Sunday, 21 September 2014

If you see a gorilla, RUN!

Yesterday I took part in the 11th Great Gorilla Run (GGR), an 8km fun run through the heart of London to raise money for The Gorilla Organization. Over 500 people had registered and I was very excited at the prospect of being part of this amazing charity event.

I signed up for the GGR back in late August one week before returning from Kenya, which only gave me five weeks to get my act together and train for it. The reason I had signed up was that only a month before I had actually visited the gorillas in Bwindi, Uganda. Seeing them first hand was not only a dream come true, but also made me realise how much work is to be done to ensure their survival for the future. You can read about my gorilla experience below:

Meeting the gorillas part 1 click here                                        
Meeting the gorillas part 2 click here

After arriving back in England I began doing some runs wherever I could and I felt good about my fitness levels; then the gorilla suit arrived. Of course 8km on a relatively flat level doesn't perhaps sound that challenging, but when you add a heavy, furry, unbreathable, thick gorilla suit it starts to look a bit more daunting. When trying it on for the first time you soon realise why people have commented on this so called "fun run" being more difficult than a half marathon. There is no where for your body heat to go and so you very quickly get sweaty and hot; this is going to be interesting.

Trying the suit on for the first time

Gorilla training

Gorilla training

The Big Day
So four weeks had flown by and all of a sudden the big day was here. I arrived in central London (right by the Gherkin) at around 9.30am and there were already hundreds of gorillas warming up. It was a very strange setting (like a budget Planet of the Apes film) and the different costumes that were appearing were fantastic. There was everything from just plain old gorilla to Darth Vadar, Lifeguards, Bikinis, Angels and Devils, big bananas, multi-coloured and everything in between; including a guy dressed as a gorilla carrying a human in a cage.

Source - 
Got to love a storm trooper gorilla

Oh I say, the posh gorillas

Source -

Of course what is a gorilla run without Darth Gorilla
My personal favourite and he did attract a lot of attention

I was now feeling pumped so I dressed up in my gorilla suit with my GGR t-shirt over the top and running number attached (338 is me). Then I headed to the starting point where I met Ian Redmond (chairman of the Gorilla Organization), this was a huge moment for me as Ian has been a hero of mine for many years. His work with gorillas, elephants and conservation is amazing and has created real change around the world. He was dressed in his traditional khaki shorts, shirt and sandals and I just had to get a photo.

Getting dressed for the occasion

Is it hot in here or is it just me

How do I look?

Finally got to meet the amazing Ian Redmond

Then at around 10.30am we all gathered at the starting point and had some inspiration words (and spoon bending) from Uri Geller as well as the Patron of the GGR Bill Oddie. He then announced the start of the race, but was still in front of all the gorillas when we started; luckily he moved quickly out of the way and we were OFF!

Getting ready to go

Quick photos with celebrities before setting off

Bill Oddie saying Ready, Steady, GO!

Bill Oddie quickly realising he was in the wrong place

The crowd was cheering and everyone was having a good time making gorilla noises (some were very questionable) and getting into the spirit of the run. I quickly realised two things, 1. You can not see a thing out of the mask and 2. It got very hot inside the suit and mask very quickly. However, with the random waving tourists we were running past, car hooting and the sights of London around us I put that behind me and got on with the run. We went round the Tower of London where I saw all the poppies that had been laid out in the grounds, we then went underground before popping up further down and going over tower bridge to run along the south bank. There were a lot of people taking photos and also wondering what the hell was going on; I overheard one woman say "that is what I love about London, always something going on".

There I go, on the left 338

So many funny costumes

It had seemed like I was running for ages and then a marshal (who were all fantastic) mentioned that this is the halfway point. The random people constantly cheering me on (in many languages) did keep me going and it was raising awareness, which is always good. With the last km in sight I was really feeling tired and it didn't help going past the back of a big building that was pumping out heat. Then a marshal told me we were approaching the finishing straight and that last 500 meters was the hardest part of the race. As I turned round the corner and saw the finish I picked up the pace, put my hands in the air, the crowd roared, the announcer read out my number and name and Uri Geller put a medal around my neck. I was exhausted and extremely hot and sweaty, but grabbed a photo with Bill Oddie, another one with Ian Redmond and got the gorilla suit off as quickly as humanly possible.

At the end with Bill Oddie, clock reading 49 minutes

Post race photo with Ian Redmond
Taking the suit off was one of the most satisfying things I have ever done

They gave us a goody bag containing a banana, coconut water and regular water, which was just what I needed. Luckily it was a cool, cloudy day and I started recovering quickly, it was amazing to watch all the different gorillas finishing. The atmosphere and environment was just fun, with drummers playing, music blaring and everyone just having a good time. I finished in 49 minutes and from the looks of it was in the top 30 to 40, but it is not a race and that is not what it is about.

A banana, just what the doctor ordered

What a fantastic costume

After about an hour of relaxing we heading into the bar area and had some words of congratulations by Bill Oddie who said "wildlife brings out the worst and the best in humanity and today we have witnessed the latter", Uri Geller "congratulations to everyone you have made a difference", Ian Redmond "gorillas are the gardeners of the forest and we must protect them to protect the forests they live in" and Jillian Miller the Chief Executive announced we had so far (donations accepted till November) raised £65,000 and said "the money you have raised today will go a long way to making sure we continue the fight to save the remaining gorillas in Africa".

Award ceremony with Ian Redmond, Uri Geller, Bill Oddie and Stanley Johnson in the background

Prizes were given out for best dressed male and female, largest group and best training video; notice no prize for first place. This really is a fun run and everyone is encouraged to participate. All in all I had a tremendous day, meeting great people, having fun and participating in an event that makes a real difference.

Donations are still being taken so please give what you can here -

Also, if this has inspired you why not sign up to the 12th Great Gorilla Run 2015 here -

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