Rugby player attempts to break world record in memory of family friend - Balsall Common boy

Duncan Nealon
Duncan Nealon

A Bishop’s Itchington man hopes to smash a world record by running the London Marathon in full rugby kit in memory of a Balsall Common boy who died of meningitis.

Duncan Nealon has known Balsall Common-based Rod Adlington for 25 years since they first started playing rugby together at Claverdon RFC. Always close, the friends were brought even closer after the death of Rod’s son Barney in 2005, aged just three-and-a-half.

Now Duncan is determined to celebrate Barney’s life by completing one of the most iconic races in the world dressed in rugby shorts, shirt, a scrum cap mouth guard…and carrying a rugby ball. And all in less than 3 hours 14 minutes.

Money raised from his world record attempt will go to the UK’s largest meningitis charity Meningitis Now, which has supported Rod and his family since Barney’s death.

Duncan has launched his fundraising efforts with a short video, which includes a clip of Rod talking movingly about the night his son died just 12 hours after first complaining of getting a headache.

Rod and Duncan’s story started a quarter of a century ago when they both played rugby for Warwickshire club Claverdon RFC.

They soon got to know each other’s families, including Rod’s son Barney. Born in 2001, Barney became a familiar figure at the club, running around with his brother Toby and dragging his blanket behind him.

When tragedy struck in 2005 everyone at the club was devastated, including Duncan.

He said: “I know that over the years Rod and his family have raised lots of money for Meningitis Now, now it’s my turn.

“I’m really hoping to beat the record of 3 hours 14 minutes for someone to complete the race in full rugby kit – which is currently held by an Australian.



“But if I make a ton of money and raise a ton of awareness and the record doesn’t fall, it’s not the absolute end of the world.

“Of course I want to have a good go at it but for me it’s all about awareness of the symptoms, awareness of the charity and about raising money – as much money as possible.”

The 2020 London Marathon takes place on Sunday April 26.

To donate to Duncan’s world record challenge visit his Just Giving page. He has hit around 35 per cent of his fundraising target of £4,000.

Meningitis Now’s events fundraising manager Kirsty Owen-Hayward said she was looking forward to welcoming Duncan across the finishing line at the end of the marathon.

She said: “We know what a moving occasion it will be for him as he celebrates Barney’s life with this amazing world record attempt.

“But whether he beats the record or not we’ll be there to support him every step of the way. And of course once the race is over and all the money has been collected and paid in, hopefully he will know that all the money raised will go towards a brilliant cause: raising awareness about meningitis, funding vital research, and helping people living with the impact of this awful disease”.

Meningitis and Septicaemia facts:

- Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord; usually caused by bacteria or viruses.

- Some bacteria that cause meningitis can also cause septicaemia.

- Estimates show there are currently around 2,000 cases of bacterial meningitis in the UK and 6,000 cases of viral meningitis each year – equivalent to 22 a day.

- Certain age groups are more susceptible - the under 5s are most at risk, particularly those under the age of one; teenagers and young adults and older adults, particularly those over 65.

- Many people who contract meningitis and septicaemia will make a good recovery, but some will suffer physical, neurological and psychological after-effects.