Watching Michael Palin travel shows as a kid certainly gave me a travel bug I still haven’t managed to shake off, but also introduced me to the world of Monty Python and all the spin offs it produced such as Fawlty Towers with John Cleese and the lesser know Ripping Yarns by Michael Palin and Terry Jones.
To my surprise and delight when I first started writing this blog, I had a quick Google search for “Michael Palin”, mainly to see if he had any new travel shows in the pipeline. It turns out he does, it’s set in Brazil and comes out sometime in 2012, however the best thing I found was in the Ham & High about his attempt at a world record for hopping. The reason it turned out was to commemorate the re-release of Ripping Yarns on DVD. The first episode of the series involved a parody of public boarding school rituals, in this case involving a 30 mile hop – it makes much more sense if you watch it!
Hopping 400m around Hampstead Heath Athletics Track on a Saturday morning seemed like a pretty daft idea but this was a chance to a) meet Michael Palin and b) do something totally random I’ll probably never do again so I was in, and so was Kat. And after all it was only a 20 minute walk up the road.
So on a Saturday morning, instead of enjoying a lie in or nursing a hangover from the night before, Kat and I found ourselves arriving at the venue to find a random collection of people young, old, in fancy dress, sports gear, normal clothes all ready to take part in the hop. We were all given t-shirts and waited for the arrival of Michael Palin and Terry Jones. It’s kind of strange to see a person you’ve admired for a long time, often they don’t meet your expectations and you come away disappointed however the former Pythons were amusing and friendly in front of the crowd of about 100 people.
After an explanation of the rules (you are only allowed to hop on the same leg, although you are allowed to stop and rest) we were taken through a short warm up where even Palin joined in for most of it, not bad for 68 years old. A few minutes after that, a handful of late entries from a military fitness class and the obligatory press calls had been completed, we were off!
Now I don’t care what you say, but hopping 400m turns out to be a lot harder than some people thought. I think I had only completed the first 150m or so, my right leg feeling the impact of me (quite a large chap) jumping up and down on it and I had to stop for a few seconds. Upon going again it was clear this wasn’t going to be easy, just a few metres further and I stopped again. By the time I’d reached the 3rd bend the leaders were crossing the finishing line, a minor embarrassment but I was at this point ahead of Kat. By this point I was probably doing 10-15 metres in between short breaks when I realised a man dressed in a banana costume had crossed the finishing line.
Spurred on by the slight shame, I continued, thinking not far to go and cheered on by the two Pythons crossed the line in a time of …. um err… actually I never even thought about that. Kat was just a few metres behind me with Michael approaching to give her some words of encouragement but as soon as she saw a video camera, cut short the conversation just feeling the need to finish.
As every following hopper approached the finish the crowd grew louder with cheers of encouragement, some were struggling however crossing the line was an achievement. As the last person crossed the line, having completed the course in fancy dress there was some relief. The winners received medals to congratulate them and their winning legs from Palin and Jones.
Sadly the solo hop, nor the following relay competition were able to beat the Guinness Word Records but maybe we should consider including hopping as a late addition to the London Olympics this year? There might be some sore limbs afterwards, I think I’ve developed a funny little limp – Ministry of Silly Walks anyone?
You can see a video of the hop and an interview with Michael Palin and Terry Jones here.