Commentary

Meet the man who crawled the London Marathon in a gorilla suit

Originally Published: May 2, 2017
By Aishwarya Kumar

Tom HarrisonAP Photo/Alastair GrantTom Harrison gives a glimpse of the man behind the mask during a break from his London Marathon crawl, which spanned seven days.

Ever since Tom Harrison crawled to the finish line wearing a gorilla costume six days after starting the London Marathon, he's been an internet phenomenon. Kids want to take pictures with him. Media organizations want to interview him. Twitter is going crazy about him.

The 41-year-old London police officer finished the race on Saturday -- almost a week after it began -- on all fours. His two sons, ages 4 and 6, also wearing gorilla costumes, walked alongside him for the last 100 meters. In the process, he raised more than £38,000 (approximately $50,000) and counting for the Gorilla Organization, a conservation group that works to protect endangered gorillas in their native habitat. Harrison, aka Mr. Gorilla, has participated in five other London Marathons, but this was the first time he crawled.

In the days since he finished his 26.2-mile crawl, Harrison has been enjoying normal activities, like going for a run, swimming and spending time with his kids -- all while still giving interviews for global media outlets, including Russian, German and Asian TV channels.

ESPN.com caught up with Harrison this week to find out why he decided to crawl the marathon, how he's adapting to life as an internet sensation, and what comes next for Mr. Gorilla.

Courtesy Tom HarrisonHarrison's sons, 6-year-old Nicholas and 4-year-old Alex, joined him in gorilla suits for the final stretch of the marathon and the train ride home.

Congratulations on finishing the London Marathon. What does it feel like?

It's a relief, to be honest. It's just nice not to have to do any more crawling. It kind of turned into a bit of a job in the end. I got up every day, put my gorilla suit on and crawled for around 6 miles. It is nice to be a little bit normal again.

Why did you want to crawl the marathon?

Last year, I ran the London Marathon dressed as a gorilla to raise funds for the Gorilla Organization. In November last year, I was lucky enough to go see some of the projects they ran in Rwanda and Uganda. I was lucky enough to see the gorillas as well. It kind of inspired me to raise some more money for them. I thought to myself, "Well, I've run it dressed as a gorilla, so it's got to be hard to go back to friends and family and ask them to sponsor me to do the same thing again." So I thought I'd like to do something a little bit different. I thought, "How would a gorilla get around? Well, they crawl." So I decided to crawl the marathon this time.

Walk me through those 26 miles. How did you do it and what was going on in your mind?

It was definitely harder and slower going than I thought. I kind of estimated I might be able to do nine miles a day, but I got a little optimistic. On the first day, I managed to do 4½ miles, half of that. And I was crawling with my hands and knees. But it was quite hard work. At the end of the day, my knees were quite badly blistered. I had knee pads on, but it must have rubbed underneath a bit all day. So after that I had to crawl on hands and feet, which is a little bit quicker in terms of how fast you can move, but it's a lot harder work, because you're putting more weight through your arms. I had a new challenge after that point.

Tom HarrisonJohn Stillwell/PA Images via Getty ImagesHarrison planned to crawl on his knees, but they were blistered after the first day even though he wore pads. So he switched to his hands and feet, which was faster but harder on his arms.

How did you train for something like this?

I didn't really do a great deal of training, to be honest. I basically did full circuits of football pitches near my house and crawled around four times, which was a mile. I did that a handful of times. But that was really it. I guess in hindsight it was better to do a little bit more, but I didn't really get a chance.

How was the atmosphere at the marathon? How did people react when they saw you crawling?

I started at the back, so I was pretty much the last person over the line. It was a bit of a lonely race. I am normally jostling along with other runners. Certainly, the first few days, I was getting a lot of very strange looks from people wondering what in the world I was doing. But by the end lots of people knew what I was doing, and they came out to take photos, and bringing me snacks and drinks and stopping for photos. It got better, really, as I went along.

What were some of the normal things you did after finishing?

I went home and had a shower. I just kind of rested up that afternoon and evening. Anything that didn't involve crawling was nice, really. I went out for a run yesterday and a swim the day before. Getting back to more human activities rather than gorilla activities, I suppose.

Nina Massey/AP PhotoHarrison was greeted by British comedian/conservationist Bill Oddie, among others, at the finish line six days after the race started.

Where did you go once you once you finished crawling for the day? Did you crash at your friends' houses?

Basically. I stayed with friends in the path of the marathon. I was a bit like a small child, really. I ate their food, made lots of mess, and didn't do a great deal of help. It was kind of great from my point of view, but probably not so good for them.

What did your kids think of Mr. Gorilla's adventures?

I spoke to them on WhatsApp video call two days before I finished and one of them said to me, "Stop crawling the marathon, Daddy, and come home." I think they missed me.

How do you like all the attention you've been getting over the past week?

It's all a bit surreal, really. It's been a bit crazy, but I love talking to people and it's a great cause, protecting gorillas. So I am happy to talk to people and take pictures.

What comes next for Mr. Gorilla? Will we see him crawling again?

I am sure Mr. Gorilla will make another appearance. I just don't think he will be crawling. He will be doing something different. Maybe roller-skating or something like that. And hopefully, when Mr. Gorilla makes an appearance in the future, the people are as interested as they are now, because it is all about raising money.

Aishwarya Kumar

ESPN.com

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