Team RADepilliar [8] Race report & Reflections

Race report & Reflections

All of the training paid off, we were able to finish with an official completion time of 4:53:33, which was 10 minutes faster than the previous record! We can honestly say this was one of the best experiences of our running career, to be running with folks in another Country and have them waiving and reacting to our costume while running. Some of our favorite memories of the run:

  • Mile 14 is where things got real. There was a lot of pain, and the reality of having to finish 10 more miles to go
  • Run/Walk schedule was important for this marathon, it’s difficult to run so close together
  • The look on the little kids faces when they saw the caterpillar comping up! Some of them just lost it and started dancing around and waiving their hands!
  • Crowds. The fine folks of Berlin at every corner of the run cheering us on.
  • Running into other runners from home, making it feel like such a small world.

We’re blessed to have had such a wonderful experience at the 2017 Berlin Marathon. Thank you to all of our friends and family that have helped us out along the way, our crazy Dog Haus Run Club and everyone else who thought we could pull off this whacky run record.

Team RADepilliar [7] Guinness World Record Attempt at the Berlin Marathon

Pre-race check in with the Guinness World Record Team

After arriving in Berlin, the team put the final touches on the caterpillar to make sure  it would look it’s best from every angle. We then headed out to the Race Expo to meet the folks from the Guinness World Records, who were there to take some photos of all the record attempts for the Berlin Marathon, check our costumes and answer any questions about ensuring our attempt is within guidelines. Check out our video of the pre-race here:

Race day at the Berlin Marathon

Hailing from California where temperatures can reach up to 85F/30C during the run, we were accustomed to early starts for the Marathon (7AM). Luckily for us the marathon did not start until 10AM, which gave us plenty of time to eat and board the subway to the start to the race. Walking in costume all the way to the start line proved to be difficult, not just the walking part – but we were not prepared for the amount of attention our costume would generate. We would be walking and taking selfie’s with people along the streets and subway, in fact, we even ran into some folks from Southern California along the way. Check out the entire entry below for the walk and actual run during the marathon:

Team RADepilliar [6] Flying to Berlin & Marathon Expo

First day in Berlin! The entire RADepilliar team & support crew landed and checked into our AirBnB. After quickly dropping off our luggage, we went straight to the Berlin Marathon Expo. It’s our first time running a marathon outside of the United States – a real treat for us. Also found this really cool little German pub to round of the night.

 

Team RADepillar [5] Training for the Berlin marathon in the costume

In order to give breaking the current Guinness World Record (4 person marathon in a costume [previous time was 5:10]) a try, a few training runs would be required to work out the kinks of the costume. The real challenge here was keeping all 4 teammates training for running a regular marathon, and making time to try out these test costume runs. Everyone’s schedules were erratic, so we would frequently have to swap out runners for other friends that were crazy enough to run with us.

Luckily the 4 of us were already accustomed to a marathon training schedules, so it would be a matter of incorporating some mileage in with the costume on. We would run our normal weekly workouts, and on the weekends we would throw in a few miles with the costume during the long runs:

  • 3 mile short run- prototype run
  • 8 mile long run – 6 miles regular, 3 miles in costume
  • 16 mile long run – 8 miles in costume, followed by 8 miles regular run
  • 3 mile short run – dress rehearsal before the marathon
  • 1 mile test run – day before the Berlin Marathon (make sure the thing didn’t fall apart!)

Total training miles while in costume: 19miles (~30k)

We definitely got some funny looks running around, especially during a training run around the Rose Bowl where one of the eyeballs fell off! We learned to not use hot glue gun in California weather races, and fixed this with the help of liquid nails. A few lessons learned we gained from the training runs:

    • Backpacks – Good for distributing the weight of the costume
    • Modify the suspenders to be shorter
    • Running cadence, we found a way to “sync” up our feet if we kicked each other too much
    • Hot glue gun isn’t strong enough (use liquid nails) for running costumes

All in all, the hardest part was trying to coordinate everyone’s schedules and get a few good runs in.

Team RADepillar [4] Prototype and construction of costume

Prototype Costume

Creating the first version of the costume was pretty simple, we had an Ikea laundry basket laying around along with some suspenders. Since we didn’t want to look too strange running around with metal coils, we bought a few pieces of fabric from the store to cover it up. Here’s a breakdown of the materials used:

For the first test run, we used the Ikea FYLLEN laundry basket (coils), fabric and duct tape

We weren’t sure how the costume would come together, but we decided the best way would be to clip the suspenders to the coils directly and reinforce it with a keyring in case it broke off. For the front and back of the coils we added some duct tape to make a small belt in between so the coils wouldn’t stretch too much. Safety pinned on the fabric and voila!

After running a 5k with the Dog Haus Run Club in Pasadena, CA

We took the first version of the costume for a 5K run around Pasadena and it held up surprisingly well, the suspender clips did not come off and the safety pins didn’t tear the fabric. All good signs that a costume with these materials might hold up for an entire marathon distance. A little embarrassing at first showing up to our run club with this on, but everyone was supportive and gave us some ideas for the next revision of the costume.

Race Costume Prepration

We had approximately 2 months to build out and thoroughly stress test the costume during some runs, longer than 5K, before the Berlin Marathon. It took a few weekends to get the prototype put together, as it takes multiple people to model the costume. Having a successful run with the prototype, we started work on pulling together the supplies we needed for the full build. This list was revised many times during our trial and error period, but should mark items that were actually used for construction:

 Shopping list:

  • 5 Ikea FLYNN Laundry baskets
  • 4 Suspenders (from Target)
  • Velcro 2″ straps (6 straps total)
  • 8 baby socks
  • 1 big bag of stuffing
  • Sheets of black felt
  • Googley eyes (2 sets, in case one broke)
  • Fabric for body (green), stripes (yellow/black) and face/body
  • Liquid nails
  • Needles & various thread
  • Dozens of safety pins
  • Hot glue gun & sticks
Testing of the IKEA FYLLEN baskets

Most of the materials for the body, stripes, head and bottom were acquired in Downtown Los Angeles, we took a few trips to the garment district to select fabrics and eventually found the googley eyes.

Fabric shopping in the garment district of Downtown Los Angeles

Close up of the material selected for the body of the caterpillar, a really nice sequenced material in green! Best of all, this fabric was light and airy and wasn’t too expensive compared to others we encountered.

Putting it all together

Assembly and testing of the costume was a huge group effort, we had friends and family come by at differnt hours of the night to lend a hand in sewing, glueing, modeling, etc. Lots of pizzas and sodas were consumed in the making of this little guy.

 

Team RADepillar – [3] Costume brainstorm

How did we come up with the idea for the caterpillar?

This was probably the area that took the most time (next to the actual costume build) there were a lot of 4 person costume ideas thrown around – but finding the one that would fit our group dynamic and become viable. And also our key requirement was to make it unique and fun!

We came up with a short list of ideas and then started to bounce ideas around with friends and our run club, Dog Haus Run Club (DHRC) in Pasadena, CA. I recall at the original inspiration that we thought would work was a “slinky” from Michelle Hernandez at DHRC. Somehow that idea morphed into a “slinky caterpillar” which since the slinky is flexible and would give the costume some bounce. In the end you wouldn’t know our caterpillar is a slinky, however, the costume functions the same – beneath the shiny sequence fabric.

The idea for the Caterpillar just kind of stuck, and we came up with this original mockup of the costume during our flight to run the San Francisco Marathon this past July.

Mockup of the 4 person caterpillar costume

(Yes, it looks like it was created in Microsoft Paint… but I we Photoshop…)

Team RADepillar – [2] Submitting the Guinness World Record application

How do you actually apply for a Guinness World Record attempt?

We weren’t sure where to start but we did a Google search to see what the current record was for this record, and stumbled upon a write up about a group of 4 that had run the London Marathon as a fire truck in 05:20. Since we can all run a sub 4 marathon, we thought this attempt would be within our reach and got to work on the application process.

Application starts with creating an account at Guinnessworldrecords.com. Once you have an account created you are able to do a comprehensive search of all current record holders. In order to apply we found the name of the record and put in our official application. We had to specify which Marathon, goal time, and persons on the team.

Note: You cannot attempt record without an approval from the GWR first. Build in extra time to allow for them to review and approve your attempt.

Once our application was reviewed by GWR, it proceeded to the next phase where we were given a list of criteria that must be followed in order to break the record (i.e. Costume must be carried by team, restroom break guidelines, etc). In order to get fully approved for the attempt, we also had to submit finished photos of the costume to ensure it’s instantly recognizable as a costume during the race.  Our original attempt was sent back to us, and that’s where we spent a little more time to work on the stripes and put the antenna onto the RADepillar.

Submission 1 photo (rejected)

Our first submitted photo to the Guinness World Records

Submission 2 photo (accepted)

Our accepted photo to the Guinness World Record

Team RADepillar – [1] Inspiration & the team

What was the inspiration for running the Berlin Marathon?

During a visit to the Oktoberfest celebration in Torrance, CA – we thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to visit the real Oktoberfest and run the prestigious Berlin marathon? (I’m sure not everyone thinks of running a marathon with a beer in hand, but we’ve met a few folks at the Dog Haus Running Club that are like minded.) Once the seed was planted, we were able to secure 4 entires into the marathon a few months later. (It’s all a lottery system, this 40k+ marathon sells out every year so be sure to register with a group of friends.)

My group of friends and I have been running marathons together for the last few years, and decided to attempt to break the record for the 4 person marathon in a 4 person costume.  As a group we’ve raced about 6 marathons between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The team consists of Sarah Mattison, Chain Lee, Nam Gip and myself.

Since the Berlin Marathon is known for the fastest marathon in the world (and we would never come close to that in this lifetime) we thought a Guinness world record would be pretty epic!

Sarah Mattison, Chain Lee, Nam Gip and Michael Wong at the San Francisco Marathon

Reflections of the current fastest 4 person caterpillar to run a marathon!

It has been a little over a week since my friends and I traveled out to Berlin, Germany in attempt to set the Guinness World Record for fastest 4 person marathon in a costume! Still ridiculous, but we’re overwhelmed by the support and curiosity that friends, family and folks over the internet have with the Googley eyed Caterpillar (we call it the RADepillar after our friends and family cycling team) that ran the Berlin Marathon. Our official time was 04:53, which beat the previous record holder by a total of 10 minutes.

We’ve received a number of WTF and questions about how this crazy contraption actually worked, so here’s a little write-up:

  1. Inspiration & the team
  2. Submitting the Guinness World Record application
  3. Costume brainstorm
  4. Prototype & construction of RADepillar
  5. Training for a marathon in costume
  6. Flying to Berlin & Marathon Expo
  7. Guinness World Record attempt day in Berlin
  8. Post record attempt thoughts