London Marathon: The best costumes

Today was the London Marathon, which means that the best marathon runners in the world ran right by my door. And following them were thousands of less accomplished runners, most of whom were raising money for charity. And while each of these runners is remarkable, my favourite ones are those who run the distance in what the British call “fancy dress” (the rest of us call them “costumes”).

Because as hard as it may be to run 26.2 miles, it must be harder to do if you’re wearing something that people really shouldn’t run in. And while many people raise money for charity, I imagine that people donate more to costumed runners. Not simply because they’re making a spectacle of themselves (that must help), but simply because they seem to be going all-in.

Nobody this year came close to the greatest marathon costume of all time, but some were still fantastic, nevertheless.

Before we get to my top five, a few caveats:

Originality counts

Every year, people run the marathon in Rhino costumes. This is impressive. They’re big and bulky, and they cover the head and obscure the vision. But they’re the same every year, and it has lost a lot of its originality – I cannot be bothered to try to capture them on camera anymore.

If I watch the marathon year after year, and see the same costume, the wonder of it will cease. Unless you’re the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

Difficulty counts

If you put a skirt on over your normal running outfit, a pair of wings on your back, and a glittery hat, you’re probably not making the list. First, it’s not terribly original. But more importantly, I’m far less impressed than I am by the person who is adding to the difficulty of the run with their costume.

For instance, Hulk Hogan here is awesome:

But a the end of the day, he’s wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and a bandana. His fake mustache is not impeding his ability to race much.

The Flash

Somebody always dresses as the Flash, so it fails on originality. But it’s a very brave thing to do, is it not? Enter a race — a race that you know you aren’t going to win — as the Flash?


Things get missed

This is a photo blog post, so costumes only count if I caught them on camera.

Happen to pass by when I popped off to use the toilet? You’re not under consideration.

Ran too slow, and came by after I left the sidelines? You’re not under consideration.

I was unable to get a decent photo of you? You’re not under consideration.

On that last point, the honourable mention of this list are the two people who dressed as one camel. Particularly the guy or gal who was the rear half of that camel. You were on the other side of the street, and this is the best I could get:

the running camel has two humps

But bravo, people. Bravo.

And now, your top five …

#5: Yellow


This is Natalie Street, raising money for the Charley Paige Trust. Almost didn’t make the cut, on the “difficulty” front, but the yellow stood out, looked fantastic, and clearly indicated a level of commitment beyond a t-shirt and funny hat.

#4: Suited and booted


This is Sam Hull, and – as near as I can tell – he is raising money for Give It Your Max.

At first, I thought this was a bit lame, as wearing a suit doesn’t strike me as “going the extra mile”, the way painting yourself head-to-toe in yellow does (nevermind the top three, below). Then I thought it was awesome — Mr. Hull is running towards Canary Wharf here. Now I know it’s supposed to be a school uniform, and I’m again not entirely sure.

But the fact remains that Mr. Hull was one of the first costumed runners to show up — and the first one to be wearing something that could be considered to make the run more difficult. For this alone, he deserves a top 5 spot.

#3: The gorilla


This is Sonja Hoeben raising money for the Gorilla Organization.

Not the first gorilla I’ve seen, nor, likely, the last. But I would completely believe it were I told that the costume is handmade. The long-ish gorilla fur is what wins it for me.

#2: Mary Poppins

mary poppins runner

Here is Paul Spreadbury, dressed as Mary Poppins, raising money for KissyPuppy.

This is a winner on multiple fronts. Running in a long dress? Carrying a handbag and an umbrella? With what has to be an uncomfortable and sight-limiting mask?

Then Mr. Spreadbury goes a step further, by posing for me as he ran past.

And then the personal nature of the charity touches a bit as well.

What could beat this? What?

#1: The Bride


I suppose somebody could get married in September, get drunk, decide to run the marathon in a wedding gown, and then go through with it.

Sophie McCorry Day beats out her husband here, by virtue of being caught on camera.

Edit: Apparently I got Paul Spreadbury’s name wrong, originally — I had it as Paul Spreadfield. And those commenting were too polite to draw it to my attention, and I only just noticed today. This has been corrected.

6 thoughts on “London Marathon: The best costumes

  1. Thank you so much !!!! (Number 2)
    I couldn’t see much, probably be able to travel round London by recognising kerb stones !!

  2. @Paul Blackley: Please go ahead! All of these are published under a Creative Commons license, so I’m happy for them to be used, so long as you credit me with the photo!

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