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UPDATED: First ever to dance London Marathon

Posted on April 15, 2011

Update: Ben finished his marathon at 6.37pm, making eight hours and fifty minutes of dancing.

When 33-year-old teacher Ben Hammond (pictured) lines up for the world’s greatest running race this Sunday, April 17, he’ll be setting out to achieve something extraordinary: becoming the first ever person to dance the entire London Marathon. 

Ben has never run, let alone danced, a marathon, and his three-times-a-week training dances have left him with all manner of aches, pains and injuries. “I’m worried,” says Ben. “Six hours is my injury-free maximum so far. It’s pretty difficult to keep up continuous forward momentum whilst dancing, and it takes its toll, especially as I get a bit carried away every time a great tune comes on my MP3 player. 

“I end each training dance exhausted and with a body suffering in all the wrong places.  But I’m hoping the famous marathon spirit and crowds will carry me through to the end.” 

Ben’s efforts to dance his way around the 26.2-mile course will take an estimated nine to ten hours. Travelling at that speed would see the roads reopening around him as he tangos over Tower Bridge, cancans through Canary Wharf, and mambos up the Mall, so Ben is hoping spectators will stick around to give a supportive jig as he passes or even join him in the Mall for a final dance as he crosses the finish line. 

Dancing the marathon is part of a year-long charity fundraising campaign Ben has named Free to Dance, which sees him attempting to break the world record for the longest uninterrupted dance (131+ hours, over five days) from October 11–16 in central London, in the name of freedom for Burma, where Ben spent a year teaching in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border five years ago. 

“For me, it’s all about letting go, throwing off the shackles and showing that no matter how you do it, you can use dance as a brilliant symbol of freedom to do some good for those who don’t enjoy the same freedoms.  Every time I set out on another dance in public, I get nervous and have to pluck up the courage to do it – but that courage is ultimately nothing compared to the courage the people of Burma have to show every day in the face of a military dictatorship.” 

Finishing the London Marathon this April is a vital first step in preparing him physically and mentally for the challenges that lie ahead.  Later this year, as his training moves up a gear, Ben will also attempt to dance non-stop through the Glastonbury Festival. By December, Ben aims to raise more than £150,000 for LearnBurma, the registered educational charity he has set up to open the eyes of a million people to the situation in Burma over the next five years. 

As the marathon fast approaches, Ben hopes London will be Free to Dance with him as he dances into the record books.  Anyone wanting to support his marathon dance can donate a song for him to dance to (he needs a total of 200 toe-tapping tunes to get him to the finish) via http://www.justgiving.com/freetodance.

 

 

Nicola Rayner was editor of Dance Today from 2010 to 2015. She has written for a number of publications including The Guardian, The Independent and Time Out Buenos Aires, where she cut her teeth as a dance journalist working on the tango section. Now acting editor of Discover Britain magazine, she continues to dance everything from ballroom to breakdance, with varying degrees of success.

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