Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eddie Izzard - Marathon Man (Part 2)

I wasn't planning on writing about this again, but after watching the rest of Eddie Izzard's show Marathon Man on YouTube, I have to tell you that the second and third episodes are even better than the first.  (You can read my initial post here for the basics on what the show is about, if you haven't heard about it already.)

I expected this show to be inspiring.  A man who has never run seriously before, running 43 marathons for a very worthy cause (Sport Relief).  I also expected that he would make it, or at least do very well, better than expected of him, for a couple of reasons.  First, I don't think they would have aired a show if it weren't interesting, and I think having cameras and people watching you is great motivation to keep going, whereas if no one is watching it's easier to bow out.  Eddie makes this comment a number of times throughout the show: that he has to complete this challenge, because he doesn't want to hurt the charity, and people are watching that will be critical, or at least disappointed, if he can't do what he sets out to do.

But I also notice that people who end up becoming famous for what they do, whether they are an actor, comedian, scientist, author, etc., tend to be incredibly motivated people.  They will work their asses off, with no guarantee that they will succeed (i.e., become famous).  Not everyone who is motivated will make it, of course, but those who do must work pretty damn hard to get there above everyone who doesn't.  It became evident very early that Eddie is this type of person.  When running through Edinburgh, Scotland, we learn that he started out as a street performer, and did that for a number of years before becoming a more mainstream comedian, and later an actor.

Given all that, I wasn't surprised that Eddie completed the marathons.  It was certainly inspiring to see someone put themselves through all that for a good cause, and I don't want to diminish what he did.  I don't think it was easy at all, but not unexpected given the circumstances.

But what really was surprising, and incredibly moving, was the way he seemed to bring the U.K. together, behind him throughout his runs.  Fans and runners often met him and ran along side him at various points to keep him company.  At one point, a few young boys on bicycles came along, and had Eddie's crew call their moms to make sure it was alright for them to be riding their bikes out of town.  It was quite cool to see some many people, all over the country, becoming enamored by what he was doing.

This was most evident at the end of the second episode, while Eddie was running through Northern Ireland.  He starts by stopping in Bangor, where he lived as a kid, to visit family and friends.  He is naturally a bit apprehensive about running in N. Ireland, given the religious conflict going on there.  Although the violence has somewhat subsided recently, emotions are still on high there, and the situation is still very tense.  Throughout his runs, Eddie has carried the flag of the country in which he was running, the English Cross of St. George, the Welsh Red Dragon, and Scotland's St. Andrew's Cross.  However, flags are a touchy subject in Northern Ireland, with the Protestants usually flying a version of England's flag called the Ulster Banner, and Catholic flying the Irish green white and gold flag, in support of a united Ireland.  Eddie decided to design his own flag, which was green (the colors worn by their soccer team), and included the white dove of peace in one corner.  He hoped that it wouldn't be considered controversial.

Here's Eddie with his flag for Northern Ireland 


But as he ran through Northern Ireland, you saw the same thing we saw earlier.  People were coming together to run with him, and support the cause.  Protestants and Catholics were running along side, without conflict.  At one point Eddie remarks that we have a Protestant, a Catholic, and an Atheist running together, which doesn't seem astonishing to me at first glance, until you realize where he is.

He also stopped to see a Sport Relief event going on.  It's a soccer league for kids, to keep them off the streets, where they end up becoming part of the violence.  Instead, we get Protestant and Catholic kids playing soccer together, and realizing that we're all basically the same.  Even more reason to laud Eddie for support this organization.  They are doing really important work, and doing it in a way that is fun and rewarding (especially for kids).  Getting kids together from these different religions is the only way, in my opinion Northern Ireland will be able to move past the problems it has had.  It appears to be getting better, and more work like that being done by Sport Relief will certainly help.

That end to the second episode was the highlight of the documentary to me, but the entire thing was incredibly well done.  I highly recommend you watch it on YouTube.  Here's the beginning of the second episode (there's a link to the first in my original post).  
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