Philadelphia Marathon brings out the campy runners

Posted: November 24, 2008

Keith Straw of Malvern ran the Philadelphia Marathon yesterday in pink tutu and leotard.

"They sure as hell don't pay me, so I might as well have some fun," Straw, 52, explained, dripping with sweat and holding a pink wand. Asked why he didn't dance across the finish line, he replied, "There's no dance left in me today. I can't feel my legs."

The reasons people ran 26.2 miles - and what they wore - were as varied as the 18,000 runners themselves.

Karl Leitz, 41, of Jersey City, ran as Captain Marvel, wearing a cape and a costume with a lightning bolt across his chest. "You have not run a marathon until you run in costume," he said. "Energizes the crowd. Energizes you. Two months ago in Chicago I ran as Elvis, in jumpsuit and sunglasses."

Pat and Holly Onofrio of Churchville dressed as Dr. Seuss characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, in red button-up pajamas and mad blue wigs.

As they ran past the 12-mile mark, they were asked, Why?

"Why not?" Thing 1 replied.

Barry Goldmeier of Rockville, Md., juggled five balls. It took him six hours to finish.

Wonder Woman ran, so did Spiderman.

"Fighting crime," he said.

Many wore "Beat the Beast" on T-shirts, the beast in this race being melanoma.

There was a Team Utopia and a Team Tiara, whose runners ran past in tiaras.

Many wore shirts with meanings that only the runners themselves would know:

"Pulling for Patrick."

"Griffin is my hero."

"For Donna."

Adam Work, 22, of Mountain Lakes, N.J., wore a shirt that said, "This Bod Belongs to God."

Three guys hit the 12-mile mark with enough energy to be singing a Temptations song, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."

Kevin Gross, 32, of Fairmount, dressed in a giant lemon costume and carried an Alex's Lemonade Stand sign the entire 26.2 miles. "Everyone cheered," he said. "Very rewarding. Small things make a big difference."

Team Vegan Philly ran the marathon for the first time yesterday, 24 runners competing in the three events: marathon, half-marathon and 8k.

Even though he had "Team Vegan" on his T-shirt, "somebody called out, 'Go Vegas,' " said Bryan Sandala, 28, a teacher in a Camden charter school who runs in "Vegan shoes" - no suede or leather.

Vegans say 11 billion farmed animals are raised and killed annually - and often cruelly - in America for food.

The vegan team wanted to show, by running a marathon, that humans can eat no meat, dairy, eggs or even honey and thrive as athletes.

"If I eat like a deer, I might as was well run like a deer," said Allison Crow, 21, who ran her first ever road race. She fueled up beforehand on a breakfast of "sauteed kale with flaxseeds and lemon."

Darius Fullmer ran shirtless - showing Vegan tattooed across his back - and was going home to Hamilton to celebrate by snacking on "a mean vegan cheesecake made with tofu."

Charlie Dickens, 17, the deaf and autistic sophomore at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf profiled in yesterday's Inquirer, finished in 6:37:10.

Dickens, who dropped out last year at mile 21, was determined to finish but struggled immensely near the end. His running partner and teacher, Becky Ritter, 24, held the newspaper article in front of him for the last five miles as motivation. When they stopped to walk briefly, "I read him little bits of the article," she said. "He was very, very, very happy when we were finished."

Euphoria and misery were in abundance at the finish.

Some wept with joy, or with pain, or with both. Every now and then a finisher collapsed and was rolled away on a stretcher. One runner paused just before the finish - in front of the cheering crowds at Eakins Oval - and took a long, theatrical bow.

Some regretted running.

"Maybe the worst decision ever," said Will Bosma, 24, of Villanova, after crossing the finish line in 3:45. He ran to see if he could do it. He was cramping up and suffering.

Jamie Masson, 39, from Albany, N.Y., a member of the Marathon Moms, was so exhausted after she crossed the finish line that she asked a volunteer to untie her shoelaces.

"Oh, orgasmic," she said. Then she gave a long, life-sustaining hug to one of her fellow Marathon Moms and explained, "Running a marathon is about friendship, strength and courage."

The Moms had reservations for lunch at El Vez at 2 p.m., after long hot showers.

"Bring on the salsa," Masson said.

Contact staff writer Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or

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