Meet Joe: The Mount Marathon Gumby
No, you're not seeing things. That really is a man in a Gumby costume running down the cliffs of Mount Marathon.
For the past nine years, Seward resident Joe Nyholm has kept the green suit in his closet, only breaking it out on the fourth of July for Mount Marathon.
"The race is really serious," Nyholm said. "A lot of egos on the line, and I think people need to laugh more."
It's about as comfortable to wear during a mountain race as you might expect.
"It's very bad, the mesh on the eyes that I'm looking through chaffs on my nose, I'm sweating all over the place," Nyholm said. "It's pretty claustrophobic, pretty much unpleasant all around."
He had a few mountain modifications to ease the discomfort. He cut the legs off, and cut holes along the body for air flow. He also has a small door in the back of the suit so he can pop his head out and breath fresh air while climbing through the heavy brush.
The idea started as a joke with his cross country team. Nyholm says his coach once told him a story about getting passed in a race by a man in a Gumby costume. Now Nyholm gets to be that man, receiving all sorts of reactions from fans and racers alike.
"Laughter, excitement, surprise, its all positive, I think unless you're racing and you see me passing, then you're a little bit mortified, defeated," he said.
Despite the silliness, Nyholm is a competitive athlete and has finished the race in less than 55 minutes. It's hard to know how much time the Gumby costume takes off his race.
He says he would love to do the race without the suit, but then he thinks about the fans and the roar of the crowd when they see him come bounding down the rocks at the base of the mountain.
In the end, it's all about fun. Even if it's more fun for the crowd than it is for him.
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