Eddie Izzard to run 27 marathons around South Africa for Nelson Mandela
EDDIE Izzard, the British comedian and actor turned fanatical runner, has pledged to run 27 marathons around South Africa in 27 days in honour of Nelson Mandela's 27 years in prison.
Mr Izzard, 50, said he would undertake much of the run barefoot, or in "barefoot running shoes", and run in places that had a special resonance to the post-apartheid leader, including the area where he grew up, the place where he went to university and on Robben Island, where he was imprisoned.
"Maybe you get this visual relationship between the struggle of 27 years in jail and the struggle of me trying to run these marathons," he said.
He originally came up with the idea after discussing the film Invictus with his father. It documents Mr Mandela's early days as South Africa's first black president, and how he harnessed the nation's love of rugby to bring people together during the 1995 world cup tournament.
He said he decided that he wanted to run in South Africa as a way of belatedly honouring all those who struggled against apartheid, having done little more than observe a popular boycott of South African products.
"I was thinking about what I had done to demonstrate against apartheid and I realised that I did nothing," he said. "I didn't eat the fruit, that's all I did. I did nothing else."
He said he had already "had the honour" of meeting Mr Mandela, when he performed seven comedy gigs in South Africa and gave the money raised to his eponymous foundation.
"He came to a point in my life when I realised that I really, really wanted to meet Nelson Mandela, and I thought that is never going to happen," he told The Associated Press.
"A few years ago some stand ups from South Africa said 'There's a whole scene out here, you're known, come out and do some gigs'.
"I thought it could be a way to sell some tickets and I then realised I could actually come and sell some tickets and give the money to Nelson Mandela.
"I was quite happy to give it to him. I thought I could put it in a bag and say 'Oh spend it on sweets or something'."
Now that the 93-year-old former statesman has retired from public life, he said he was unlikely to meet him again.
"I don't want to bother him, but if he hears that this crazy man he's met before is in South Africa and doing these runs perhaps he'll think it's good," he said.
"Or perhaps he'll think 'That's crazy'." He said he had not yet done any formal preparation for the marathons, and had done little running since he completed, in July 2009, seven weeks of back-to-back marathons across England and Wales to raise money for Sport Relief.
"I don't really do training, I just get on with it," he said. "I have actually only done one marathon since I ran all those marathons three years ago but I've been mentally training."
The challenge will be filmed for a Sky documentary to be screened in the UK this autumn. Mr Izzard will tweet his way around the country and encourage followers to sponsor him by donating to the Nelson Mandela Foundation along with other South African charities.