Julia Mitchelmore tells how she survived the chafing to break the Guinness World record for a marathon runner dressed as a ‘cheerleader’...
When I found out that I’d got a ballot place in London Marathon, I knew I wanted to make the race extra special. London was to be my ninth marathon in a personal challenge to run 26.2 marathons by age 26.2, and it felt right to honour my home city.
The idea to dress in a silly costume entered my mind and it was quickly decided: I was going to try and set a Guinness World Record (GWR) on 23 April 2017!
I spent a few weeks scouring the list of existing costume records - everything from skeleton to flight attendant to nun - before settling on 'cheerleader', which came with a 4:30 time to beat. The costume criteria are outlined during the application process so I knew I would need to find a recognisable cheerleading uniform (one or two piece) including shorts, and carry two pompoms.
With my costume and application approved by GWR in mid-February, it was now time to train! parkrun quickly became my preferred place to try out the various parts of the uniform, as it was much friendlier and caused less stares than running along Regent's Canal! I did do one 18k run and a 10 mile race waving pompoms, enough to confirm that they were annoyingly sweaty!
Joining all the other GWR hopefuls (including a Mona Lisa painting; a swimmer; a toilet roll) in the Green start of London Marathon was an incredible feeling. We were all trying something a little bit insane, and it created a wonderful atmosphere.
Once checked, our outfits were marked with ‘Guinness World Record’ signs, which meant during the run I had other runners wishing me luck and asking if I was on track to set the record. It was great to get that little boost as I went along.
After a slightly disappointing marathon in Paris two weeks earlier, I set off at London at PB-pace until 10k when my shorts started causing major chafing problems. I decided then to slow down and enjoy running through my city. Other than some standard dark miles between 17 and 22 it all went fairly well after that.
So many of my friends had come out to cheer, and I often had spectators yelling out my name or ‘CHEERLEADER!’ as I passed by. Thankfully, I also found some St John’s Ambulance angels with Vaseline at Mile 15 who saved my race!
The last few miles of London Marathon are fabulous as is, but were even more special for me knowing that I was about to enter the record books as the ‘Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Cheerleader (female)’. I threw my hands in the air as I finished in 3:46:55, well under the 4:30 target time. Later inside the finish area I had my record confirmed. I was a Guinness World Record holder!
I feel honoured to have been able to run London Marathon, and proud that I could acknowledge that privilege by writing my name in the record books. Through my 26.2 marathon challenge I have been fundraising for Trekstock, a cancer support charity for young people, and my record attempt helped raise an additional £500+ towards their work. I am very grateful to everyone who has supported me and helped improve the lives of people my age dealing with cancer.
Check out Julia's latest adventures at her Carbs & Kilometres website.