Is that Olivia Newton-John running down a Mt. Laurel road?
Nope. It’s the Larchmont jogger.
Daily runner Rob Austin needed an outlet after COVID forced closings at all gyms and facilities last year. He figured running around the neighborhood of his home on Larchmont Boulevard in the township would be the best place to go for his 10-mile jog.
But Austin also wanted to make his friends laugh, so he decided to do his running in a costume.
“I got on Zoom in a costume and ran 10 miles with my phone on me and my friends were like, ‘Why the hell is he in a costume?’” Austin recalled. “I really just did it to brighten their spirits.”
But Austin’s get-up also brought smiles to Mt. Laurel residents from all over the area. In a township Facebook group, a couple of members posted pictures of him running in the costume and praised his effort.
The Larchmont jogger was born.
In the last year, Austin has surprised his community daily with a new costume, from a unicorn to a Ninja Turtle.
“Even if it’s a video of me just laughing or explaining what I’m wearing or saying I hope everyone is having a great day or happy, happy Tuesday or whatever day it might be, it’s not how long you say something as long as it comes off positive,” he noted.
Austin created a Larchmont jogger Facebook page where he’ll post pictures and videos and a brief message wishing everyone a good day. Spreading positive energy after a year full of hardship was something he could bring to the community and hopefully have it rub off on others.
Austin grew up in Pitman and graduated from The College of New Jersey in 2001. He’s a mechanical engineer, and even during a busy workday, he makes time for health and fitness. After college, he tried to increase his mileage on his runs.
“Every year, I would try to add more and more mileage,” Austin explained. “I think (with) the double digits of 10 miles, I’m accomplishing something with running.”
He described running as a mental-stress reliever and a way for him to feel good about himself. But the jogger who brings happiness to others was surprised by friends at his own wedding last October. Each of his buddies dressed in a different costume to celebrate Austin and his new husband.
“My husband orchestrated the whole thing,’’ Austin recalled. “One of my friends reached out and told him to surprise me all dressed up in a costume … It was such a complete surprise to me.”
Austin burst into tears when he saw 30 costumed friends storm the dance floor.
The Larchmont jogger wants to spread the message of not taking life so seriously and having fun in the moment. Even with his fan base growing, Austin expected to end the costumed jogs once the pandemic was over. Now, he’s uncertain.
“Then Delta came along,” he noted. “So yeah, I’ve been running still.”