It’s not often a girl can say she’s been in The New York Times. And without being too much of a skite, I can proudly say that I have – twice. Once, when I ran the New York marathon in 4 hours 44 minutes, the next day I discovered to my delight that Monday’s edition of the Times prints the names of runners whose time was under five hours. And now, after a whirlwind week in New York (in every sense of the word!) I find myself in the Times’ pages again.
Admittedly, this time it’s not by name. But when the Times reported on the fun run held on the day the marathon was supposed to be run, they made mention of “A person wearing a full body kiwi bird costume (who) danced near the spectator stands and waved at the runners from New Zealand”.
Let there be no doubt. I was that person, in the costume I’d hired from a shop in Auckland. I’d brought the suit so I could stand at the 30km mark during the marathon to support our runners, but it was cancelled 36 hours before the start because of superstorm Sandy.
We weren’t surprised at the decision. It would have been like running a marathon in Christchurch in the days after the quake. A number of our group wanted to help out, but the red tape involved in being a volunteer was too daunting.
But word quickly spread of an unofficial fun run being held in Central Park. There would be no resources put into it, but overseas runners in particular thought they might as well get a jog in and so that’s what we decided to do – join the 20,000 people in Central Park and make the most of a beautiful day. So I decided to put on the costume and try to generate a few smiles.
The Goodnight Kiwi has a very sweet face and people flocked to him. I say him, because once you put on the suit, you lose your identity. Admittedly, we have similarities. I’m short and dumpy around the middle with stumpy legs, and he is too. But he is gentle, slow-moving and patient. I am not.
Once in the suit, I found myself moving at a different pace – and not just because I couldn’t see where I was going. I must have had more than a hundred photos taken of me, and kids adored the kiwi.
My mate Gaz set up a sound system and for the next two hours Gaz, the kiwi and anyone else who wanted to rocked along to New Zealand classics like Slice of Heaven and How Bizarre. I was hugged, tackled, kissed and on more than one occasion wept on as runners crossed the finish line, fell into my wings and let out all their disappointment.
There’s a wonderful anonymity about being a character and I loved bringing a smile to people’s faces. If my other jobs fall through, I wouldn’t mind being a professional Goodnight Kiwi, appearing at parties and events near you!