Following the postponement of London Marathon during lockdown, the former rugby team mate of a Warwickshire turkey farmer whose son died of meningitis 16 years ago is once again attempting to smash a world record – by running the London Marathon in full rugby kit.
Duncan Nealon has known Balsall Common-based Rod Adlington for 25 years since they first started playing rugby together at Claverdon RFC. Always close, the friends were brought even closer after the death of Rod’s son Barney in 2005, aged just three-and-a-half.
Now Duncan is determined to celebrate Barney’s life by completing one of the most iconic races in the world dressed in rugby shorts, shirt, a scrum cap mouth guard…and carrying a rugby ball. And all in less than 3 hours 14 minutes. This will be Duncan’s second stint of training for the event. He had previously trained for the 2020 race, and completed the Warwick Half Marathon in full kit, in 1 hour 25 minutes, before the London race was cancelled.
Money raised from his world record attempt will go to the UK’s largest meningitis charity Meningitis Now, which has supported Rod and his family since Barney’s death. Duncan has launched his fundraising efforts with a short video, which includes a clip of Rod talking movingly about the night his son died just 12 hours after first complaining of getting a headache. (see here: https://vimeo.com/591029396)
Rod and Duncan’s story started a quarter of a century ago when they both played rugby for Warwickshire club Claverdon RFC. They soon got to know each other’s families, including Rod’s son Barney. Born in 2001, Barney became a familiar figure at the club, running around with his brother Toby and dragging his blanket behind him.
When tragedy struck in 2005 everyone at the club was devastated, including Duncan.
“Over the years Rod and his family have raised lots of money for Meningitis Now, and I really want to continue that legacy,” said Duncan, from Deppers Bridge near Southam.
“I’m really hoping to beat the record of 3 hours 14 minutes for someone to complete the race in full rugby gear – which is currently held by an Australian.
“But if we raise a load of money and lots of awareness of the charity, and the symptoms of meningitis, and what people should look out for, it’s not the absolute end of the world.
“Training has been going well. It was tougher to start with as unlike the first time I trained for it, this time I had to shift some weight I’d mysteriously put on during lockdown, but thankfully that’s gone now!”
Meningitis Now’s Events Fundraising Manager Kirsty Owen-Hayward said she was looking forward to welcoming Duncan across the finishing line at the end of the marathon.
“We know what a moving occasion it will be for him as he celebrates Barney’s life with this amazing world record attempt,” she said.
“But whether he beats the record or not we’ll be there to support him every step of the way. And of course once the race is over and all the money has been collected and paid in, hopefully he will know that all the money raised will go towards a brilliant cause: raising awareness about meningitis, funding vital research, and helping people living with the impact of this awful disease”.
This year’s Virgin Money London Marathon takes place on 3rd October. To find out about this and other fundraising events please visit the Meningitis Now’s website.
To donate to the cause, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/meningitis-now