Running in a Gorilla Costume
This year I took it upon myself to participate in the Great Gorilla Run 2010 in London. This is a charity fun run organised by the Gorilla Organization, runners run 7km along the sidewalks of London, crossing over London Bridge and passing the Tate Modern Gallery on the way in gorilla costumes. Puzzled tourists gawp at the overheated primates who do it in aid of one thing - endangered mountain gorillas!
Entering the race
Entering the race is really simple, I signed up on their website, paid my entrant fee of £80 by debit card, chose the size of Gorilla suit that I wanted and from then on, I was registered. A fund-raising pack with information on how to raise money and the gorilla suit itself was delivered to the address I signed up with.
Admittedly, 7km is not much of a long haul but along the busy and windy streets of London in a costume, it's no piece of cake! I can't say I did much in the way of preparation apart from give up alcohol and have a couple of runs a week before the race. You can walk the race if you like, so there's no requirement to be fit!
As this race is a fun run and not particularly competitive, there's a focus on fancy dress, there's actually a competition for the best dressed gorilla and participants are impressively creative, there was one entrant in full cricket playing apparel on top of a gorilla outfit, another one who squeezed themselves into a sumo-wrestlers fake skin and who can forget the Bon Jovi Gorilla? The overall view of the runners (which exceeded 700 in 2010) is a very colourful and lively one and brightens up London to an almost carnival like atmosphere.
Some runners choose to slit holes in their gorilla suit to give the body more air, whilst that is not really necessary, it's important that you adjust the eye and nose holes, so that you can see and breathe properly, it might take a while to get the mask right, the trick is to make it comfortable without compromising on the look of the gorilla but ultimately your safety should be the most important thing!
The most uncomfortable part of the suit for me was the latex gorilla hand gloves, they were a lot longer than my fingers and I soon found them filling up with sweat that dripped down my arm, it really was quite disgusting!
You are encouraged to raise a minimum of £400, this goes to The Gorilla Organization who not only invest the money in the welfare of the gorillas habitats but also work with local NGOs to help provide schooling and education of people in nearby villages and to teach them to value their forests and not hunt endangered species for meat or as trophies for game hunters. They work in Uganda, Rwanda, Congo and Gabon
The race runs through the centre of London on a Sunday at the end of September, the 7km of relatively flat run is along pavements, most of it is alongside the Thames where you will encounter a lot of bemused tourists and surprised children, there's a couple of subways to negotiate where the stairs can be tricky if you haven't altered the eye holes correctly.
Despite not knowing any of the other participants, there was very much a group atmosphere present at the race. The organisers did a good job of putting helpful volunteers out in the streets, there was a very talented drumming group and the race was also endorsed by the evergreen celebrity Bill Oddie. There seemed to be a cheerful feeling amongst the relatives and friends of participating gorillas that waited at the start and finish line. The event seemed to bring great delight to spectators, children and tourists in particular seemed to enjoy it and the fact that you are hidden behind a costume gives you a bit of a creative license to entertain and do things that you might not if you weren't dressed up as a gorilla.
Apart from the feeling of having achieved something physically or having taken part in an event that helps a great cause which you've raised money for, the organization supply you with a medal and some other after race goodies.
A race near you
Although people attended from Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Canada, The London gorilla run is not the only gorilla fun run in the world today. Others take place in Edmonton, Calgary, Denver and Austin. There was something similar in Melbourne not so long ago, one in San Francisco in 2007 and there have been similar events ear-marked in Amsterdam, Beijing and New York. I myself am interested in setting one up in Warsaw in 2011 or 2012.