Mr. Topp Runs the London Marathon


Happy Halloween, boys and girls.

I’m sure many of you already know this, but I have been chosen to run again – I have won myself a spot in the London Marathon. I am running for Shelter, and would ask you to sponsor my run here.

But this time there’s more in it for you.

Oh, yes.

We are going to add gimmicks to this round of fundraising.

While you should still just sponsor me because I’m going to suffer for 26.2 miles (and many, many more training miles) for charity, if that’s not enough for you, or if you have so many friends running the marathon and cannot sponsor them all … I give you more. After all, the London Marathon is no ordinary race – it is a spectacle. People line the route from start to finish — I’ve seen the number reported as 250,000 people, but have no idea how that number was determined (or how to verify it’s accuracy). It will also be broadcast on the BBC.

You deserve more. I will be spectacular. I will be in costume as I run.


As my first gimmick, I am allowing my SPONSORS to choose the costume.

The caveats:

  • I am going to be in public. In front of a quarter million people. And on TV. Representing a charity. There are decency requirements
  • I will be running over 26 miles in the costume. It will be my first marathon. I need to be able to run in it reasonably well
  • I’m not sewing or custom ordering or otherwise building a costume. I need to be able to buy it in a shop
  • Masks are a pain in the ass. If I end up in a costume that needs a mask, expect me to work around it somehow. Or discard it after the first mile
  • I am supporting Shelter, and will be incorporating their race shirt in some way

Fully caveated, this is how it will work:

  1. Go to Virgin Money Giving, and sponsor me at
  2. You can either not be anonymous, or leave your costume request in the comments
  3. You can support others’ costume suggestions through the comment you send with the donation
  4. I’m looking at total support, not the biggest single donation

The person or costume with the most cumulative money donated will win!

I will post regular leaderboards, so you know where you stand. The final day for donations to count towards the choice is 23 March 2017 – one month before I run! After that, I’ll be assembling a costume and assuring myself I can run in it …

Get in.

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.

Race photography

We mentioned it back in June, but it’s worth mentioning again now — on Sunday, exactly one year after her first night back at home after giving birth, Karen will run a half-marathon.

It’s very impressive stuff (you should support her), and I’ll be there cheering … and taking photos.

I took some photos at a 10 km race this past summer — I meant to snap some photos of a friend, but of course I somehow managed to completely miss him running by. There were still plenty of photos of other runners, however. With the race coming up this weekend, these photos seem a suitable lead-in to this weekend’s race.

When photographing a race, of course, I first get the lead runners:

Once the leaders are photographed, I continue to snap away at those following. These photos are usually thrown out, but sometimes I get something pretty good:

Men and women usually race together, but are counted separately. I keep my eyes open to get the leading lady, though sometimes she can be lost in the crowd:

Once this is done, we get to the masses, and I begin looking for interesting people and situations.

For instance, some people insist on running with their headphones in. I understand why people do this in training, but a race is about more than your own running — it’s about the course, the fans, and the other runners too. It seems wrong to wear headphones while running. But some people do. And for some reason, I found a group of these people clustered together:

Of course, most of the remaining photos are of runners in costume (“fancy dress”, as they say here in England).

First, you get those in lightweight costumes that are unlikely to much impact their performance:

Then you move on to those with more elaborate costumes:

Finally, towards the back of the pack, you find people racing in costumes that make you wonder how they do it. I admire these people:

One last photo before we’re done — the obligatory black-and-white arty photo with the runners out of focus:

Don’t forget to donate to Shelter in support of Karen by clicking here, and come cheer her on in Hyde Park this Sunday.

All photos by Mr. Topp. Photos were taken at the Ascics British 10K London Run on July 10th.