Running a marathon with a twist: the inspiring London firefighters

I don’t know how many of you have run a marathon, either competitively or at a very recreational pace (me), but it’s hard. It’s a long distance, very long. It takes a lot out of your body. And that’s when you are kitted out in optimal running gear, streamlined and designed for running comfort. Running gear designed for chafing and blister prevention. Running gear that allows spines, shoulders, and arms to have full freedom of motion. Sounds obvious … and essential. So running a marathon – or even 1K – in full firefighter kit seems like a non-starter. Big time.

But that’s the plan for a remarkable group of London firefighters (see BBC video clip). These amazing men are in training to run the London Marathon in full firefighting gear and breathing apparatus, which amounts to an additional 30 awkward, uncomfortable kilograms (that’s 66 lbs). I can barely imagine walking 500 meters in that kit, more less running 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles). But on April 22 of this year, a group of 18 firefighters who were first responders at the heartbreakingly tragic Grenfell Tower fire last June will be doing just that. This group of men, from the North Kensington and Paddington Fire Stations, are carrying out this superhuman feat as a way of helping others. They are running to raise money to help local Grenfell victims and also for the Fire Fighters Charity, which provides needed psychological and physical support for firefighters who were part of the Grenfell response team.

London Fire Brigade, North Kensington

Just watching the sight of an entire block tower engulfed in flames on TV was traumatic enough. Viewers could see people at their apartment windows in real time, with flames behind them, screaming and beating on the glass. The shots on TV were effectively showing people just before they died a horrible, painful death, right in the heart of London. And we were all helpless to do anything. Now imagine what it was like for the firefighters on the scene, who did all they could and more, but of course that still wasn’t enough to save 71 fellow human beings, or to save the housing and possessions of hundreds of people. Right in the middle of one of the richest cities in the western world. A tragedy of such monumental proportions, crushing the lives of so many, because the cladding used on the building was never subjected to required fire safety tests. A tragedy of monumental proportions for which follow-up action and accountability is slow to come.

Grenfell Tower Fire, June 2017: image from Daily Star

It isn’t surprising that the firefighters who served – and continue to serve – so honorably were severely impacted themselves. The experience of being in the middle of such human horror is not something one forgets. What is perhaps surprising, but unbelievably inspiring, is that these firefighters, having gone through so much themselves and having provided levels of support that have everyone’s eternal gratitude, are going to challenge themselves to this extraordinary extent in aid of the fire victims. In this strange world in which we find ourselves these days, where leadership, especially moral leadership, seems to be in short supply, these firefighters stand out as true leaders. I am overwhelmed with their heart, even as I shake my head at the crazy challenge they have set for themselves! From Canada, I will donate.

Route of the London Marathon

(I wonder if any council members of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who oversaw many questionable decisions about the tower, would consider joining the marathon. Or they could just make major donations!)

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9 Responses to Running a marathon with a twist: the inspiring London firefighters

  1. thisvetruns says:

    It was so inspiring watching them- and in that heat as well. Really beautiful post

    • Jane Fritz says:

      You watched the race? I’m jealous. I just read your “Beginning” piece. My sympathies, and also huge wishes for success and mostly fun in your upcoming marathons. I didn’t run a marathon until I was a grandmother! My brother and I ran the NYC and then Chicago. We were so pumped (if slow), and we tried so hard to get into the London Marathon, but no luck. We couldn’t even pay our way in. So in 2014 my husband joined us for the Royal Parks Half, which was a great second best. We visited York and Yorkshire on that trip; York is where I did my grad studies. What a special place to do a race. Do you live near London?

      • thisvetruns says:

        Unfortunately I only watched from the TV, I was on bed rest. I live about 2hours from London so not too far. But hopefully I will be there in person next year, running! Yes, I didn’t get a ballot place but I did get a charity place – worth considering. Thank you so much for reading my post, it was helpful to write.. I’m just so anxious to get back out there. I started my blog to write about running but I can’t run at the moment! Hopefully soon, I’m feeling a lot stronger. That’s amazing to start marathoning then! Incredible, I love it. It feels like so many boundaries are being broken daily at the moment, of course you can run your first marathon as a Grandma ❤️

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Take all the time you need to get your strength back again. When your body is ready the roads and trails will be waiting! 😊

  2. K.P.Mishra says:

    Where hearts prevails over mind, that’s humanity with a punch.

  3. Manuela says:

    Wow!!! This is amazing!

  4. Pingback: Running a marathon with a twist: the inspiring London firefighters — Robby Robin’s Journey – Musings and Wonderings

  5. DM says:

    Just wow…on several levels. I have a son-in-law that serves on a local ambulance..no pay/ just because….Like you said..these are the real leaders.. Servant leadership way more inspiring than those that serve with self seeking motives.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Wow, that sounds like a very special son-in-law you have there, Doug. Yes, counting on each other is what makes communities strong. When we’re lucky we get leaders who see their roles as supporting the common good, as opposed to their own self-interest, then our communities can be stronger still. Sadly, we are too often disappointed in that regard. We need to recognize the community heroes more often.

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