Gorilla Organization


The Gorilla Organization, the international charity led by experienced African conservationists dedicated to saving the world’s last remaining gorillas from extinction. Our award-winning community-based approach to conservation promotes sustainable livelihoods, nurtures young conservationists of the future and empowers local people to tackle the main threats to the gorillas’ survival.

UK Reg Charity 1117131

Monday, 18 April 2011

Day 200 - Part 2 (Home Sweet Home)

That's it ... job done ... back home ... ouch!

Boy is this chair comfy, and the cup of tea so nice ... did that really happen yesterday - or was it a really bad bit of cheese I ate?

OK, assuming that it wasn't the cheese this is what really happened yesterday...

It was almost like getting ready for a flight, you set every alarm you can find - and also staying in a hotel you ask for multiple alarm calls ... but the total fear of missing it means you are awake 5 seconds before the alarm started at 6am. Then off to breakfast in the hotel where it was so easy to identify the runners ... they eat porridge, fruit and yogurt ... the supporters or normal hotel guests were tucking into their bacon and black pudding (we were jealous of them).

Back to the room to 'Gorilla suit-up' with the check list:
  • Goo/Talc applied to 'Nips' and 'the lads'
  • Blister plasters covering all the 'usual suspects' on the feet and toe-sock on the dodgy nail
  • Familiar running socks on, and a foot-less pair of compression secs on over the top.
  • Normal sports gear
then ... 
  • On goes 'Gerald'... (this was about 7am), followed by running top/number. I wrote my name on the front, and my @MarathonGorilla on the back - this worked out so well for the race :)
Exhibit-A ... er ... me
Off to West India Key to get the DLR to Greenwich ... I was the only person in costume on the train (this did not bode well) then off to the start. 

Banana acquired ... 
For various reasons the three of us (2 gorillas and 1 banana) were at different starts: I was in Green, Pete (The banana) Blue and Dave (Gorilla #2) at Red. As the plan was to run together we decided to meet up at the mile 1 (Me/Pete) and mile 4 (Dave); this meant we became part of the crowd for a while and cheered on the runners - while listening to fantastic music being played by live bands. I know that the queues at the red start were long, but the paranoia started to hit when we were waiting for Dave (from the finish time - he crossed the start line 20 minutes after I did), us he OK? with so many people phoning/tweeting there was little phone reception - we couldn't tell.

Then Dave appeared and our hearts leapt ... now we are three :) BRING IT ON!

Off we went, heading off at a reasonable speed and the crowd cheering it was superb, perhaps the running speed was a tad too fast - or was it the heat ... or both?  as the need for water became more apparent (or as Pete kept reminding me 'Water is fuel') it was getting rather hot out there even without a furry suit (as other runners reminded me) so we slowed down and I kept running to the shady side of the road.

Both Pete and Dave have done the London Marathon before they had great experience to share with me as we went. They knew the course so knew where the quiet bits were, the exposed areas, the ways to beat leg pains and many other things. I have to say guys 'it was Gold-dust!' without that camaraderie I would have been in serious trouble. For example at about mile sixteen my right knee was starting to play up and Dave suggested that we run 'ten-on/ten-off' (ten seconds/paces or running, ten seconds of walking) 

A number of friends had made the effort to turn up on the day, and wait over six hours in the sun for three costumed characters to run around tiring themselves out - like kittens with a ball of string. Many thank guys for being there :), additionally a number of twitter friends caught up with me for #GorillaHugs, thanks everyone it really really helped. I also remember seeing 'It's my 30th birthday today' on the back of one girl runners shirt, so I felt duty bound to kiss her hand and wish her Happy Birthday, and then run on.

It was off towards Docklands where the sun decided to hide (phew), but we kept up the 10-10 running which was easing my knee ... and people were offering fruit (perhaps a who banana was a bad plan) Orange segments have never tasted to good :). By now I was making sure I collected water at every stop, some I drank, some I poured down my/Dave's neck. 

Then by the time we got back to Canary Wharf the sun came back out, the TV coverage kept using the term 'glorious' - not a term I would have used while running in a 'G-suit', I would have used 'sub-tropical'. But slowly one by one the mile markers disappeared, soon 10 miles turned into 10k, we kept up the 10-10 (by now I was counting them out loud as I ran) but we were making tracks through all those that were just walking. 

Eventually we got to 5k, where unfortunately I needed more walk, than run; where no matter how much I had trained over the last six months I was just not prepared for the heat on the day. Pete tried to keep us ahead of  'two people running as a bus', unfortunately I had say 'we'll catch the next one' as we let it ran past. 

We then lead up to the final mile, wow - the crowd was amazing now ... calling us all out by name, so we saved ourselves for the final 800m (or so) where the Banana would taunt the Gorillas and we would take chase; so much so that the final straight up to the finish line was almost a sprint (I have no idea where the energy came from).

Then it was done, we managed it, the un-holy trio had stayed together for 22 miles, and we kept together to the end. As mentioned earlier the delay between the starts gave us all three different times, but I am still proud of my time 6h 12m 30s, and as I never have completed a marathon I now have a Personal Best, something to aim to beat next time.

Some of the lessons I learnt from the marathon

  • The crowd is fantastic and will cheer you on - encourage and enjoy them
  • You can steal sweets off small children
  • Aim to finish, not for a finishing time
  • You gain a pathological hate for 'I would walk 500 miles' being played
  • Don't eat your food to quickly, chew (my Mum taught me that), burps are bad :(
  • Talk to fellow runners - you both feel so much better
  • A Rhino is like a Micra, you will always be overtaken by one
  • Not all sports gels taste like snake venom - honest!
  • Your friends will cheer you on, personally if they can make it on the day, or via social networks - you will remember all their messages as you run
  • If you see a 100 people tied together as a human centipede, and they are queueing for the portaloos  - try not to laugh too loud. ( fantastic work on the run guys)
  • If you wear a silly costume - you will get noticed  (The best London Marathon fancy dress)
Finally, a few friends I'd like to mention (and their times) Well done all.

Dave Holby 05:52:40, Pete Elliott  06:07:52, Stephen Kelly 04:04:37, Chloe (The Brand) 04:26:03, richard dainty 04:59:00, Charles the Chav 05:13:15, Steve Dubois 04:57:02, Simon Freeman 02:43:37, Chris Naylor 03:59:54, Karen Balloch 04:23:58, Paul Robbins 05:54:00, Samuel Marsh 04:03:45, Chris Mercer 05:41:15, Sally Sauntson 06:21:00, Uli Killian 04:45:43, Mel Churchward 05:25:10

Day 200 - part 1

I DID IT! I managed to run (well some of the time) 26 miles in a  gorilla suit. Boy was it warm yesterday...it must have gone over 20 and there wasnt a huge amount of shade.

More later once I hobble home and have a nice cuppa.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

198 - This time tomorrow i'll be poached ... and i'm against poaching

The last 24 hours before the Virgin London Marathon ... crikey ... where has the last 6 months gone!

In order to chill-out and remember why I've taken on this task I went to London Zoo yesterday, to gain some sagely advice from the Silver-backs...

So what did I learn from the lads?

  • You can lie on you back naked, and scratch.
  • Picking your nose and eating it in public is allowed;
  • If you are disagreeing with someone, you can pull up your rope so they can't get to you;
  • My gait is wrong, as i'm not using all four paws.
It was just what I needed, to see the actual creatures i'm running for .. to remind me. 

Their expressions and mannerisms are not at all different from our own, they want to play and are just as curious as we are. It was great to see how much London Zoo share the passion of the Gorilla Organization and are emphasizing the same areas for support.

Later as a surprise for Helen (my ever supportive and resourceful wife) we went to see the Lion King (a night off from Gorillas for her), and a good friend Beth-Monster (long story) had arranged a special back stage tour for us (WOW!) and as it's Helen's birthday next week, Beth 'sneakily' got all the cast to sign a poster for her. I now have a very happy and bouncy wife!!!

Now, it's Saturday and I'm starting to feel nervous, and all the little gremlins of doubt are waving at me, but THRUPPP I say to the gremlins. All the support over the last few months is holding me together ... I can see from my friends on Twitter that they are all sharing the same feelings of panic and excitement, and the banter on there is both hilarious and emotional - check it out  here (you don't even need to have a twitter account).

To keep on with the detractions - tonight my short film 'mISSING pIECES' will be showing at the 'Red Carpet Screenings 2011 International Short Film Festival'  - featuring my furry self running around Basingstoke as a gorilla - I'm really excited about this, and more importantly I get to catch up with my Mum for a bit as she prepares to go into hospital next week to have a pacemaker fitted - we don't do things by half in this family.

So, that's about if for the pre-race banter, panics and celebrations ... next time I blog it will be post VLM whatever that brings... 

It's going to be EPIC!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Day 196 - Base camp established ...

So now it's the final push ... as I write this the London Marathon web site lets me know that there are only a couple of days to go ...

Today I signed I collected my running number from the massive expo event at Excel - and then a couple of hours later I collected a new number ... Ok, so this is what happened, back in 2010 I contacted 'Guinness World Records' to see if there is a registered record for running a marathon 'dressed as a gorilla'? They did a lot of checking and got back to me letting me know there is one for 'running a marathon dressed as an animal' so I would be competing with that one.  The downside of that one was the current record is 3:30 - and only after the last couple of races have I realised that this time - "No, I can't manage that yet" (I add yet).
So, I let them know Guinness know ... but somehow Virgin wasn't updated - so now I have a green number '28539' no longer 39900; this means I have to sort out the final details with Pete and Dave but all systems are go!

The Expo was amazing - and given the collection of toys/products/advice i'd suggest it to anyone considering any kind of distance race. There is no entrance fee - so if you are doing any race over the next year, i'd suggest just go and learn lots from there (Why isn't the Expo in October - when you get your place?).
I also got to meet @LardyBoy2011 and @theredsquirrel two of my friends on twitter who are running in the Virgin London Marathon.

I also met a great guy 'Uli Kilian' who is planning to solve 100 Rubik cubes while running the marathon! seriously, I thought it was tough in a suit, he's got a suit a hundred puzzles to solve AND carry. Check out his website for information on the run (and how to sponsor him).

What kind of person runs 26 miles in a strange suit
 ... oh yeah ...  I retract that one.
While sorting out my revised running number Helen filled out her entry for the 'Virgin Poetry Competition', I hope I dont't muck up her chances by adding this - but I was so touched by what she wrote I had to share.
Helens rather touching poem for the Virgin poetry competition 

Every tuft of gorilla fluff,
Every time I said "that's enough!"
Every time my heart swells in my chest
Every race he tries his best
Every penny raised by friends
Every step a means to an end
Every race is tough, but
Everyone's better off.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Day 194 - I am not a number ... or hang on ...

Less than 5 days to go ...

LEGO 'GorillaMan' to the rescue
Days are counting down to the Marathon ... and it's getting really exciting; the last day has seen some  amazing things happen:
  • The run with Pete with excellent fun yesterday, still giggling at the video we made yesterday, and made it over 555 Km in training 
  • My fundraising made it past £2000! Completely beyond anything I ever imagined - thank you everyone.
  • I was asked by the fellow Simians at 'Go Ape' to write for the BananaBlog, which was published today.
I'm keeping an eye on the weather (as I gather is the pattern for the last week), and looking forward to the Expo on Thursday ... right ... back to the carbs ... nom nom nom.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Day 193 - Follow that banana ...

The BBC have started showing adverts, as my friend @clo_v tweeted yesterday 'Just saw BBC #VLM advert. My stomach did a flip & I felt a rush of excitement. A feeling I usually calm with a vodka. Prob not a good idea.'  Yep - that's where i'm at currently.

Today was probably my last run before Sunday - and what a fun run it was today, but before I write about that ... here's a photo of the two gorillas getting ready at the Pasta Party on Saturday night ... Dave will be running in Geraldine (also wearing a pink bra) and I'll be running as Gerald (pink tutu).

Two cheeky Monkeys ....  well Gorillas actually ... and Blinky the three eyed fish too.
So, why add the photos of the two gorillas ... well as a lead up to Pete who is our nemesis (well sort of) in the form of a giant banana.

Yes, gorillas and bananas do indeed work in IT

Pete works at the same company as me, and when he found out that there was a gorilla loose in the building he heard the 'call of the wild ... well livid really' and bought himself a banana costume to join in. He was already training for the marathon and this added extra flavour to the event!.

I'll get you ... and your little dog too...
Today we 'suited up' for the first time together and went for a run around Green Park in Reading. The weather was about 17 degrees, but with a pleasant breeze ... but still hoping it's slightly cooler on Sunday as fancy dress costumes are generally not designed for running.

Pete completed the very scary 'Jurassic Marathon' two weeks ago - which is three marathons in three days ... I'm still working on ONE!. It was a great chat while we ran and working out our plans for the end of the week; it was also great watching people as we ran past them in costume, they either:

a) stared and couldn't believe what they saw, or
b) tried to not make eye contact.

Either way it made us laugh as we ran, so much so that I uploaded this video to share with you all.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Day 191 - Using my powers for good ...

Down to the the last week now ... EXCITING!

OK, so the taper is going well (really lazy, but I like the idea of a technical term for it), but I do feel like I another ParkRun or something ....

Hmmm, well the original plan for Saturday morning was to do just that - but then I remembered that I really should head off into town and pay-in some of the donations I have already received to the bank. Lets see, they open at 9am and the run is at 9am ... hmm, run but leave loose cash in the car ... bad, get the money paid in and do something else ... good.

But what run to do ...?

Well I woke up at 7am (darn it - my body won't let me off even on a Saturday) and had the solution ... you see my wife (The ever supportive Helen) wasn't feeling too well the day before, and I remembered that she really loves American style pancakes (If there was an IHOP in this country - i'd never see her again) so I decided to run to the local McDonalds and get her some pancakes and maple syrup and then bring them back for her.

So, carefully sneaking out the house ... armed with an iPod and a Camelback ... off I went. I knew it was going to be good when the first track on the pod was 'Song 2' ... and off I went.

I got a funny look from one of the other customers as I was obviously in running gear,yet  going for food in McDonalds ... pah! After quickly drinking the orange juice it was time to head back home ...

When I got back in, Helen was still asleep ... so armed with a cup of tea and a some pancakes I snuck back upstairs to surprise her ... I think I may have redeemed some of the brownie-points I owe her (she's been to nearly every training event since October) and the day was set up to be great.

In the afternoon a photographer from the 'Basingstoke Gazette' visited, and asked me to run-around the close and do star-jumps for some photos in the full suit (I look forward to the paper on Thursday).

In the evening we planned a 'Pasta Party' for friends to come over and chill - as it's the quiet before the excitement next week - and Dave Holby came over ... he'll be wearing the other Gorilla costume next week-end. It was the first time he got to meet 'Geraldine' ...

Finally, on Monday I'll be catching up with Pete, the guy who will be wearing the banana costume that the two gorillas will chase, and hopefully we'll go for a lunchtime run together in costume (there is a medical need for photos).

So next week lookout for the following trio:

  • Banana being chased by two gorillas (Pete Elliott, running for CLIC and The Helen Bamber Foundation)
  • Gorilla in pink tu-tu (that's me, running for the Gorilla Organization);
  • Gorilla in pink bra (Dave Holby, running for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

Only a week to go ... I hope it's not too hot.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Day 184 - Never leave a man behind ...

Yikes - It's now April ... only a couple of weeks to go...

So after last week's injury from the Breakfast Run, I have spent the week trying to rest the leg (and also work has been busy) it was crunch time to see if the rest helped. This took the form of the ParkRun on Saturday morning; I was unsure of how things would develop - so I thought I'd see how a 5Km run affected my left leg (or vice-versa). To say the least I was rather nervous.

As usual Pete was there at the run, I persuaded him to join-in about a year ago - and since then he's done more ParkRuns than I have (guilty face), my excuse is all the other events I have done, but the running total on the ParkRun website always reminds me of this.

My plan was a comfortable 5Km at about my long-distance pace, so about 9-10 minute miles, as I've noticed that my distance running is slower but more consistent at this pace. If this worked with no pain then things were looking up !!!.

So, I ran with Pete ... we chatted ... we kept running ... chatted more ... overtook a few people while still chatting and kept on running. In the final straight Pete slowed slightly to let me finish before him, but I wasn't going to let that happen so I shoved him forward. I was pleased to say I came 72'd and Pete came in at 71st.

Something I have noticed over the last six months (crikey ... just worked it out on my fingers) is just how much time is taken up preparing for something as huge as your first ever marathon. The training plans give you an idea of the training required, but not of the work done around it or the time spent preparing for the events. I know that I have had to sacrifice a large part of my social life to prepare over the last 6 months, and with this don't get round to seeing all the friends I normally would at play rehearsals, at the cinema or even down the pub.

You do notice their absence (hopefully they notice yours) and although there are all the social media gadgets to keep people in contact (The irony in not lost on me as I submit a blog to be read on Facebook and Twitter) ... but nothing actually beats meeting up in real life. I prefer to chat with people without the need for a keyboard, and to see the expressions on their faces as you compare stories.

It's for that reason that Pete finished before me - as just 'being-there' on a day when I was feeling a bit 'wobbly' cheered me up and helped me focus on the right things.

I now feel so much more prepared for London ... and just have a couple of remaining tasks to do and then it's  all systems go...