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The Subtle Art of Running a Marathon in a Three-Piece Suit

Matt Whitaker, the new world-record holder, shares his secrets.

Matt Whitaker setting his record at the Blackmores Sydney Marathon.
Matt Whitaker setting his record at the Blackmores Sydney Marathon. All photos: Robin Nagy

Most days, Matt Whitaker wakes up, puts on a suit, and goes to his job at a law firm in Sydney, Australia.

This past Sunday, September 17, he woke up, put on a suit, and went to run a marathon instead.

Whitaker spent the race—the Blackmores Sydney Marathon—trying for a very obscure (and commensurately impressive) Guinness World Record, for “fastest marathon run in a three-piece suit.” He succeeded: his time of 2:44:29 beat the old record by over 13 minutes.

Whitaker, pursuing his dreams.
Whitaker, pursuing his dreams.

Marathoning is an extremely competitive sport, and the days when amateurs could dream of setting a world record, or even a course record, are pretty much toast.

Luckily, there’s always Guinness, which grants records for marathons run in various outfits, including “martial arts suit,” “armor,” and “dressed as a fruit.”

“Last year, someone tried to break the world record for fastest marathon in a jester’s suit, which I thought was pretty awesome,” says Whitaker. “I had a bit of a Google of different records and settled on this one.”

Whitaker, Gu-ing for it.
Whitaker, Gu-ing for it.

With this decision made, it was time to find the proper uniform. Whitaker bought a whole new suit, so as to avoid wrecking his work clothes. He went with wool fabric, on the Internet’s advice.

“They thought it was a bit weird at [menswear store] MJ Bale,” he says. “I got it one size too big so it wouldn’t be restrictive.” He then had it tailored, so as to not get tripped up by the pants.

Whitaker took a few practice runs in the suit, in order to “iron out the kinks,” as he put it. “I got a few weird looks,” he recalls. (After the marathon, many people shared stories online about having watched him train—“a few more than I thought had seen me,” he says.)

Getting out there was worth it, though. “There were a couple of issues that emerged, chafing being the main one,” he says. “I’m glad I discovered that as an issue before race day.”

Whitaker, looking like he knows he's got it in the bag.
Whitaker, looking like he knows he’s got it in the bag.

Guinness rules require the besuited runner never to remove any piece of the suit, to keep their tie on even if it flaps, and to make sure their shirt’s top button stays closed. Despite these restrictions, the race went fairly smoothly. Whitaker had two main competitors: the clock, and another dressed-up runner, Mike Tozzer, who currently holds the record for fastest half-marathon in a suit.

Whitaker went hard out of the gate, and kept his pace up until the final ten miles, which he says were killer. “The three layers were really starting to wear me down,” he says. “I had this realization that maybe I had made a huge mistake.”

But every day’s work comes to an end. Whitaker crossed the finish line in 27th place overall—well ahead of Tozzer—and did so quickly enough to claim the record as his own.

Now, he heads to the office with an extra spring in his step. “In a different suit,” he clarifies.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to [email protected].