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Vienna | 18.4.2008 | 14:32 
Letters from a shrinking globe: around the day in 80 worlds

Zita, Rotifer, Steve

Jogging with a Superhero
  I have 2 new heros.

Brian Patten from Liverpool, who was a guest of last night's Vienna Lit Festival is pretty damned wonderful.

If you think poetry is all black turtleneck sweaters and eulogies about autumn leaves, please treat yourself to a taste of his work. As one of Britain's most respected poets out, he's got a very impressive CV. He's read with Pablo Neruda and Allen Ginsberg has slept on his floor. But he is also an extroverted public performer who believes fervently in audience participation and peppers his reflective poems with hilarious ditties about long-haired cats and the pitfalls of adultery.

Growing up in the dock areas of Liverpool, he learned his trade performing in The Cavern and, Brian told me, if you flopped around in that environment acting all arty and farty, you were likely to get chased off stage.

So, to cut a long story short, I was left pretty intoxicated by his performance last night, stayed out way beyond my 8pm bed-time, and woke up feeling anything but athletic. The alarm clock whined at me, but I stoically refused to pay it any heed. Until, suddenly, and with a major frisson of delight, I remembered that I had a seriously hot date this morning.

I was going for a run with the man who for reasons of copyright must be known as the masked superhero in red and blue:
  The aforementioned masked superhero of the blue and red colour scheme, is actually a Brit who calls himself the Maskenmann, who is now in the last stages of preparation for next week's Vienna City Marathon.

He's being running marathons for a few years now, but decided this year that he'd take the plunge and introduce a bit of the London Marathon's costume culture to the Vienna race and raise some money for charity.

Every year thousands of runners dress up and struggle around the 42 kilometre London course in fancy dress. My friend Will completed it as a Gladiator called Tootus Maximus, and another friend said she almost burst into tears two weeks ago when, at the 30km mark, she was overtaken by a 2 metre tall banana with particularly speedy legs.

The Maskenmann's favourite is a runner who dresses as Indiana Jones and drags a 80 kg boulder behind him as he runs.
  When the Maskenmann and I jogged around the Belvedere park this morning, I thought he looked resplendent in his figure-hugging suit, but I was a little concerned about the full face mask.

He admits that it does cause problems. The only holes in the suit are around his eyes and his sunglasses immediately fog up when he breathes. Visibility is akin to a snowy day on the glacier. More worryingly there's also no opening to stuff your food and drink in on route. It is a bit difficult, he says. Difficult? It sounds like hell!

But the Maskenmann is prepared to go through hell. He is dressing up to raise money for the St. Anna Kinderspital, which helps children with cancer. 5 years ago, his own father died of cancer, which he calls "that horrible disease", so it's an issue very close to his heart. He asked me not to publish his real name so that attention is focused centrally on his cause not his person. "People said I might get famous. That's exactly what I don't want. It's about the charity, not me."

It's going to take a huge effort to get around the Vienna course a week on Sunday, but it's a huge cause that he's sweating for.
  The Maskenmann who among others is sponsored by, laola1 and vinZent, sees no reason why the fancy dress culture that gives the London Marathon such a wonderful festival atmosphere shouldn't catch on here. If you feel inspired by his example, his advice is to get a fun but comfortable costume sorted out early and then train, train, train.

He says if there are two superheroes running around next year, then his mission will have been a success
fm4 links
  St Annas Kinderspital

Children's Cancer Research Institute
If you would like to contribute to the Maskenmann's charity efforts, here is where to send your donation.

BA-CA AG, BLZ 12000, Kontonr.: 00 656 166 600, lautend auf: St. Anna Kinderkrebsforschung, Verwendungszweck: Maskenmann 08

or contact him directly
  p.s. The Vienna Lit Festival continues until Sunday at the Ratpack in Vienna's 8th district. The programme includes readings from Charles Ofoedu, a Nigerian writer who lives in Austria and was taken in "Schubhaft" during Operation Spring. It also features the celebrated British spoken word artist and singer Rommi Smith.
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