Monday, October 07, 2019

My World Record(s) Run at the 2019 Berlin Marathon (It's All About The Lederhosen)

(Kenenisa Bekele goes 2:01:41 at the 2019 Berlin Marathon)

The Berlin Marathon has long been famous as THE course where world records are broken. The last seven fastest marathon world records have all been set on this wicked fast course, including the incredible 2:01:39 by Eliud Kipchoge last year (and Bekele coming within 2 seconds of the WR this year!). This race consistently brings the greatest running talents from around the globe for fame and glory, and in 2019, I got to add my name to that distinguished list of world record holders. Twice. And I got to do it in lederhosen. ;-)

I have never tried a costume run before, but have enjoyed watching fellow ultrarunners Ian Sharman and Michael Wardian trade off for "fastest marathon dressed as Elvis" or "fastest marathon in a Spider Man costume" over the years. I have also noticed the London Marathon growing in fame as a place where 30+ runners attempt various marathons records, bringing more people into our sport through meme-driven curiosity, and entertaining us with records such as dribbling two basketballs, juggling, or dressed as a Pokemon character. The 2019 Berlin Marathon was scheduled to be where Runtastic would launch our new apps (the first big launch since I joined as CEO/General Manager five months ago), so when a co-worker suggested that it might be fun if I attempted the world record for "fastest marathon wearing lederhosen", I signed up without thinking too much about it. The record stood at 3 hrs 39 minutes, and I was in 2:50 shape...how hard could this be?

And thus began my education. ;-)


Lederhosen, for those who have not yet had the pleasure, is a traditional Bavarian/Austrian outfit comprised of leather shorts (most often with shoulder straps), a gingham shirt, tall socks, and a felt wool hat. Most would recognize it as Oktoberfest attire, with a few variations to represent different regional areas. Americans can only find lederhosen in costume shops, but here in Upper Austria and nearby Southern Germany, it is common enough that there are stores in every mall. My parents would be quick to point out that it's not my first experience in lederhosen, thanks to a 3rd grade "folk dancing" after school activity that haunts me to this day with embarrassing photos. Little did I know I would be adding to that collection!

(Chevy Chase immortalizes lederhosen in the movie European Vacation)

About a month before the race, I swung by one of those local stores and got myself an "authentic" set of lederhosen. Sehr gut! As we found out from Guinness World Records, it was required that the kit be "traditional" (although running shoes okay), and not a Halloween costume version or ClimaCool-optimized race kit (sorry, adidas). I was told to wear them for a few days to break them in, so I did, and quickly learned one obvious thing... LEDERHOSEN IS NOT GOOD FOR RUNNING.

My hip flexors could barely make it 5k without throbbing in these tight fitting deerhide shorts, and my form was atrocious. The "wolf" (German for "chafe") would certainly be a factor too. Concerns about a finish time quickly become concerns about finishing at all. Added to this, we found out the "fastest marathon wearing lederhosen" record had been lowered to 3 hrs and 20 minutes the previous month, and that the forecast in Berlin was for rain. Oh, and did we tell you that you need to create a short video every 2k to prove your outfit was intact for the whole race? Ack!!! I needed help!


(Ready to roll!)

My co-workers found me a local custom lederhosen tailor, and through broken German phrases and hilarious drawings, she devised a new outfit for me. Slightly larger legs, lightweight bone buttons, a more flexible deer hide, and all within the confines of traditional garb. It was still going to be difficult, but with her help, I at least had a shot!

(WR's going down at Berlin!)
I only had a few days to practice with the new lederhosen in Berlin, and in running around the city, I was able to meet other "costume runners" (like me, they are pretty easy to spot). It turns out there would be 20+ world records in contention at the race, and two other men looking to break the same lederhosen record at Berlin. Although I was a faster runner, they were much more experienced with costumes, so this would be interesting. How fun! We will have a lederhosen podium.

I'll save you the blow-by-blow of the next 42.2km, but will point out these highlights in case you have a future WR attempt on your mind:
  • There's no such thing as too much Vaseline or Kinesiotape when costume running
  • Injinji over-the-calf compression socks can be worn with traditional lederhosen (thanks, Injinji!)
  • One unexpected benefit of lederhosen - lots of big pockets!
  • Another unexpected benefit - free beer handed to you at all times
  • Time it took for the lederhosen to shred my race bib - 22 minutes (see aforementioned pocket)
  • Most runners give high fives, but apparently some runners are not very motivated when passed by a runner in lederhosen (kudos to the international clientele of the Berlin Marathon, who taught me a lot of new swear words)
  • When the rain comes down, you quickly find out that those who chose lightweight costumes have a significant advantage (tip o' the hat, negative-splitting fastest marathon dressed as a leprechaun)
  • Rain-soaked lederhosen outfits weigh 12kg when fully saturated
  • Brand new rain-soaked lederhosen drips brown water down your legs, and is very hard to explain in German
  • The kids on the course loved it!
(Finish and start, outfit complete!)
In the end, I set the marathon (3:04) and half marathon (1:29) world records for wearing lederhosen, and sealed my infamy (records pending approval). Well, at least until some Germans see what this crazy American did and takes back the record! All in all, a fun new way to experience the marathon. It turns out it took a team of people to get pictures, submit forms and videos, and make it official, so my thanks to Team Runtastic for all their help. 

What's next...fastest Ironman in lederhosen? Now that would be impressive. ;-) 

Prost to y'all from Austria!

- Scott




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