Will Big Bird Be Banned on Heartbreak Hill?

Marathon Spirit: Tax law professor Richard Ainsworth (in feathers) and his wife, Christine Murasaki Millett, who is running to raise money for cancer research.

Marathon Spirit: Tax law professor Richard Ainsworth (in feathers) and his wife, Christine Murasaki Millett, who is running to raise money for cancer research.  (Photo courtesy of Christine Murasaki Millett.)

In my debut story for Runner’s World, I explore why a Boston University Law School professor has become a popular photo-op at area 5K and 10K races. And it’s not because he’s charming strangers with war stories about the IRS.

Prof. Richard Ainsworth dresses as Big Bird to amuse and support his wife Christine Murasaki Millett, who is training for her second Boston Marathon to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Last year, she was stopped at the St. Ignatius Church, at the mile 21 mark. When the Boylston Street bomb sites were reopened to public a week later, she returned to the church and ran the final 5 miles alone, greeting Big Bird at the Finish Line.

On weekends, Big Bird now waits for his wife on Heartbreak Hill with water and snacks. Wherever he goes, he unwittingly serves as a giant feathered GPS. Runners text each other to “Meet me at Big Bird” after their race.

Prof. Big Bird lectures Boston University Law School students, thanking them for making a donation to cancer research.

Prof. Big Bird lectures Boston University Law School students, thanking them for making a donation to cancer research.

For obvious security reasons this year, authorities are discouraging “costumes covering the face or any non-form fitting, bulky outfits extending beyond the perimeter of the body” for both runners and spectators.  But they aren’t banning them.

Will Big Bird be allowed to chirp from the sidelines in Newton on April 21 — or will he be dragged away in wingcuffs?  Find out now!

(P.S. You can donate to Christine and Richard’s fundraiser for cancer research on their Boston Marathon page.)

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