It all started with a friendly wager on a flight to New York City.
Now Wake Forest track and field alum Chris Estwanik owns the Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon. . .while wearing a suit.
He set the record at the NYC Half, on March 19th, 2017, wearing a two-piece suit along with Nike running shoes, finishing 55th at 1:11:36.
"I'm a sucker for the drink (Dark and Stormy) and I love a good challenge," Estwanik said. "So we did it and that was that. Then it went viral. I'm a pretty serious guy at heart, it's probably the only thing in my life I've ever done that's a bit uncharacteristic like that.
The world record is quite whimsical for such a serious athlete. Estwanik was a three-time ACC Champion while at Wake Forest, claiming distance medley relay crowns in both 2001 and 2002 while also winning the 3000m in 2002. He earned All-ACC honors seven times for his track and field and cross country efforts with the Demon Deacons.
"At Division 1 level, you run cross country in the fall, you run Indoor track in the winter, and you run outdoor track in the spring," Estwanik explained. "I've always told people that, yes, I had some downtime at Wake Forest, but effectively I was meant to be game ready all three seasons, four years in a row.
When Estwanik was looking for the right college, he took a recruiting trip along with four other prospects — all five ended up committing to Wake Forest on that visit.
"There was just the right mix of coaching and athletes and friends that quite frankly, I made in a two-day recruiting trip, which sounds crazy. But everybody that was on that trip with me, we all committed to Wake. Wake had recruited a number of athletes in my area in Ohio, and I was fortunate to have success with them."
"Wake Forest delivered me lifelong friends, and that phenomenal experience with them afforded me the opportunity to balance athletics and academics," he said. "I was able to socialize, but I couldn't just let myself go completely when I was still there. I had responsibilities as does any athlete there. So when you get into the real world, it wasn't that hard of a transition."
Estwanik has now been impacted by two tragedies that impacted the running community — the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013 and the current global pandemic.
He finished in 21st place overall in the Boston Marathon, running it in 2:19.55.
"By all accounts, I had a great day," Estwanik said. "I exceeded my expectations, I exceeded my goals, and that lasted for an hour and a half. And then tragedy happened and it woke you up to the real world and this little mini-goal of running a fast race is so small in the grand scheme of things."
In the shocking aftermath of what transpired that grim day, Estwanik said he actually witnessed the best in humanity, as people banded together to make it through uncertain times and circumstances.
"There were many others in the same situation, as they just got shoved into this restaurant when they pulled their way off the streets when the bombs were going off and they had no food, no money, and no clothes because everything had been stuck behind the finish line. So people were buying dinners and lunches and giving people cell phones so they could contact their family to tell them they were safe."
Timing and injuries prevented Estwanik from competing in the Olympics, but he's recently been asked to help train a runner back in Bermuda, where he's lived since 2007 — serving as Senior Vice President at Validus Reinsurance, Ltd.
He still holds the record for the fastest half marathon in a suit but believes it will eventually be broken.