Duncan Nealon has known Rod for 25 years since they first started playing rugby together. 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.
To kick-start the fundraising for the marathon, the pair have released a moving video (below) which includes Rod speaking about the night Barney died. Money raised from the world record attempt will go to Meningitis Now, which has supported Rod and his family since Barney’s death.
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.
“I know that over the years Rod and his family have raised lots of money for Meningitis Now, now it’s my turn,” said Duncan, from Bishop’s Itchington near Southam.
“I’m really hoping to beat the record of 3 hours 14 minutes for someone to complete the race in full rugby kit – which is currently held by an Australian.
“But if I make a ton of money and raise a ton of awareness but the record doesn’t fall, it’s not the absolute end of the world.
“Of course, I want to have a good go at it but for me, it’s all about awareness of the symptoms, awareness of the charity and about raising money – as much money as possible.”
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 26 April. To find out about this and other fundraising events please our fundraising pages.
To donate to Duncan, please visit his Just Giving Page.