing the tallest costume in a marathon (26 feet 2 inches); his costume was the Blackpool Tower. There were 30 world records set during the 2014 London Marathon and 34 set at the 2015 race. It occurred to me that I missed my chance. I should have been working with my coach to train for the 2016 London Marathon dressed as an eating utensil (a spoon perhaps?) so I could get a world record.
I was scratching my head about a couple of the records. The record for fastest marathon dressed as a female film character is 3 hours 53 minutes 40 seconds set by a woman dressed as the bikini-clad version of Princess Leia at the 2010 London Marathon. The record for the fastest marathon dressed as a male film character is for a guy who ran as Captain Jack Sparrow in 2 hours 42 minutes 52 seconds at the 2013 London Marathon. Surely there is someone who has completed a Disney Marathon dressed as Princess Leia or Captain Jack Sparrow faster than those records. I have seen lots of women run Disney marathons dressed as a fairy, complete with wings, tutu, and wand (even Pixie dust). One of them has to have beaten the current record of 3 hours 20 minutes 52 seconds set at 2011 London Marathon. Disney races are well-known for costumed runners. I wonder if Disney runners are missing their opportunity to go down in the Guinness record books.
Given the recent interest in barefoot running, I thought it was interesting that the record for the fastest marathon run in bare feet (2 hours 15 minutes 16.2 seconds) was set a long time ago at the 1960 Olympics. The only newer records for barefoot marathon running are for the most barefoot marathons run on consecutive days (10) and the most barefoot marathons run in one year (101), both set by Eddie Vilbar Vega in 2014. Eddie was required to carry a GoPro to record every footstep to prove he was completely barefoot. He also had to take pictures of the soles of his feet at the start, during and at the end of each race to prove he hadn’t run in shoes.
Some of the world record holders had a lifelong dream of setting a Guinness World Record (like Sean McShane who completed the fastest marathon dressed as a zombie in 3 hours 18 minutes 38 seconds). But in reading the stories behind the records, I realized many were running dressed up in silly costumes to raise money for charity. The guy dressed as a toilet was raising money for WaterAid. Eddie the barefoot runner was running to raise awareness for the 300 million children worldwide who do not have shoes or adequate footwear. Then there is David Babcock who ran while knitting and set the record for the longest scarf knitted while running a marathon (12 feet 1.75 inches), raising money for an Alzheimer’s research charity in the process.
I have never been one for wearing a costume in a race. I tried it once and it was such a disaster that I refuse to ever do it again. But if you think you want to go down in the record books, take a look at the Guinness World Record website and see what record you’d like to break.
The world records for women are 2 hours 17 minutes 42 seconds in the marathon set by Paula Radcliffe at the 2005 London Marathon and 1 hour 5 minutes and 9 seconds in the half marathon set by Florence Kiplagat of Kenya in Barcelona, Spain in 2015.