Sunday, 8 May 2011

Miwok and raising awareness/money for AIDS' orphans in South Africa

It was a bit windy.
Photo courtesy of Doug Bond at mile 51.

After my fellow Bend resident (where I lived at the time) and ultra running superstar, Kami Semick, raised money for the Starfish Greathearts Foundation for last year's Comrades marathon, I was inspired to help her and the charity out this year. They support children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa and have projects in the KwaZulu Natal Province where Comrades is set.

Given the extremely high rates of infection in South Africa and the many orphans resulting from this, I thought it'd be a great idea to help out. Therefore I've set up a justgiving site for UK residents who wish to donate at: as well as a donation website for anyone wanting to donate in dollars at: Both these links also have more information about the work the charity does.

So rather than just dedicating my Comrades run to fundraising, I thought that all my big races this year could be used to raise awareness. And the traditional way to do this in the UK, particularly at the world's biggest fundraising event, the London marathon, is to run in a costume. I've already run the Napa Valley marathon this year dressed as Spiderman (see posting here) but I've never run an ultra in a restrictive costume. I didn't want to announce it too far in advance in case the unpredictable Bay Area weather was too nasty, but I did run yesterday's Miwok 100k (with 10,000ft of climbing) dressed as Elvis. This seemed like a good idea at the time, although it was actually a lot more annoying to run like that than I'd expected. Previously I've used the costume for marathons (see here), but the prospect of nine hours or more in the sun and hills was a completely different endeavor.

In short, the race was as fun and competitive as ever and I think I got a lot of unexpected smiles from runners and spectators alike who enjoyed my costume more than I did. It was meant to be more relaxed than a full race effort but running that far on that terrain will always take a toll and it was still a hard day's work. The costume was hot, caused some chaffing and the wig kept getting in my eyes, especially with the really strong winds on some of the higher points. But I had a great day out with old and new friends and had one of the best conversation starters possible for meeting new people.

Oh, and I heard the best line anyone's ever shouted out at me while in a costume. Seven miles into the race, back at the start area of Rodeo Beach was a guy dressed as a pirate. He said, "I may be the captain, but you're the KING!" Couldn't help but laugh at that one.

The Golden Gate Bridge soon after sunrise.

Full results are here and I managed a respectable 10th place while avoiding the hard running at the front. There's also a great video following the leaders here and it also includes a few seconds of interviewing me mid-run right at the end of the footage.

If this story entertained you or maybe even just made you think a bit about the effects of AIDS in a much poorer country, then please donate something. Every little helps. This year's Comrades will have a strong North Face (and other sponsors) team again from the US and UK and the others are also behind the charity. Also, please let me know your thoughts and comments.


  1. I can't believe you ran 100k in that wig! Classic!
    Whats next? The Hulk at Comrades?

  2. Dude - you give new meaning to YOU ROCK! really, YOU ROCK!!!!!!! Keep up the great work and thanks for posting. . .

  3. Loving the Elvis get up. I am actually doing King Tut for my fall marathon. Headdress and all! Wishing you the best at Comrades!

  4. Congrats on the excellent Miwok finish, costume and all, Ian!
    Thank you for spreading the word about the Starfish charity. As a person who's lived with HIV for nearly 30 years, I more than most appreciate the efforts made by elites like you and Kami to keep the awareness and fundraising candles burning.
    Back in '80 and '81, when it was an almost certain death sentence to be infected, those of us lucky enough to "hang on" benefitted greatly from the organizations (such as AIDS Project Los Angeles) that were created from scratch with no corporate assistance of any kind -- just friends appealing to friends to contribute to a fund to helps those in need.
    I'll head over to the Starfish site and make a donation. And I'll also wish you well at Comrades as you try to finish under 6 hours. I currently have two Ups and one Down finish. I hope to return for next year's Down Run to even up my totals.
    In the meantime, I trust your trek from Durban to Pietermaritzburg will be a big success.  I'll look for you at Western States to congratulate you on your Comrades triumph.  I won't be able to congratulate you on your WS finish because I'll be finishing at least 10 hours after you do!

  5. Ric - Glad I can be of some help. Seems fitting to help out with a charity that works with people along the Comrades course, especially since the country still has some horrendous poverty even as it gets richer.

  6. I'll be there in spirit cheering you on come raceday. Comrades is my absolute favorite race of all time -- I just wish I could run it every year.
    I made a general donation at the Starfish site but in the comments section I made sure I noted that it was in support of "Ian Sharman's fundraising efforts while running in this year's Comrades Marathon."   Best of luck again on the 29th!

  7. I have to bow down to you for running that distance in costume. Absolutely wonderful!

  8. Nice job on the fundraising, Ian. Very cool. And congrats on a top-ten finish for The King. Craig seems to think you're going to run States as Kermit the Frog, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that one. Go Kermit!

  9. How do you do?
    You tried MIWOK 100K with dressed
    as Elvis? Fantastic!

    Dressed (or Costume play running)
    is extraordinarily difficult to run
    (finisher), because of many problems:

    humid, heavy (wearing), pressure,

    and so on.

    Dispite many problems of dressed run,
    you did a good job as a strong runner,
    Ian. Costume play run needs preparing
    for running skills, strong courage.

    I hope that Ian would run strong
    and enjoyable.

    P.S: In Japan, some runners tried
    cosutume running (Kasou-run)
    in a running race.

    A few runners dressed costume
    run faster. ( 100K within
    7h59min, 26.2K run with sub-3hours,

  10. I've really enjoyed reading this, I have recently discovered the amazing work that Listen Ltd have done on behalf of charities, they have helped raise over £150 million!