London Marathon 2008: Lloyd Scott and the 'Iron Giant' for The Autism Trust
The culmination of months of planning, preparation, building, training and fundraising came to a head as I stood at the back of the Red Start waiting to begin the London Marathon.
This year I had chosen to wear a giant robot costume. Initially because I hadn’t seen anybody previously complete the Marathon as a robot,but also I wanted to stand head and shoulders above everybody else. One of my favourite films, The Iron Giant proved to be my inspiration for the costume. As Director of Fundraising for The Autism Trust my message was that although there is a public conception that autistic people live a‘robotic’ existence, there is in fact a real person inside and given the right amount of support and care they can flourish and reach their full potential.
My first step was to contact Aden Hynes, who had built the boulder for my 'Indiana Jones Boulder Dash' for last year's race. Aden once again came up with the goods, producing a sketch illustrating how the concept would work with me standing on stilts inside the costume to offer extra height and so keeping the whole effect of the robot in proportion.
My next call was to Nigel Jackson, a good friend and a Director at Dunbar Bank, who had sponsored the boulder in 2007 and he kindly agreed they would sponsor my project. The next creation was on its way!
My initial intention was to complete the event on the day, or at the very least finish on the following Monday morning, but after trying three different types of stilts none of which were suitable, Aden had to build custom made ones, with my training shoes screwed into the top of them to provide the necessary stability required for the robot.
In the end, the Giant was 9 feet 3 inches high, with 12 inch stilts inside the legs; 4 feet wide at the shoulders and weighed 70 pounds. His eyes lit up, his mouth opened and closed so that I could make him ‘talk’ and he had Hogarth, the small boy he befriends in the film, on his shoulder!
After some pre-race publicity in The Sun and appearances on GMTV, Blue Peter and London Tonight, we were ready to go!
13 th April – Day One
An early start as Lucinda and I drive to the start, We manage to park the support vehicle, kindly donated by Kevin Young of Coach Trippers and painted in an extremely bright lime green and yellow, at the very back of Red Start. It was fascinating arriving so early watching the period before the race as swarms of runners arrive and each go through their own preparation. Mine involved putting on two very large boots before having the top of the robot lowered onto my shoulders by two friends and members of my support team, Bob Marshall and Nic Karonias.
As the starting cannon boomed, the mass of runners slowly made their way to the start line, which I crossed after about twenty minutes, in bright sunshine.
The base of the stilts had been made wide enough to provide the required stability and I also had a calliper secured to my leg just below the knee. Immediately, I experienced what was a major difficulty for me that, the whole of my leg, ankle, knee and hip was forced to one side as I walked on a camber or any type of uneven surface. It was a problem that stayed with me throughout the coming week and at times looked as if this particular robot had a nasty limp!
The weather soon took a turn for the worse and as the rain began to pour down I thought I may short circuit! When the thunder and lightening started another fear came to mind. Though the costume was made of fibre glass, it was covered with a metallic foil to give a very realistic look; I was very uncertain if this meant that I was in fact walking around in a giant lightening conducting! Erring on the side of caution the suit was removed until the storm passed and only then did I get back on the road to continue my journey.
The reception of the crowd was as good as any previous years and this was certainly was a huge boost to me, as I made my way towards East Greenwich Fire Station and the end of my first day. Having been a London fire-fighter, I decided this year to stay in London Fire Stations, as I felt that if I was going to take a number of days to complete the course it was important that I stay on the course and within the spirit of the event.
14 th April – Day 2
Feeling worse for wear, with my legs very sore and my calf’s especially feeling very stiff, I was fitted back into the suit and after a TV interview with London Tonight made my way towards the Cutty Sark, or what there is of it at the moment. One of the requirements I wanted from the suit was that it was not immediately apparent where the person inside would be looking out, as is so obvious with many other mascot costumes. It was great then, when people said to Lu and Bob, “Is there anybody in there?” Some of the answers we gave them such as ,'No, he's worked by remote control' or 'There are five people in there!' left some members of the public, not quite sure whether we were joking or not.
We were joined today by my Dad, sister Vanessa and nephew Alex. Dad made his impact straight away, when during a stop for a bite to eat in McDonalds, sheltering from another rainstorm,he commented after Lu won a Big Mac in their ‘Monopoly’ competition, "Big Mac? Big Mac? - we don’t need a Big Mac. We need a rain mac!" (I have taken out any swearwords that may have been included.
The main feature of the afternoon was that despite being able to move at a pace somewhere between half and one mile per hour, I was in fact moving faster than the traffic! The condition of the pavements meant it was actually easier for me to walk in the road with the support vehicle behind me. Except that I wasn't walking anywhere! All I was doing was standing amongst the traffic, which looks of astonishment from passengers on the buses. Lu took some really good photos of me standing amidst all the traffic - or so she thought!
After finishing the day at Surrey Quays and still stuck in heavy traffic, we decidedto have a 'pit stop' in a local restaurant, where we decided to look at al the photos that Lu had taken since the start. However, when the memory card was put into the laptop it read ‘0bytes’. Obviously the camera was broken or she hadn’t used it properly! The first two days of snapping had resulted in no images. Camera was fine on the third day so perhaps we will have to send heron a very basic photography crash course!
15 th April – Day 3
After a comfortable night at Deptford Fire Station, I made my way along Jamaica Road and towards Tower Bridge. By far the best tactic was for me to walk in the Bus Lane; but when there were times I had no option but to walk in the road, the reaction of the public and drivers was absolutely brilliant! Nothing but encouragement and no little wonderment as the cars passed me!
This day was by far the longest because I wanted to fundraise in the Canary Wharf shopping mall the following day and also because there was a possibility of finishing live on GMTV on the Friday morning, I really had to get my skates on. A 9ft 3roller skating robot another idea perhaps…….
Having just finished walking along the Highway, we were met by Oliver Jones, the Autism Trust's Chairman who came to pay us a visit. He was probably surprised by what he saw as there were robot parts and the support team sprawled all over the place having a rest. It was here that we met a little girl called Millie, who had seen my Iron Giant on television and had asked her Dad, who was a London cab driver if he could find 'the giant'. Despite being initially frightened of the outfit everyone reassured her that the Giant was a very friendly one and after I said a few kind words to her it wasn’t long before the robot I had gained a life-long friend.
A very long day finished at about seven pm with seven miles completed. I really had overdone things by covering that distance and I didn't feel particularly well that evening.