Man to walk London Marathon backwards in support of Ukrainians

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A father who previously crawled the London Marathon dressed as a gorilla is to walk the famous event backwards this year as a means of “looking over my shoulder for Ukraine”.

Tom Harrison, who lives in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and works in project management, told the PA news agency that there are several reasons behind his idea to walk the London Marathon – which takes place on April 23 – backwards.

Tom Harrison charity walk
Tom Harrison is to walk the London Marathon backwards (Tom Harrison)

“It meant look at what you’ve achieved, look at what you’ve done and where you’ve come from – don’t forget that – but also look forward to the future and what’s still to come and what you can still achieve.

“I’m going to keep that in mind for the walk because I’m going forward but also looking backwards.”

The 46-year-old is no stranger to taking on unique feats, having walked 263 miles in 15 days from Land’s End in Cornwall to Parliament Square in London in September 2022, and crawled the 26.2 mile marathon route in a gorilla outfit in 2017 as his alter-ego “Mr Gorilla”.

2017 Virgin Money London Marathon
Tom Harrison when he took on the London Marathon in 2017 dressed as a gorilla (John Stillwell/PA)

“There was a mass missile strike in Ukraine just recently, which was launched by the Russians, and knocked out energy supplies across lots of cities and killed numerous people”, he said.

“This is something we don’t have to face here – yes, we have higher energy bills – but at least we can put the heating on for a bit when we need it, but in Ukraine a lot of people don’t have this option a lot of the time.

“And most Ukrainians will know someone who has been killed during the war and it’s really horrible what they are going through, so they still need to be supported and not forgotten about.

“I am kind of looking over my shoulder for Ukraine.”

His £2,000 fundraising target – which needed to be reached by all those fundraising for the Red Cross so their place for the marathon could be secured – has been surpassed, but Mr Harrison hopes that even more donations will be made.

He said that he mainly hit his target by doing cake sales.

“I thought that would be nice because people were getting something for their donation,” he said.

“I am glad that I focused on the fundraising early on because now I can concentrate on the training.”

Mr Harrison said that taking his two sons – Nicholas, 12 and Alex, 10 – to football training has served as a way of perfecting his backwards walking and drumming up interest for the cause.

Tom Harrison charity walk
Tom Harrison is raising money for the Red Cross (Tom Harrison)

“I normally spare them the embarrassment of walking backwards around the pitch they’re playing on.

“The other day I was up at Evergreen Football Club (in Hertfordshire) and I was walking around the pitch where the men’s teams were playing and the goalkeeper asked me what I was up to.

“And I explained and he asked for my fundraising link and the next day I saw that he gave me a donation, which was really nice.”

When Mr Harrison has had enough of walking around football pitches, he makes strides around the local cricket pitch instead.

“Having a line – like on a football or cricket pitch – makes it easier to navigate”, he added.

In terms of logistics, Mr Harrison will start the marathon at the back to avoid any potential crashes with fellow runners.

“I will be slower but at least if I start at the back I won’t be in anyone’s way”, he said.

“And navigation wise, I’m just going to have to use the curb as my guide really.

“I mean fortunately the roads are closed, so as long as keep ahead of the clear-up car, I will have a clear road ahead of me, other than I suppose, discarded water bottles.”

“Honestly, the opportunity to get going and seeing the crowds – that’s really what makes the marathon”, he added.

“So many people turn up to watch and it creates such a good atmosphere, as well as seeing the inspiring landmarks like Buckingham Palace, and that will keep me going.

“I’m sure I’ll get some comments like ‘mate, you’re going the wrong way’, but it will be funny and at least they are interested, but I’ll probably have to put something on my back which explains what I am doing.”

Mr Harrison’s fundraiser can be viewed here:

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