No Capes!

Every Super has a secret identity; I don’t know a single one who doesn’t. I mean, who wants the pressure of being super all the time?

-Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr

I’ve seen plenty of costumed runners slogging it out in big road marathons. I became intrigued when I read about ultrarunning legends Ian Sharmin and Mike Wardian battling each other for the world record of “fastest marathon in superhero costume” (they’ve both run sub-2:40 in costume, but have since been surpassed). I’m clearly not in their league, but I do have a four year old son who is really into superheroes. He dresses up as a different superhero everyday. And he gets pretty darn excited when I dress up too.

Nothing says “I’m not taking this race seriously” like wearing a costume. Except I have this thing (mental illness?) where I kind of take every race seriously. Hmm. Over the winter I put together my own Mr. Incredible costume, but rather than using Halloween-caliber goods I used actual running clothes. The goal was to look the part while still being able to run fast. The mask was a little iffy, but the rest was pretty solid.

I’ve run the Take Steps for Kids 5K on the Washington University campus the past two years and finished 2nd place both times. With no speed work again this year, and coming fresh off a 50 mile trail race, I was not super prepared for a road 5K. But it worked out well for me last year, and I’m in better shape now.

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As I warmed up (in costume) between home and the race I got plenty of looks and comments from neighbors, motorists, and college students on campus. Once the race started, though, I was all business. I used my usual strategy of tucking into the back of the lead pack. After a mile or so one runner had pulled sufficiently far off the front I felt I couldn’t wait any longer so I made a big push to bridge up to the lone leader (it’s weird how running race strategy is becoming more like bike race strategy for me).

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I stayed on his heels through the end of the first loop. Going up the many steps I conceded a few feet to the leader and that gap held pretty constant for the rest of the race. It was basically a replay of last year’s race with identical pace and time gaps, just a different runner in front of me. I finished in 2nd place (for the third year in a row) in 16:47. That was about 10 seconds slower than last year’s time, but last year there was a course direction snafu that sent the leaders on a slightly different route that cut a short distance off, so I ran a bit farther this year. This was probably the fastest 5K I’ve ever run.

Could I have run faster if I wasn’t wearing the costume? I seriously doubt it.

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