Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Genius of Kip Litton

Kip at the 10K mark of a marathon in 35:30,
dressed as a chicken
Legend
If you have never heard of Kip Litton let me fill you in.

He was ostensibly a 48 year old dentist who was trying to run a sub-3 hour marathon in all 50 states, with the stated purpose of raising money for charity.

He was well on his way to accomplishing this, completing 19 of the races when people started to notice peculiar things about Kip's performances:
  • He doesn't actually run the entire course
  • He mysteriously changes clothes midway
  • At least one of the races he claimed to run actually didn't exist. 
I won't rehash the entire story. Details of his antics can be found in the following places:


Kip photographed at the halfway mark of the same marathon in 1:24:43
Now in a different outfit
Genius
Reactions to the Kip Litton saga have been divided, and comments in forums are usually one of the following:
  • Kip is a horrible "cheater"
  • Kip is an honest family man, dentist, and runner and would never cheat. (These comments are all actually Kip himself posing under pseudonyms)
  • Who cares? Enough of this already.
These are all missing the point, which is:

  •  Kip Litton is a genius. 
This is satire. He's not a cheater anymore than Andy Kaufman was a wrestler. 
Kip Litton is a performance artist working in the medium of Kaufman and Sacha Baron Cohen. 
Hell, maybe Litton is Cohen in character filming his next movie.

The physical part of Kip's comedy is his amazing skill of cutting the course without getting caught in the act,  while still making it ridiculously obvious. Starting last? Changing clothes? While finishing the BAA 5K in 17 minutes? Come on people, that is funny! 

Those people yelling "cheater!" unwittingly become part of Kip's performance. He is making fools of those taking it seriously.

The satirical element of his performance is aimed directly at people like me. He is skewering those 40-something men who spend enormous amounts of time, effort, and money to achieve some arbitrary and fruitless goal like a sub 3 hour marathon. We peruse Marathonguide.com looking for an "easy" marathon to score our target time and analyze results in Athlinks.com looking for a boost to our fragile egos. 

Kip mocks us by taking this activity to a ridiculous extreme. Not just a sub 3 marathon, or one in all 50 states. A sub 3 in 50 states! Further, he has fun with both of those mentioned websites, creating make believe races, and even profiles of those who ran them! Genius.

Is it over?
Alas, it seems that Kip's performance has taken a hiatus.
I would have liked to see him push it further into the heights of absurdity until everyone appreciated the joke.

  • Kip runs a sub 3 in Boston, while showing up in photographs dressed as a different Star Wars character at each 5K split. 
  • Kip wins the Olympic marathon trials after taking a break midway for a 30 minute television  interview.
  • Kip live streams video of himself running the London Marathon backwards while juggling, in a world record time of 1:59:58
But maybe Kip wants to keep his comedic art pure, enigmatic. Never breaking character, never pushing it too far to be obvious. Maybe the controversy and the chorus of "cheater" from the self -serious dupes was the level of success he was hoping for. 

In any case, I fear his performance will be lost to history, misunderstood and unappreciated.
But if you read this Kip Litton, I get it.
Genius. Pure genius.



Kip stops to take a long nap on the way to his 2:52 finish.

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