Charlotte Corriher has run 128 marathons since 2004. She’s run over mountains, across the desert, and beside the ocean. She’s pushed through zero-degree wind chills and 95-degree heat.
Oh yeah, and with the exception of four races, Corriher has run every marathon in costume.
Corriher’s unique act comes to Olathe on Saturday for the 16th annual Garmin Marathon, dubbed “In the Land of Oz,” and, yes, she plans to be in costume for the event — six, to be exact, all characters from the “Wizard of Oz.”
It’s a movie Corriher has been passionate about her entire life.
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“I’ve been a fan of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ since I can remember, maybe 3 or 4 (years old),” said Corriher, a North Carolina native. “Every fall, we visited the Land of Oz amusement park at Beech Mountain Resort. They had costumes from the movie and we always walked down the yellow brick road.”
This Saturday, Corriher’s yellow brick road will be Garmin’s marathon course, which she will share with more than 4,000 other runners. It’s also a celebratory event for the resolute runner and Oz devotee as the race will mark the 50th state in which she’s raced in a marathon.
Nine years ago, after completing 10 marathons, Corriher joined the 50 States Marathon Club.
“I’ve met people from all over the country through the club,” she said. “It makes it so much more enjoyable to know you’re automatically going to have friends at a race. Friends from 15 states are coming in to run this race with me on Saturday.”
Because of her fascination with all things Oz, the race has been part of Corriher’s marathon game plan for the past six years.
“I wanted to pick a race that was very memorable for my 50th state,” she said. “This is the perfect grand finale. I’ve always wanted to do Kansas, but was saving it for my final state.”
While she saved the Gamin Marathon for her 50-state finale, Corriher’s certainly competed in plenty of other memorable races — and costumes — along the way.
Typically, her costume designs reflect the race theme or landmarks of the state in which she is racing.
Corriher donned a lobster costume for the Mount Desert Island Marathon in Maine and she ran as Mount Rushmore in South Dakota’s Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon. During the Honolulu Marathon, she channeled a volcano.
“It all started with my third marathon in 2007, the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach,” Corriher said. “It was the weekend of St. Pat’s. I told my friends, ‘Let’s get green shirts.’ We found leprechaun hats and then mom (Kay Corriher) made us shirts with shamrocks.”
She continued, “My costumes are a family collaborative. I design them, my mom constructs them, and my sister paints them. My mom is the absolute best. She’s made at least 75 percent of my costumes. She’s really into it.”
Kay Corriher is seldom interested in her daughter’s race results.
“When I race, she doesn’t even ask how I did. She asks if everyone loved the costumes.”
“I just like making Charlotte happy,” Kay said. “Seeing the friends she’s made has been the best part.”
Kay’s personal favorite marathon costume was for the 2013 Little Rock Marathon when Charlotte decided to forego the race- or state-themed costume.
“It was my birthday that weekend, so I wore a three-tiered birthday cake,” Charlotte said. “... At first, the costumes were pretty simple. My running outfits were turned into costumes. Then, I started to get more elaborate. For Garmin, I knew a lot of people dress up, so this one had to be over the top.”
There are some runners who might view six costumes — and six costume changes during a race — as a little over the top. Not Charlotte.
Besides, she and Kay have the process down to a science. The costumes are designed so Charlotte can change quickly thanks, in large part, to lots of Velcro. The day before a race Charlotte usually cruises the course and selects convenient staging locations for the costume changes.
Charlotte’s race priorities also differ from other racers. Her goal is not to be the fastest runner but the one who has the most fun.
“I’m not fast and I’m not concerned about my finish time, so I’m not super rushed,” she said. “The costumes make the race so much more interesting and they get the crowd involved.”
Charlotte’s yellow brick road continues to be a place where new dreams and goals unfold. With 50 states under her belt, she plans to take her running (and costumes) to new lengths.
“I’m getting into the longer races now,” she said. “I’ve run two 50-mile races, one 80-mile race, and I’m preparing for my first 100-miler in August. ... Every time I start a race and every time I cross the finish line, I get teary eyed. It’s the emotion, anticipation, and happiness.”
To see Corriher’s race and costume history, visit her Instagram @marathoncostumechic.
16th annual Garmin Marathon, “In the Land of Oz”
Saturday, April 21
6 a.m. — Late packet pick-up in Garmin parking lot
6:45 a.m. — Marathon, half marathon and 10K events begin
6:55 a.m. — Kids marathon begins
8:30 a.m. — Estimated beginning of 10K Awards Ceremony in Garmin parking lot
9:30 a.m. — Estimated beginning of Half Marathon Awards Ceremony in Garmin parking lot
10:45 a.m. — Estimated beginning of Full Marathon Awards Ceremony in Garmin parking lot
Expect traffic delays
Residents and businesses should expect intermittent traffic delays throughout Olathe to accomodate the race, especially along the race route. Drivers will be allowed to cross certain running paths only when there are adequate gaps between runners, so expect up to 15 minute delays. Road delays should be finished by approximately 1 p.m.