There’s a lot of characters that run the grueling, punishing and sometimes bloody slog up and down Mount Marathon. Some would say, you have to be a touch crazy to endure the 3,033 foot climb. However, the most popular racer may be the creature known as “The Birdman.”

 

 

 

“Birdman is the guy who has his bib in his nipples and face painted and I love him. He lets his freak flag fly and I love it,” laughs fellow racer Denali Strabel. Most everyone in Seward knows the legend of The Birdman, but few, if any, know how he got his name.

 

“I have no idea,” said racer Dane Crowley.

 

“Good question! He’s a friend of mine. Hum. I’m the wrong person to ask,” said racer Barney Griffith.

 

We met up with The Birdman at the Government Peak mountain race before he transformed into his alter ego. We found out he has a human name – Brian Stoecker – pretty tame compared to his wild flare for the savage.

 

“I win my division every time, the finish with bone division,” said Stoecker.

 

His inspiration today is an object he found years ago hiking with one of his friends — the shin bone of a moose.

 

“Because it make strong. It will make strong and it will not slow down because it is bone and bone is strong,” said Stoecker.

 

Stoeker begins his transformation with authentic Apache war paint. One of his heroes is the great Native American Chief Geronimo. The way Stoecker applies the paint is authentic, but the paint is not. Stoecker pulled an old, battered bag, the size of a basketball, out of his car. He unzipped it and dug around, mulling over the right color choice. Then, out comes a Maybelline box.

 

“I might know how to wear make up,” he jokes as he smears red and yellow stripes on his cheek. “And maybe just one feather for symbology.”

 

 

 

The Birdman’s colorful costume, complete with a tiny loincloth and

his race bib, securely fastened through his nipple rings, is his way of dealing with the punishing slog up to the top of the mountain. He believes if you survive that, you deserve to be as ridiculous as you want. His zany personality and refusalto accept defeat has secured the eccentric racer the enthusiasm of all Mount Marathon spectators.

 

But that’s what the crowd loves most about The Birdman. They don’t care how he got his name. Every Fourth of July they line up to cheer on the scantily clad racer with a personality bigger than the mountain itself.

 

 

 

As for the origin of his name, The Birdman says he wanted to be called The Warrior. However, a 12-year-old girl from Seward approached him at the grocery store and asked him if he was The Birdman. He said no. A few years later he was quoted in a local newspaper as “Brian Stoecker, also known as The Birdman.”

 

KTVA 11's Emily Carlson can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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KTVA will have complete LIVE coverage of the men’s and women’s Mount Marathon races on Monday, July 4 beginning at 10:30 a.m. Watch the coverage on KTVA 11, GCI Channel 1 and streaming online at KTVA.com/stream.