Japanese Fighter, Asuna Yuuki, ran at the 2013 StanChart Marathon

Asuna Yuuki, a 17-year-old female healer and fighter from the Sword Art Online anime series, is not exactly known for her distance running prowess. But when she’s free, she surprisingly takes part in distance races too, possibly to boost her fighting skills.

With Asuna.

With Asuna

Yesterday, Asuna was competing in the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, where she took part in the half marathon (21.1km) category – and managed to finish the race in about four hours.

I caught up with runner Asuna, who is actually a guy – cross-dressing as the female character. He is Ashley Jessica, a 25-year-old SIM psychology student and enthusiastic runner.

Find out more about his elaborate Asuna costume in an interview I did with him.

How long have you been running for?

I have been running for three years and I do half marathons. But this is my first costumed race.

Can you tell us about your costume and character?

This costume is from an anime called Sword Art Online and the character is Asuna Yuuki. She has many different costumes but this is the one that she’s usually associated with.

So that means you are a male cosplaying a female character?

Yes I am. I did so because female characters generally get more attention than male characters especially when you cross-gender.

Where did you get the costume?

I bought it. This one cost US$150. It came as a one-piece set with the wig and shoes included. I got it online from eBay. The price was quite affordable for me because it was a complete costume with everything intact.

What is it like running in that costume?

It is very hot and is also suffocating because the costume is really tight.

But I managed it through sheer determination. I told my friends die-die must finish the race.

What was your expected and actual timing for the half marathon, with that costume on?

I expected to finish in three and a half hours. I finished in about four hours plus. So it’s just a bit over my expected timing.

When you are not in costume, what is your timing like?

Usually my half marathon timings are between two and a half to three hours. So the costume did slow me down by about an hour and a half.

But despite the slower pace, I was still pretty pleased by my performance because of the attention I was getting during the race.

What was the response to you during the run?

Both spectators and runners cheered me on and asked me for pictures as well!

And did you keep yourself cool by pouring water over yourself during the race, like some other costumed runners?

No I didn’t. I just drank normally from the water stations even though many costumed runners may pour water on themselves to keep cool underneath their costume.

Do you have any tips for somebody who is interested to cosplay for a race?

Make sure that the costume stays in place. Actually, when I ran, certain things kept dropping down and my socks kept on rolling off. So make sure that everything stays in place. I put in a lot of tape and glue. For my wig, I had to use bobby pins to stick it into my hair too. But my wig still came off a few times during the race and almost slid down when I was running. I had to keep on putting it back.

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