Kaytie Innamorati crosses the finish line with her broom raised high.
Kaytie Innamorati, ’21, PhD, is a Drexel College of Medicine lecturer, cat parent, runner, and, as of April 15, a Guinness World Record holder.
The Drexel graduate in molecular and cell biology and genetics and devoted Philly runner is now the world record holder for the fastest half marathon while dressed as a witch, and she had to create some pretty precise conditions to make it happen.
“I just thought I had to put on the black outfit and go for a run, but no, it was very specific,” Innamorati said. “It had to be a wide-brimmed black hat, a knee-length black dress and a broomstick at least one meter long. Then I had to get the outfit approved, make sure the course was USATF (USA Track and Field) certified, collect evidence [to prove the record] during the race and have the race director sign an affidavit [confirming the validity of the course].”
Add an unseasonably warm day for April at the Helderberg to Hudson Half Marathon and you might be wondering why Innamorati (or anyone) would want to run 13.1 miles or even hold this oddly specific world record.
It started with a Runner's World article. Innamorati was on her way to a race in Washington D.C. on March 24 when a friend sent her an article about a woman who had recently set the record for fastest half marathon dressed as a witch who ran in support of J.K. Rowling, who has become notable online for controversial tweets about the transgender community. Innamorati has been vocal about not liking Rowling’s stances, and it hit home for her because she has an ex who identifies as transgender whom she supported as they came out.
“I understand there’s a lot of tension around this idea of transgender women in sports, but if we don’t let people come to the table and if we don’t respect them as humans first and foremost, we are never going to come to a good understanding or a solution that works for everybody,” Innamorati said. “I got angry as I was reading that article. I was like, ‘This isn’t right. This hurts people I know, and people I don’t know, and I want to do something about it.’ I told my friend that I was going to sign up to break that record. I had a half marathon in three weeks, so I just thought, ‘Let’s do it.’”
Even before all the race day hoops that Innamorati jumped through, there were some obstacles to getting to the starting line in that costume. Submitting an application for a Guinness World Record is usually free, but it takes 12 weeks, and Innamorati only had three. An expedited application cost $800. She hated the idea of asking people for money, but decided to set up a GoFundMe to raise money for the fee, expecting she would get some help with the cost.
“It was fully funded in three hours,” Innamorati said. “It was completely wild.”
Much of the funding came from Queer Run, an LGBTQ+ focused running group in Philadelphia that Innamorati had run with. A friend of Innamorati’s shared the GoFundMe to her Instagram story and tagged local running groups, who took it and ran.
“Philly has a super tightknit community for running, and the running community is unmatched,” Innamorati said.
She trains with friends often but couldn’t have friends as her witnesses to the world record, because they had to be unbiased. She needed three witnesses to run alongside her as she raced. Her goal was to run the 13.1 miles in an hour and 35 minutes, because she wanted to be a solid 20 minutes faster than the record that had been recently set.
Innamorati had to carry a broomstick that was at least one meter long during the race.
“I ended up finding both my witnesses, and when we got to the start line, people were like, ‘Oh, you’re the witch! Good luck!’” Innamorati said. “One girl said, ‘Go break that record.” It was really cool to have a lot of support and people cheering.”
The race went well until about mile six, when Innamorati started to overheat in the 70-degree day and her heart rate climbed. Nothing was cooling her down, and her heart rate was over 200 beats per minute over the last three miles. She spent 15 minutes in a wheelchair at the end of the race, but she had broken the record with a 7:50 minute per mile pace for an hour and 42 minutes.
“I wanted to show that there are people who care about something that doesn’t necessarily directly impact or affect them, and that we can’t let hate win,” Innamorati said. “I just wanted to help.”
She helped in a more tangible way, too. More money was donated to the GoFundMe, and after a couple other running groups highlighted Innamorati’s effort, her world record attempt helped garner $1,500 to be donated to the Trevor Project, which supports LGBTQ+ teenagers, in addition to the $800 raised for the application fee.
“There were just so many people involved and it really became a community effort,” Innamorati said. “It became something much bigger than me. The motivation was born initially out of frustration, but I realized really quickly that I was signing up to do something a little bit bigger than what I meant to and that meant a lot. It's not just for me, it's for everybody.”