How Running Like “the King” became a Thing
Over 20 years running, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series has made all kinds of history and perhaps no tradition has endured quite like the legacy of the Running Elvi.
Why are all these costumed rockers annually running the streets of San Diego?
“All the Running Elvi are there for one reason – to have fun,” said Bob Babbitt, co-founder of Competitor Magazine and Running Elvi historian. “We get up on the stage with each of the bands during the race and rock out with our inflatable guitars. When you are dressed like Elvis, anything goes.”
Over the years, the leaders of the Running Elvi run with a boom box playing the King’s famous tunes while others belt out songs along the way. Some of the more romantic Elvi carry rings and propose to female spectators along the course.
“If you join the Elvis Experience, you must be able to handle all the fame and attention,” said Babbitt. “To run a marathon as Elvis is to be a star for the day. Everyone knows and loves you. That’s tough to beat and it sure makes the miles fly by.”
How did dressing up like “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” become so popular?
For some runners it’s the sheer pleasure of dress up and others run as a tribute to their rock idol. Babbitt’s favorite part of dressing like Elvis at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is the camaraderie, but his favorite memory dates back to one of the earliest editions of the race.
“It was the second year of Rock ‘n’ Roll, I asked duathlon star Kenny Souza to run as Elvis with us and to lead the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon,” said Babbitt. “So when Kenny went to the front and the top runners in the world flared out to his right and left for that classic image, I knew that we had something pretty darn special. Elvis was in the lead!”
Thank you…thank you very much.
So what are your plans for 2017? Running a marathon? What better way to celebrate your love of Rock ‘n’ Roll then by donning an Elvis costume (blue suede shoes optional)… you’re sure to have plenty of company!
View our other Milestones episodes:
- The Game Changer | The debut episode of Milestones, looks back at the 1998 Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon, which was the game changer of the running industry.
- The Champion | Featuring three-time Super Bowl champion, Roger Craig, who was a founding member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon
- A Run to Remember | Featuring wear blue: run to remember, the organization that honors the service and sacrifice of the American military.
- Positively Harriette | In 2015 Harriette Thompson became the oldest woman in history to run a marathon.
- The Celebration | A thank you to the participants, volunteers, sponsors, and staff that have made 20 years of running possible.