Have you seen a guy in a stovepipe hat and running shoes recently?
You did if you ran the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon in Springfield on Saturday. And you can see him again in the Illinois Half Marathon on May 1.
He’s Jeff Kohmstedt of Champaign, and he’s running dressed as Abraham Lincoln and carrying a State of Illinois flag.
Kohmstedt first ran as Abe Lincoln last summer at the Freedom 5K run on the Fourth of July. He was inspired by the fans at the Tour de France.
“They always have these crazy people on the sides of the road that dress up and run alongside the bicyclists,” he said.
“I did it to challenge myself,” he continued. “It’s something different and I thought it would be fun to do for the spectators. People call out, ‘Hey, Abe.’ And it’s something for the other runners, to challenge themselves not to be beaten by a dead president.”
Kohmstedt donned a fake beard for the Freedom 5K, but he’s grown a real one for this spring’s races.
He carried a flag in last summer’s 5K race, but found it and the top hat to be unwieldy, especially if it was windy.
“It didn’t work real well aerodynamically,” he said.
He carried the flag with both hands, with the pole across his chest, in the 5K. He’s since decided it works better to carry it only in his right hand.
He’s been practicing carrying the flag during the longer weekend training runs for the Illinois Half Marathon. He carries a 2-pound weight in his right hand during his shorter weekday training runs.
“It’s really helped,” Kohmstedt said. “It really challenges you in terms of how you run because it changes your gait. Plus, with wind resistance, it can be pretty tough.
“Sometimes I wonder why I decided to do this,” he added. “But it’s fun.”
He’ll probably retire the costume after the Illinois Half Marathon. But he’ll be at the finish line after he’s done running, if you want a post-race picture with Abe.
Photo: Jeff Kohmstedt as Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial Half Marathon, April 3, 2010.