Don't step on this man's toes
Shedding his shoes
He's run the Great North Run 12 times but this year John McBride from Consett in County Durham is doing the last mile barefoot. He had better watch out for bottle tops and overenthusiastic overtakers.
Once you've done the Great North Run a few times (and that in itself is a feat) you need something new to persuade the same old suspects to donate their hard earned pennies again. Or pounds, preferably.
Especially since 49,999 other people will be after sponsors too.
John McBride, from Consett, is hoping running the last mile barefoot will do the trick.
He's one of 200 running for the international aid agency CAFOD and is a parishioner of St Patrick's Church in the town. Their prayers will be helpful, since he's decided not to practise running barefoot in case he injures himself.
That said, as a member of Derwentside Athletics Club, he's not a complete novice. You have to assume he knows what he's doing.
He says the idea of going barefoot came out of wanting to show solidarity with people who don't have a choice about whether to wear shoes or not, because they don't have them.
One previous set of Snow White and her dwarves
He'll be raising money to help CAFOD development projects around the world.
"It's something different," he says. "People like to dress up every year.
"I've been overtaken by a rhinoceros and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It's a pretty good achievement to run any distance dressed up, but I didn't really fancy that."
Footloose and fancy free
John can't remember ever seeing anyone else run barefoot apart from, perhaps, one of the "proper runners", as he calls them, an Ethiopian he thinks, who might have done it once.
He doesn't mind the unoriginal comparison to Zola Budd but it reminds him he needs to watch out for being spiked by someone else's shoe.
He says: "I'll be keeping an eye out for other people who have big feet - even bigger than mine.
"But I think the worst might be the water stage on the last mile, because there'll be a lot of bottle tops, which could be quite interesting. But generally it should be OK, the field will be quite spread out by that time."
It'll be only 12 miles for these
He doesn't think going barefoot will reduce his time too much but, just in case, he plans to stop his watch when he takes his shoes off and start it again for the last, shoe-less, leg.
He says: "I don't run that fast anyway, it probably won't have a great effect I wouldn't have thought.
"I've got a support team at the 12 mile mark...my wife...and she'll take my shoes in a plastic bag to the end and I'll be reunited with them there."
Dare to be different
John admits it can be hard to persuade people to give money, year after year.
He's realistic: "There are 50,000 people doing it and everybody's got a sponsor form. You speak to a few people and they've already sponsored people. So you try and think of something different, make it more of a challenge."
The finish area of the Great North Run
It's the first time he's done something different: "I've always just turned up and plodded to the end. The problem now is what do I do next year?"
I suggest if he manages barefoot this year he might try baring a little more next year.
He's not sure: "There is a guy who goes in a fig leaf. I've seen him a couple of times. But I don't really want to do that, I'm frightened!"
He's not convinced by the promise of being streamlined, pointing out that there must be some wind resistance, considering the size of Mr Naked's fig leaf.
John is aiming to raise at least £200.
last updated: 30/09/2008 at 14:39