Training

The London Marathon Guide to Running in Fancy Dress

We caught up with runners who have taken on the Virgin Money London Marathon in fancy dress as they share everything you need to know about tackling 26.2 miles in costume…

Spider-Man | Name: Paul Harvey | Year: 2014

“I had run a few marathons and wanted a bit more of a challenge. Having loads of people cheering for you and calling out your character is great when you are running. I liked the idea of standing out from the crowd and making the race a bit more challenging and doing something that not everyone does. I also wanted to enjoy the race rather than feeling that I had to go for a time, so the outfit just made me focus on having fun.

“It gets hot! Especially if you are wearing a mask and full body suit. Drinking and seeing where you are going becomes difficult. If the suit has gloves, holding water, opening gels and checking your phone is not easy.

“Sitting in the park afterwards – surrounded by families having a picnic – dressed in a tight superhero outfit is a bit strange. The crowds are brilliant; there is always another Spider-Man and if he is in front of you in the race you always get a shout of ‘the real Spider-Man is in front of you!’ Theme tunes get sung to you, kids love having their pictures with you, other runners have a lot of sympathy for you. It’s genuinely the best thing you will ever do and makes the race so much more fun.

“Put a fly on your costume just in case you need a pee. If you need anything more than that, you are going to be in trouble, so I would suggest practising with gels; if you are not used to them they would not be a good idea. Make sure there is a hole in your mask so you can breathe and drink.

“Get into character and accessorise! I bought a bum bag, coloured it red and then painted spider webs on it. I painted my trainers the same colour but be warned: that will mean you might not be able to wear them again!”

Shakespeare | Name: Luke Williams | Year: 2016

“To be honest, I hadn’t thought of running in costume. But I did decide to call myself ‘ShakespeareRunner’ when filling out the charitable giving forms (because my charity is The Primary Shakespeare Company). Then the publicity office from Virgin Money rang up and said: ‘We hear you’re running as Shakespeare, could you come and do some publicity?’ and I said: ‘Of course! Let me get my doublet on and I’ll be right with you.’

“The ensuing publicity was incredibly helpful and helped us raise almost £5,000 – money that has enabled us to work with 150 more children than in 2016.

“My purple velvet Tudor hat gave me the most problems. At the start, I felt it was eye-catching and distinctive. After 13 miles, it was sweat-soaked and distinctly unappealing.

“As I ran over Tower Bridge, the BBC’s Ore Oduba said ‘What on earth are you wearing? It looks like a large tea bag’. I don’t think it was a compliment. Also, my ruff got very itchy.

“I was going to wear a historically accurate doublet. On the first training run I did it was about three degrees Celsius. By the following week, the temperature was up to 13 and I must have lost about two litres of fluid over 10 miles. The doublet did not make it to Race Day.

“I got great support from the crowd. At one point I was close to a lot of other costumed runners: just ahead of me was someone running as Barney the Dinosaur, just behind me a man dressed as Jesus, running barefoot and carrying a large cross.

"‘Come on. Barney!’ cheered the crowd. ‘Keep it up, Shakespeare!’ they continued. The next runner was greeted by an uncomfortable silence. Nobody was quite sure whether it would be alright to shout ‘Come on, Jesus!’

“You must try your costume out first. Race Day is too late to find out you can’t breathe in your Pink Panther suit, or you’re allergic to the latex in your Sumo outfit.”

Chicken/Minion | Name: John Chelsom | Year: 2012, 2013, 2015 & 2016

“I’d run quite a lot of marathons – including ultra marathons – so I was looking for a bit of an extra challenge. I’d not run the London Marathon before and thought it looked a lot of fun running in costume.

“I first tried out the chicken costume one Sunday morning and had a few problems: I couldn’t see where I was going and the rubbery chicken head was hot, with nowhere for sweat to go other than in my eyes. The hands filled up with sweat too, which was unpleasant. I cut a hole in the mouth to see out of and made holes in the fingers of the gloves. I wore a bandana, which made my head hotter, but kept the sweat out of my eyes.

“I retired the chicken costume after an ‘equipment failure’ in a local half marathon. It was a hot day, so I decided to wear just boxer shorts inside the costume. The elastic on my shorts went after a few hundred metres so I ran about 13 miles with my shorts round my knees, which would have been OK except that the Velcro on the back of the costume had come undone. I probably hold the world record for the longest moony ever.

“The Minion costume presents different challenges. It has only one eye and it’s about a foot from your face, so it’s virtually impossible to see where you are going. I had to build a frame of foam rubber inside so that it can rest on my head as I run. The frame has failed a couple of times, which means holding the costume up from the inside – difficult to do for more than a couple of miles.

“I don’t think I could ever run London in normal kit now. The moment you leave the house on the morning of the marathon people have a laugh with you, want high fives and pictures. On my second year as a chicken I was joined by my friend Abdul, dressed as an egg. He finished way ahead of me, so the egg came first!

“The Minion is on another level. In the first year I made the mistake of crossing from left to right to high five – I got caught up by the sweep bus and realised I’d better start running in a straight line if I was going to finish within the time limit!

“You have to give it a go – you won’t regret it. It’s not as hard as people think, especially if you’ve run a ‘normal’ marathon before. It has become my excuse for being really slow – I don’t think I’d be much faster out of costume!”