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Pittsburgh Marathon 2011: Keystone Capers! (18 May 2011 at 21:18)
We did it! You guys know that when I'm not trying to run for time, I like to make things harder for myself by running in costume (shark, hazmat) or carrying a cake. This year was the best/worst yet. Ryan ran as a Keystone Cop chasing me, escaped prisoner, all 26.2 miles. We looked like this:
Keystone Capers!
Photo is from the Post-Gazette. This costume was pretty hard because it was full-body Xtra-Chafe™ polyester, with a hat, all of which really lock in the moisture, and that stupid mask that was too small for my face and was usually getting in the way of my eyes. But the real barrel of monkeys was that I was wearing handcuffs, leg irons, and a heavy chain between them. This was, you know, not good for the mechanism.

It took us about 5h30m to finish, which is at least two hours longer than it would have if I was just running. Going into this one I wasn't even confident I was going to be able to finish. In some ways I was hoping that it would be too hard, so that I would be appropriately testing my limits. And indeed as we reached about 4 miles I was worried, because it was getting painful pretty quickly. The running itself was not a problem at all; we were doing like eleven minute miles at first, which I think is probably close to the fastest possible pace with leg irons on—you just can't go fast with such a short stride. So maybe I set a pretty good world record in marathon shuffling. But after a few miles I could tell that the leg cuffs were going to be a real problem, because they were starting to dig into my ankles. Around ten miles they had badly broken through the skin and I was worried that at this trajectory, not even half way through, it would later get too painful to stand. We did a little walking, but this didn't help with the main problem because I still had the leg cuffs on and they were just as abrasive when walking. I found a few ways to adjust the cuffs, pausing every few miles to adjust, that would at least reduce the amount of sweat salt and street grit that the cuffs were grinding into the wounds, which helped. The cuff cuts were not a surprise, but an unexpected growing problem was that the belly chain was doing this periodic superposition-of-waves flappin' around, and every 6 strides or so it would smack me in the back of my left calf, or on my right knee where I already had a knee-being-scraped-previously injury and bust open that scab, but the calf was way worse, because it got really bruised and raw and every time that happened it was like smacking a sensitive tooth with a snapping little miniature rubber band.

Ryan was offering to get some tape from the aid station to tape up my ankles, but I didn't want to cheat unless it was bad enough to quit otherwise. And as we got towards 20 miles, it was getting worse but not at an alarming trajectory like before, so I decided I could stick through it. There were other weird problems like, since I was using this very short and awkwardly duck-footed stride to manage the chain (and my ankles could only get a very limited distance apart), I was only using a small set of muscles, and not ones that I usually use for running, because these were the shufflin' muscles. So those got pretty fatigued, and I was feeling kind of sick from who knows what, but I was mostly able to focus on the ankles. Here are some pictures of the aftermath. I put them behind links so you don't have to see them if you're just like, casually browsing the web.

Bloody shoe — These socks are white, by the way.

Wounded ankle — Two abrasions. Don't really know why my heel got stained black, but it washed out.

Bruised calf — I really don't bruise easily, either.

Days later, my ankles are still bleeding frequently, and it's still kinda hard to walk.

This was Ryan's first time running this far. His costume was basically as bad as mine except without the shackles, and he often gets really hot when he runs, so it was good that it was not sunny until mile 22. I gave him my only handcuff key so that I would not be tempted to leave him (or let him leave me), and so he would not be tempted to run off. Since he was behind me I didn't get to see how he was doing, but he seemed pretty strong—we were going pretty slowly but 26 miles is no joke at any speed, so a nice first showing. Here's a puzzler: Ryan started behind me and finished behind me, but finished one place ahead of me. How is that possible? (The following isn't true but a simplifying assumption: Let's say he was exactly the same distance behind me for the entire race.)

Okay, fun stuff: We got loads of good feedback. Usually what would happen with other runners is that they would start passing us, seeing Ryan's costume and start LOLing, and then see my costume and start ROFLing, and start to say something to us like oh my god those costumes are awesomeeeee but as they were saying something, would see my shackles in mid sentence and it would be sort of like ... costumes are aweee—uhhhhh what the hell??. I got to practice my comebacks when comments were repeated multiple times. Q. Are you running the full marathon? A. Yeah, of course. Who runs half a marathon?! (There is a concurrent half marathon with like 10,000 runners, including some people who asked me this.) Or alternate A. Yeah, it's only like one mile, right? Another frequently asked Q. Does that make it hard to run? A. No, it's actually easier, because it's like an ankle massage. Q. asked by kids running along side me on the sidewalk: What did you go to jail for? A. (very seriously) Running on the sidewalk. (kids slink away). At the water stations I would have some water or Gatorade, but I couldn't actually bring the water up to my lips because of the chain, so I would have to kind of crouch and drink it hunchback style. Ryan would tell them not to give me water, or be like, okay, just ONE more. He'd grab my collar as I slowed to drink, but then after the water station I would bust away cackling, and he would shout "Oh no!". He often tried to solicit help from the policemen stationed all along the race, especially from the ones that were looking really serious. We got some good chuckles, including some of them taking photos. You can find some on Twitter no doubt. Some other people were inspired to run harder, e.g. in this article:

My lungs were burning and my calves were cramping, but my brain was screaming: If I can't pass a dude in a stupid costume with chains around his ankles, I might as well lie down right now.


My favorite racetime pastime is dancing in front of the musicians that are playing about every mile. They are surprised enough to see a costumed prisoner in chains, but when I bust out some moves or air guitar (severely constrained because of the chains), and Ryan either synchronizes with me or starts batoning his hand impatiently, shaking his head no, we can often get them to laugh so much that they screw up their song, which is victory. One band as we were entering Shadyside saw us coming and played a song (you'd recognize it, but I don't know the name), maybe from like Nutcracker Suite, which is often used for chase/nefarious scenes in Looney Tunes. We did an extra long synchronized dance. I loved this so much, thanks guys.

There's lots more to talk about but this blog post is way late and getting pretty long. This was definitely my most memorable marathon costume so far, though we already have ideas for next year that may beat it in both flagellation and congregation. For the record, I didn't do as much manual making of the costume as last year—the prison rags are from a costume shop. I hemmed them from "one size fits all" to "this size fits Tom", and I made a reproduction of my race bib (ironed onto an old yellowing t-shirt and sewn to the shirt) to make it look like it was my prison ID number. And, of course, I braved the world of online handcuff shopping, which consists only of law enforcement shops and sex shops, which I had a hard time telling which made me more uncomfortable, and then I accidentally sent the cuffs to my parents' house. I'll wrap with the prospectus:

Keystone Capers!


I'm interested in any other sightings you guys have!
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jcreed (74.73.111.23) – 05.21.11 08:46:29
My favorite phrase of today --- and it is only 8:45am, and yet I am acting with the utmost confidence --- is "I braved the world of online handcuff shopping, which consists only of law enforcement shops and sex shops, which I had a hard time telling which made me more uncomfortable"
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jcreed (74.73.111.23) – 05.21.11 08:47:14
ps good job tom, I am always super impressed by your marathon shenanigans
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effika (72.200.208.182) – 05.21.11 10:16:54
This is so, so awesome. I have shared it with my marathon-running friends.
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Tom 7 (67.186.6.86) – 05.22.11 12:46:29
Sometimes a man wonders: Should Tom have tried running 5.2 miles less than a week after this? The answer is YES, but DRINK SOME WATER FIRST
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chrisamaphone (65.196.126.11) – 05.22.11 13:50:20
congratulations, tom! that's pretty awesome. i hope you did not do any permanent damage to yourself.

REMINDER i am still 100% in for any and all Great Race costume shenanigans.
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jpearce (174.25.149.221) – 05.24.11 22:24:24
The lesson here is only buy leather cuffs, cats and kittens.
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Lance (72.14.228.1) – 05.25.11 23:41:38
Here's another news page with some photos in case you haven't seen them. You're in photo #25:

http://www.wtae.com/slideshow/health/27900027/detail.html
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klari (15.203.233.80) – 05.26.11 20:26:21
That totally rocks! Not sure I could beat your time without the shackles.
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matus (132.239.10.158) – 01.07.12 04:06:50
i am late to this party, and so let me say most emphatically: holy shit
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Anonymous (132.239.10.158) – 01.07.12 04:08:58
MAYDAY MAYDAY

you are no longer the top google hit for "bathroom mushroom"!!!

(I believe I've already said I use this to track internet health.)
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jonas (5403c31a.catv.pool.telekom.hu) – 05.27.15 15:19:13
Is the song you mentioned "Yakety_Sax"?
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Tom 7 (pool-173-75-25-122.pitbpa.fios.verizon.net) – 05.28.15 00:12:16
Ah, no, less Benny Hill, more Pink Panther (but also not that one)...
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