A Bromley man is taking on a marathon-sized challenge with a difference, as he prepares to challenge the world record for running 26.2 miles whilst dribbling two basketballs.
Childminder Kev Howarth has just successfully completed a half marathon, four months after he embarked on his bid to beat the current Guinness record of four hours, 10 minutes and 44 seconds.
The 44-year-old said he was inspired to undertake the bizarre challenge after reading an article about the current record holder.
Mr Howarth, of Southlands Road, told News Shopper: “I saw an American had done it, and I thought I can beat it.
“Having been a basketball player and more recently getting into running, I looked at his time and thought, yeah, I can do that.
“The more training I have done around Norman Park [in Bromley], the more confidence I have gained to have a good stab at it.”
The dad-of-two said he hopes to knock “a big chunk” off the current record, to stop anyone else swooping in on the title in the future.
Having just successfully completed the Silverstone half marathon in 1hour 57minutes with his trusted basketballs, Mr Howarth is hoping to work up to the iconic London Marathon next year.
He said dribbling two basketballs on a flat court surface is a whole different ball game to bouncing them over the rough, uneven ground of the local park and recreation ground where he trains.
The first time Mr Howarth tried out running with two smaller sized basketballs, he quickly realised it was going to be trickier than he had imagined.
“I did about three miles and I lost the ball about a dozen times,” Mr Howarth said.
But with some practice under his belt, running with basketballs has become second nature.
He added: “I just needed to sharpen up the skills I already had.”
Choosing the Silverstone half because of its flat surface, Mr Howarth said he got plenty of comments from other runners as he made his way around the 13.1mile course, including one woman who said “now that’s just silly”.
At the age of 17, Mr Howarth was playing national league basketball for a team in Oxford before going on to university.
He moved to Bromley around 15 years ago, before joining the local team which his dad had previously played for.
After a few years he hung up his basketball vest, and tried his hand at running, before recently joining the Petts Wood runners club to help boost his marathon training.
Mr Howarth said he’s found running with basketballs tends to take his mind of the distance itself, and the trick is to keep focused on 10 to 15 feet ahead.
He said: “It’s all about getting in to a rhythm with it.
“I dribble the balls one at a time, left, then right – if you get it right it’s quite a natural flow.
“It’s a bit mesmerising when you’re in the thick of lots of other runners.”
Over the next year Mr Howarth hopes to gain more race experience, as well as apply to run in the 2017 London Marathon.
But he said he’ll have to warn friends and supporters that he’s not as miserable as he looks.
“I’ll just have to brief them that I’m not going to be able to look up, I’m not going to be able to wave, but trust me I know you’re there,” he said.