Meningitis Now staff member Andy Hopkinson

Duncan brings his marathon world record attempt home for Meningitis Now

Andy Hopkinson | 2nd February 2022

As the Six Nations tournament prepares to kick off this weekend, one former rugby player can be excused for not focusing entirely on the forthcoming Calcutta Cup

Duncan renews marathon record attempt for Meningitis Now

Duncan Nealon, who came within a whisker of setting a world record for the fastest marathon in full rugby kit at last year’s London Marathon is now giving it another go in the Shakespeare Marathon in his home town of Stratford-on-Avon on Sunday 24 April.

He's training hard and hoping to smash the current record of three hours and five minutes. At the same time he’ll be raising valuable awareness of meningitis and funds for us, in memory of his friend and our trustee Rod Adlington’s son Barney, who died from meningitis in 2005 aged 3.

Writing on his JustGiving fundraising page Duncan says:

“I previously attempted the record at London in October 2021. After several false-dawns, due to races being cancelled because of the pandemic, I had trained to run 3hr10m. At the time, the record was 3hr14m. 

Rolling the dice

“When I arrived on the start line, I was told that there were two other chaps, who had set off in the wave before me, also having a pop at the record. I was reliably told that one of them was setting off at 3hr05m pace. I was faced with something of a dilemma. Did I set off at my pre-determined pace, and hope he slowed, or did I set off faster? I chose to roll the dice, and set off at 3hr03m pace. 

“I managed to hold this until mile 23, when I hit the dreaded wall of doom. The final 5km was pretty grotty and I came in at 3hr18m. The gamble was the right call though, as the other chap, Mark Williamson, did indeed run 3hr05m. All respect to that. 

“So, 3hr05m is the target! I just need to train harder and eat cleaner. It won't be easy, but that's the whole point!”

Duncan renews marathon record attempt for Meningitis Now

Once again, Duncan will be attempting the record dressed in full Claverdon RFC kit. The record stipulates the wearing of an RFU accredited club's rugby socks, shorts and shirt, along with a mouthguard and scrum cap, and the carrying of a ball throughout the duration of the race.

“The shirt, socks and shorts aren't a major problem, but the scrum cap, mouthguard and carrying a ball really take their toll,” Duncan added, “but it will be fantastic to have another go at the record, finishing in Stratford-Upon-Avon, a stone's throw from where we used to celebrate Claverdon RFC victories, and commiserate our losses.”

Happy young boy

Barney was taken to hospital having complained of a headache. Less than 12 hours later he had died from meningococcal septicaemia.

Despite the tragic circumstances of Barney’s death, Duncan will run the marathon with the memory of a happy young boy in mind.

He said: “A really big thing for Rod and Anna, Barney’s mum, is that they always want anything that is done for Barney to be fun. He was a three-year-old kid who was a barrel of energy and fun. Obviously what happened was absolutely horrific and tragic, but we just try and be joyful and keep the fun levels up because that’s how people want to remember him.”

For Duncan any disappointment in missing out in London has long faded as donations to his fundraiser have reached nearly £15,000, and he has been presented with the opportunity to seize the world record in his home town.

Proud and emotional day

“Maybe it’s better this way,” he said. “At the time I was gutted, but then I decided I’d do Stratford and my friends and I began to say that if I could do it here it’d be better.

“To attempt this record in my home town whilst wearing the red and white of Claverdon will be a proud and emotional day. Far, far more important though is raising funds and awareness to stop this terrible disease. 

“More than anything however, with the full blessing and direction of the incredible Adlington family, this is a celebration of Barney's short but wonderful life. In celebrating Barney's life, we are hoping to raise as much money as possible, whilst also raising awareness of the symptoms of meningitis to reduce the impact of this awful disease.

“Please donate what you can, and please help to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of meningitis."