London Marathon 2007
Having taken nine days to complete the London Marathon the previous year, dressed as St George and pulling a huge dragon, I decided I wanted to something a little quicker and really get into the spirit of Marathon day. To do this I turned to an old friend of mine, Indiana Jones. Having watched Raiders of the Lost Ark countless of times, the fantastic scene where the boulder chases Indy proved to be my inspiration. My idea was to be chased by the boulder for the entire 26 mile course!
A good friend of mine, John Potter, told me about a guy in Basildon called Aden Hynes who make all kinds of sculptures and film props and suggested he was worth contacting. On meeting Aden, it was obvious that he was a real master of his craft, and was the man that could make this happen.
After a number of meetings and funded by sponsorship from Dunbar Bank work started on the boulder. I was originally carved out of a huge block of polystyrene, from which a mould was taken and then layers applied to build up the strength and ensure it would keep its' shape and integrity throughout the marathon. At one stage Aden cut a large hole to get inside the boulder to attach some metal beams to add strength to the structure and the whole thing looked like the Death Star from Star Wars.
In addition to the boulder, I had to kit myself out as the man himself. This wasn't too difficult as I already had the fedora hat, trousers, whip and bag. A visit to Wested leather, who made the original Raiders jacket, meant that I had the perfect, jacket and my girlfriend Lu had to overcome her huge phobia of spiders to sew some tarantulas to give it that temple look from the opening scenes, complete with spray on cobwebs and gold fertility idol.
A visit to Aden's studious when the boulder nearly finished, did however present a problem that I had up to now not appreciated. Because this huge rock was spherical, this meant not onlt did it roll forward, but also had a tendency to veer off to the left and right, putting huge strain through the metal frame harness and in doing so, my back. In an attempt to rectify this, some handle grips were welded onto the frame. Although this helped, I still struggled to keep full control of this massive piece of fibre glass and so Aden had the very clever idea of putting some stability bars through the axis so that it could be held upright and also guided by two members of my support team. This was going to be my brother Asa and another good friend Nic Karonias.
With things now looking good for the race itself a bit of a bombshell was dropped on me by the London Marathon Office saying that it may be dangerous for other runners and after a meeting with Race Director Dave Bedford and Chief Executive Nick Bitel, I had to provide an independent health and safety report detailing the structure of the boulder and how we would negotiate it around the course.
After submitting a report I was informed that I would be allowed to start, but whether I could finish it was beyond the control of the London Marathon. We decided to get as far as we could on the day before the roads reopened to traffic, when we would stay in a fire station until evening time when it would be a lot quieter and then continuing on our way. We estimated we would only be able to cover 5 miles before we would have to stop off at East Greenwich Fire Station.
Starting from the Green Start of Race Day was a fantastic feeling as for the first time in many years I found myself among other runners and could soak up the atmosphere of the race itself, instead of being on my own by the time I normally reached the Start Line. In addition to me up front dressed as Indy, Asa and Nic were dressed as two Hovito Indians, but far from being there for effect, they were playing a really important role in keeping the boulder level and helping to steer this particularly large 'rolling stone' around the course.
The going was excellent and we made good progress reaching the East Greenwich Fire Station. All this and I was not even last! As the roads were still closed to traffic, I decided that it would be far safer to continue than to stop where we were. I decided to get as far as Deptford Fire Station at about 9 miles and reassess the situation. As the morning wore on, it became apparent the day was turning into an absolute scorcher!
By now I had been joined by Aimee, Luke and Elliot and also Lu's children Matt and Charlotte. It was quite a gang going down the road. One other problem was that our support vehicle with Geoff driving just couldn't get through to us. It was only after deciding that we would continue at Deptford and after reaching 12 miles that Geoff finally managed to join us where we all tucked into some well earned food and refreshments.
At this stage I was still amazed that Tower Bridge was still closed to traffic and so it made sense to cross the bridge whilst this was still the case. Whilst crossing I saw Nigel Jackson who had been so instrumental in sponsoring the boulder from Dunbar bank. Standing outside a bar with a glass of beer in his hand, he was certainly having a better time of things than I was!
The heat was now blistering and as I turned into The Highway and away from the direction of the finish I was met by a flood of runners who had already negotiated the Docklands stretch of the route and were making their way to the finish and who were about 8 or 9 miles ahead of me. The reception I received from these runners was amongst the most memorable marathon experiences I have ever encountered. It was nothing short of phenomenal and meant so much to me as it was from actual runners who were experiencing the conditions exactly the same as me. I distinctly remember one chap dressed in a Mr Man costume, who must have been absolutely sweltering, just stopping in his tracks and applauding me.
Once we were off the Highway we had the relelative quite of Docklands and made steady progress until we emerged through Poplar and on to Commercial Road. By now the roads had opened to traffic and we new it was now time for us to get off the route, have our rest and plan for the final stretch.
Fortunately Lu had booked us (and the boulder) into the Holiday Express at the 21 mile mark and by the time we reached this haven it was 8.30 in the evening.
After a bite to eat, shower, getting my clothes dried and a general freshen up we were ready to go again at 2.30 in the morning. It was important for us to get through London and out near the finish by the time the rush hour traffic. This time with Geoff in the support vehicle protecting our progress we made our way into central London and by 5.30 am we had been accompanied by a cameraman from BBC Breakfast who informed us that he wished to film our finish live on the morning programme.
Making our way through Parliament Square, Lu had arranged for me to do an interview with Johnny Vaughan on his breakfast show, before making our way down Birdcage Walk and finally facing the finish inThe Mall.
For a finish line I had a huge spider's web constructed and with just a couple of yards left before I reached it, I unshackled myself from the boulder and dived through the web, together with the gold fertility idol and my marathon was over!
I had hoped that Ray Winstone, who had just landed a major role in the forthcoming Indiana Jones film would be able to present me with my medal. Unfortunately, due to filming commitments he was unable to get there, but asked his good friend Shane Richie if he could do the honours. Shane was great in giving me my medal and when he was asked, rather unfairly I thought, what he thought I would be doing next, he suggested a dinosaur. When I heard this I thought 'Hmmmm, one to think about.'