It’s Elvis. It’s Spiderman. Nope, it’s Ian Sharman!
A 2:40:53 marathon is pretty fast, but it isn’t record-setting. Unless you cross the line dressed as Elvis. Which is exactly what Ian Sharman did at the Napa Valley Marathon in 2012—complete with an Elvis wig and white suit—to set an unofficial mark for Guinness World Records. The 33-year-old Walnut Creek, Calif., resident also owns the fastest official Elvis marathon record, 2:42:52, set at the Seattle Marathon in 2009.
In fact, Sharman, who owns a 2:32 marathon PR, holds nine Guinness World Records for running speedy marathons while clad in costumes. But this winning ultrarunner (he won the Leadville 100 last year and also set a new record for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, completing four 100-milers in two months in a cumulative time of 69 hours, 49 minutes.) and inveterate racer, who has run upwards of 200 races of 26.2 miles or longer since he began running in 2005, has a method to his zaniness.
“Because I race so much, wearing a costume gives me variety,” Sharman says. “It also takes the pressure off and makes a race more relaxed.”
Before becoming a top-tier ultrarunner, running coach for ultrarunners and director of the U.S. Skyrunning series, the Cambridge-educated, ex-pat Brit spent nine years as an economist. He approaches running with the same drive, attention to detail and analytical approach, making the occasional relaxed race a welcome change. Sharman regularly runs marathons as training runs for his longer distance events and says while he doesn’t necessarily taper for a marathon, he also doesn’t go all out.
“I use races to work through to a bigger goal,” says Sharman, who likes to work out aspects of his overall fitness during races. “It’s often easier to do distance runs within a race environment, and it works logistically as well.”
His penchant for costumes began on a whim at the 2007 London Marathon when the Guinness World Records offered 1,000 pounds (about $1,700) for the first person to cross the line dressed as Elvis.
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“I had run the race before and thought it sounded like a fun way to make it more memorable,” he says. Not only was he the first Elvis to cross the line (in 2:57:44), he was the first finisher in a costume.
He’s raced as Elvis, Santa Claus, Spider-Man and Maximus (from Gladiator) and still has a werewolf and Jesus costume in his closet, but has no specific plans to race in them just yet. Sharman, who auctioned off the Elvis costume for charity, says he truly does it for fun and to break records.
This past spring, Sharman ran a 42-mile, rim-to-rim-to-rim excursion across the Grand Canyon and back dressed as Spider-Man.
“I was running it with Sean Meissner and had seen a picture of him racing in Superman underwear,” Sharman says. “For fun, I said I would go run dressed in my Spider-Man costume if he would wear his Superman outfit.”
Despite using costumes to add some levity to his running, Sharman believes they will always be a novelty.
“Most runners don’t want to potentially waste their race and training by wearing a costume,” he said.
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Ian Sharman’s Costume Running Tips
— A mask can make it challenging to eat and drink and many costumes aren’t breathable, so pay attention to the weather.
— Full flexibility and mobility are important. If costumes aren’t specifically made for running, be prepared to make adjustments—like adding slits for ventilation, wearing Vaseline to prevent chafing and enlarging the mouth in a mask to facilitate eating and drinking.
— Pay attention to extra pieces and add-ons. “Santa was definitely the most difficult costume because of the beard,” he says.
— Size matters. “Elvis was my favorite costume—I did four marathons in it—but it was one-size fits all with a 50-inch waist that needed some adjustments,” he says.
— Know that other racers don’t like being passed by those wearing costumes.
For more about Ian Sharman go to sharmanian.com or follow him on Twitter at @Sharmanian.