Road races these days are full of people running for a cause, typically to raise money for charity. Last weekend's Trumbull County (Ohio) Marathon was no exception. Runners with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training were out in force, wearing their trademark purple shirts, as were groups and individuals running for any number of good causes.
Among that event's 4,500 or so entrants, however, was a runner with a very atypical goal—to raise awareness of his own cuteness.
That entrant was Mr. Wuffles, an orange tabby kitten.
And by any measure, he met his goal in a big way.
"Oh my God," said Rebecca Raymond, 43, who spotted the 8-week-old feline in the race's starting corral. "He's wearing a tiny headband. That is adorable." (Mr. Wuffles would later lose his headband, which in fact was a human terrycloth wristband, somewhere in the race's first few miles.)
"So cute," agreed her friend and training partner, also named Rebecca Raymond. "Oh my God. Look."
Spectators along the course said they, too, noticed Mr. Wuffles, despite the fact that his tiny, soft body is small enough to curl up into a soup bowl.
"Oh my God," said Timothy Hempstead, 30, who was waiting at mile 12 for his wife to run by. "Is that a kitten? With a little bib number? That is so cute."
Even local law enforcement stationed along the course couldn't resist Mr. Wuffles' brisk, little stride and big, innocent-looking eyes.
"Oh my God," said Officer Chris Torres, 52, as Mr. Wuffles shuffled past. "That is the cutest ****ing thing I have ever seen."
Mr. Wuffles seems to have run the entire way, except for one bathroom break at the halfway point, which witnesses described as "so cute," and around 30 occasions where he was sidetracked by small birds, bouncing shoelaces, and, at one point, a rubber band lying on the road.
Reports that Mr. Wuffles trained for the race in part on a cute, tiny treadmill could not be confirmed.
Race volunteers reportedly fought one another to scoop Mr. Wuffles up at aid stations to give him a little drink of water and a scritch under the chin before seeing him off to continue his race.
"Oh my God," said Chrissy Valentine, 19, a volunteer at the mile 22 aid station. "Like, oh my God."
"So cute," she added.
The praise wasn't entirely universal.
"The whole thing looks to me like a cheap stunt," said Becca Raymond. (No relation to the previous two Raymonds.) "I don't know who's behind it, but using cute animals to attract attention is totally lame."
"It's like tossing a cat video or kitten photos into an otherwise stupid blog post or something, just to get people to click and share it," she continued. "Laziest ploy in the world."
Ask what was next on his race calendar, Mr. Wuffles rolled onto his back and batted at some fluffy, white dandelion florets floating by on the breeze.
"Oh my God," said a passerby who paused to watch. "That is so cute."