By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2016 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
HONOLULU, HI, USA (09-Dec) — The Honolulu Marathon is known around the world for many reasons: it’s majestic views of Diamond Head and the Pacific Ocean, the early morning start kicked off by fireworks filling the air, and the delicious malasada treats at the finish.
Running in costume, however, has been a growing trend here, with a select few standing out year after year. There have been Pikachus and Buzz Lightyears, princesses, tutus, and the occasional Japanese cartoon character.
Four runners in particular — Gettaman, Vegan Man, Big Bird Tuba Man, and Cowman– have differentiated themselves from the rest of the field. With 30,000 runners expected to start Sunday’s 44th annual race, here’s a look at who you may see (or hear about) along the course.
GETTAMAN: For the 20th consecutive year, Gettaman (real name Satoshi Takenouchi) will run the Honolulu Marathon in traditional Japanese geta footwear. With an elevated wooden base that creates a very high platform, geta shoes are essentially wooden flip-flops. Gettaman, from Minato-Ku, Tokyo, has become a celebrity of sorts, featured on the local morning news this year.
A health and fitness personality who calls himself a “Human Artist,” Gettaman has gained national fame in Japan for his lecturing on the mind and spirit. According to his personal website, Gettaman was an elite triathlete in his younger years before focusing on work as a “Health movement educator.” His work involves in-depth stretching and mind training.
Every year since 1996, Gettaman has completed the race from Ala Moana Park to Kapiolani Park in full Getta garb, posing for pictures often displaying the Shaka sign with a smile. He’ll have a large contingent of Japanese runners alongside him this year, as some have journeyed to the island solely for the chance to run with Gettaman during the race.
VEGAN MAN: Vegan Man, whose real name is Jake Garvin, has been running the Honolulu Marathon since 2012. Each year, he’s carried an extremely heavy object to make the 26.2 miles that much tougher with hopes to make onlookers aware that a vegan lifestyle can make you strong. Over the last three years, Vegan Man has carried 70 pounds worth of barbells, a 100-pound log, and another log that was soaked in water to weigh in excess of 120 pounds.
A muscular athlete, Garvin came up with the idea to carry heavy objects in 2011 when he was running along the marathon route near Diamond Head. Part of a tree was sitting in the middle of a road, and Garvin made a spur-of-the-moment decision to pick it up and continue running with the log.
Garvin told the Honolulu Star Advisor that he runs 10 to 15 miles a day, picking up anything on the route that catches his eye, whether it be sticks or boulders. This year, it is unknown what type of heavy object Vegan Man will carry.
BIG BIRD TUBA MAN: Japanese musician Kato Hiroshi has made a name for himself in Honolulu, not for blistering times, but for his whimsical costume that brings a smile to runners and spectators. For many years, Hiroshi has traveled around the globe running various marathons while sporting his traditional getup: a classical red and white striped shirt, bow tie, and straw hat. His outfit is always accented by carrying –and playing– a giant feathered sousaphone that makes him look like Sesame Street’s Big Bird.
Hiroshi’s costume has given him the nickname Big Bird Tuba Man (or simply Tuba Man, depending on whom you ask). According to a marathon blog based out of Hong Kong, Hiroshi is a professional piano player who thought the challenge of playing a sousaphone while running would be intriguing. Ironically, the costume led him to his future wife, whom he met after a race!
Early in the 2013 Honolulu Marathon, Big Bird Tuba Man found himself in the middle of a Sesame Street serenade. Honolulu’s St. Andrew’s Priory Band –made up of youths from the St. Andrew’s School– were playing along the race route when someone noticed Hiroshi’s costume. Hiroshi was quickly called over, and the band struck up their rendition of the Sesame Street theme song. Playing along with the band, Hiroshi danced and posed for pictures before continuing on the course (he’d finish the 2013 race in 6:32:10).
A video of the encounter is worth a watch on YouTube — https://www.youtube.com/watch?
COWMAN A-MOO-HA: Scroll through the Honolulu Marathon results and you’ll find that Cowman A-Moo-Ha has been a racefixture since 1979. Cowman (real name Kenneth Shirk) has been profiled by ESPN for his endurance feats and signature viking horns, which he first donned more than three decades ago.
A resident of Kailua-Kona, Cowman has a lengthy running past, having pioneered the Western States Run and completed a lap around Lake Tahoe (72 miles) in less than a day. He annually competes in marathons and the Ironman World Championships (the latter as an unofficial entrant), all the while sporting his distinct horns and a handmade shirt emblazoned to promote world peace. Since the 1970s, he’s been a regular in Honolulu.
“I used the shirts to express my messages of peace, love and happiness and they got noticed,” Cowman told Keola Magazine in 2012. “Every day I try to be more open and communicate to others.”
Costumes aren’t just limited to runners in Honolulu. Paul Goto, a Diamond Head resident, dresses up as Batman along the course every year to cheer runners on and bring a smile to their faces. In a 2014 Honolulu Star Advertiser video, he is seen posing for pictures in the rain to encourage runners.
Here in Honolulu, you never know what new costumes will show up on race day. If you’re along the course, you better have your camera ready, as there are sure to be memorable ones.
PHOTO: Kato Hiroshi, aka Big Bird Tuba Man, at the start of the 2015 Honolulu Marathon (photo by Chris Lotsbom for RaceResults Weekly)
PHOTO: Kenneth Shirk, aka Cowman A-Moo-Ha, running the Honolulu Marathon in the 1970’s (undated photo courtesy of the Honolulu Marathon Association)