On March 19th, just before 9:30 am in New York City, a man in a slim-cut two-piece suit sprinted past Wall Street in Manhattan’s Financial District. He was not late for a meeting or a job interview. He did not have urgent business on the NYSE trading floor. He was chasing a world record, wearing Nike running shoes.
It started, as these things often do in Bermuda, with the promise of a Dark and Stormy.
Chris Estwanik, a 36-year-old former professional runner living on the island, was offered a free round of the dark rum-based cocktail if he could break the Guinness World Record for fastest half marathon while wearing a suit.
He shattered the mark by more than seven minutes at the NYC Half, running 1:11:36. He placed 55th overall, crossing the line wearing Oakley sunglasses and half his pink button-down shirt untucked.
“The bet was made a week and a half before the race,” Estwanik told Runner’s World. “I am the type of guy where it doesn’t take much to accept a challenge.”
The challenge though, was not easy. The besuited record has become highly competitive in the past 18 months. Before Estwanik’s run, it fell four times since October 2015. The previous mark of 1:18:13 was set by the U.K.'s Scott Forbes in April 2016. In that time, Japanese pro runner Yuki Kawauchi also bettered the time, running 1:06:42 in the formal attire. His time was achieved on a non-certified course and doesn’t stand as an official record.
Before accepting the last-minute wager, Estwanik knew he was in good enough shape to lower the mark. He retired from professional running at 26, but continued to stay in shape after moving to Bermuda. Earlier this summer, he hoped to qualify for the Olympic marathon representing the island, but a stress fracture in his foot forced him to stop training for several months. The NYC Half was his first race back since the injury.
“I was in the typical funk after a major disappointment, so this was my first go at running again,” Estwanik said. His friends thought he should have some fun, so they proffered the bet.
“Something like this isn’t befitting of my personality; I am a pretty serious guy at heart,” Estwanik said.
But he accepted, and before traveling to the mainland he filled out the necessary paperwork to have the record certified by Guinness.
Still, he was unsure if he would actually chase the mark until the day before the race. He didn’t even pack a suit.
After picking up his bib at the race expo, he walked to the nearest suit shop, an Express around the corner.
“I approached the manager and said, ‘You probably get a lot of strange questions since this is New York City, but how about this one: What is your most flexible suit?’ ” Estwanik said.
The clerk presented him with a navy “Slim Photographer.”
“I tried it on and did a couple of strides,” Estwanik said. “It performed well. I mean, how do you even judge a good performing running suit?”
He purchased it off the rack for $400 (£318).
On race day, as he clipped through Manhattan at sub-six-minute-per-mile pace, spectators frequently shouted out jokes.
“They’d yell, ‘You’re late for your meeting,’ or ‘Where’s your briefcase,’ ” Estwanik said. “The NYC cops seemed to love it the most.” He received two marriage proposals.
After crossing the finish line, Estwanik spotted Meb Keflezighi - who had come through in 1:04:55 - standing in the corral. The Olympian gave him a high-five and told him it was one of “the greatest things I have ever seen.”
Estwanik is back in Bermuda but has not received his Dark and Stormy yet. He is hoping his friends will buy him more than one.
The suit is at the cleaners.