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Hypothetical question for marathon runners: Would the sight of a man in a chicken suit approaching the finish line ahead of you inspire you to dig a little deeper and beat him? 

If you answered, “I’m schooling that chicken, no matter what,” this would bring a smile to the face of Tilman Von Der Linde, a marathon runner known for inspiring other runners in his very unique way.

 He knew he had a gift for running as he was one of the fastest in elementary school but talent alone wasn’t enough to satisfy Von Der Linde.  

He got noticed for running the Boston Marathon twice and the New York Marathon, among big road races. 

But what really set him apart is he ran them all in costume, from chicken to gingerbread Man and many more.

In a Q&A interview the Vancouver resident and registered massage therapist, Von Der Linde shared his passion for running in costume and also offered a few training tips.

Q: When did you start running in costumes?

A: My first attempt at running in a costume didn’t work out so well. I was wearing a rabbit suit in the 2000 

Vancouver Sun Run and the head piece only had 2 holes for the eyes where the air was coming in. It was very difficult to breathe but I finished. 

That was the first and last time for the bunny suit.

Q: What do you like most about running in costume?

A: I like seeing the looks of disbelief on people’s faces. That look can only mean one thing, which is that the envelope of possibility is being expanded in their minds.

Wearing a costume in a race also seems to affect the other racers around me. 

People running behind me step up their pace as they don’t want to be beaten by a guy in a costume at the finish line. 

(Ed. note: We have confirmation) And on occasion I have had some racers run with me who later said that they simply needed to hear the elevated level of cheers from the crowds for themselves. 

Then there are others who have come up to me in the finish areas and thanked me for motivating them to run faster. In my case, it’s not about personal attention, it’s about the fun and effect that the costume generates.

Q: Do you ever not put on a costume for a race?

A: Since 1999 I have run all my races in costume. Lately I have been running in a chicken man suit that I built myself.

However my favorite running suit has been a gingerbread man suit which also happens to be the most challenging one I have found to run in.

Q: Do you have any tips to share for future costumed racers?

A:  Training in the heat of the day also works to accustom you to the experience. 

Do not train in your costume – you wouldn’t want someone driving on the road to have an accident because they are distracted by you wearing a suit.

Train for dehydration and endurance. Slowly spread out the distance between water breaks. That said, hydrate every chance you get during races.

Make sure the material is thin enough to let air flow through.

My Gorilla suit looks thick and hot from the outside but it has great airflow through the material and keeps the sun off the skin. 

Vision is important and some suits may not allow for great vision. 

Always communicate to others around you with a swing out of the arm as a hand signal indicating your direction to pass in traffic. 

Q: What is your funniest story about running in costume?

A: Three years ago I was spring skiing in my Gorilla suit at Whistler Mountain. I was in the gondola alone, heading up to the upper parking lot where more people were getting on. 

I wasn’t wearing the gorilla headpiece at the time but when the doors opened a lady walked into the gondola, saw me, turned around and walked right back out telling the lift attendant, “I can’t go in there…there’s a bear in there!”

Christine Blanchette is a TV host/producer of Run With It, a monthly running, fitness and health program on YouTube.

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