Words: Greg HefferFootball freestyle champion John Farnworth will attempt to complete the London Marathon while juggling a ball the length of the 26.2-mile course. We ask him why.John Farnworth, his keepy up is much better than your keepy up.Hi John, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us. Have you ever completed a marathon conventionally or otherwise before?
I’ve never done a marathon before but I’ve always wanted to do one. I’ve always been into running and I always used to do the distance events at school.Has anyone attempted a marathon while juggling a football before?
There was a record set over 20 years ago, which is roughly 7hrs 19mins. My main aim was originally just to complete the course but with the speed I’m going in training I feel I can definitely beat that time. I’ve been training at about 12 to 15 minutes per mile so if I can keep that up it should put me in that bracket.You’re aiming to raise £50,000 for a charity called Kick4Life with this event. What work do they do?
Kick4Life are a charity that I’ve worked with over the past two years. They’re based in Lesotho and carry out HIV-testing. Every £10.00 that the charity raises enables a child to be diagnosed and treated if they test positive. They use football as a medium for raising awareness of the problems in that country.How have you been training for the event?
I’ve been juggling mile stretches as well as completing the occasional circuit class to help with my general endurance. I’m doing a lot of training but it’s hard because I’m still doing my regular freestyle stuff as well. I’ve been doing roughly two hours training per day for the marathon and then adding on another two hours freestyle.Surely you can’t keep the football in the air for the whole distance?
I’m aiming to get 10 miles out of the way and then do two eight mile stretches after that. I’ll have small breaks in between so I can take in liquids and have snacks to make sure I maintain the right energy levels all the way through.Will you be ‘show-boating’ along the way?
I’ll just be juggling and not doing any tricks because that’ll sap my energy. It’ll be mostly on my head, my knees and my feet so I save as much energy as possible.There must be the temptation to end with a big finish though?
I’ve thought about it but I’ll probably be so tired I’ll just want to cross the line! We’ll see, you never know what might happen.What’s the longest you’ve ever previously juggled a ball for then?
I’ve probably done about two hours just juggling a ball. When I was younger that’s how I started, just juggling a ball for hours and hours.So you never planned to be a professional football freestyler as such?
At school I did every sport I possibly could and football was one of them. I came across freestyle and started doing it for fun. It was something I enjoyed because there were no coaches or rules and I became good quite fast. It appealed to me straight away but I didn’t know I could do it for a career. I started when I was 17 so I’ve been doing it nearly eight years now, I’d never want to do anything else. I couldn’t do anything when I began so I learnt to juggle with just my feet, then my knees, then my shoulders and head. I put it all together and learnt different tricks. It’s almost like going back to where I started with the marathon as I’ll have to do all the basics right and concentrate for long periods. What’s the biggest perk to your job?
I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world so I’d say that’s the best thing. I’ve met different people from different cultures, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t started freestyling. I’ve done some amazing events and worked with people like Kevin Spacey and Tony Hawks as well as a lot of footballers.Will any of your celeb pals be supporting you in London?
We had a call from the sprinter Darren Campbell and his company are now on board with the nutrition side of things. He heard about it on the radio and was really impressed with what I was doing so he called the show.Who was your role model growing up?
When I was younger I always enjoyed football players who could do skilful things so Ryan Giggs stood out for me. I had a video of him juggling a ball and I thought it was clever what he could do. I think that’s what sparked my interest in getting involved with freestyle. Tony Hawks is a big inspiration to me as well. What he has achieved is similar to what I’m trying to achieve in freestyle, that whole way of bringing a new edge to something.Does freestyle ever get boring?
Even though I do it every day I still get the feeling that I got when I first started. If I think of a trick that I want to do, I go and practise until I can do it. I enjoy the self-development, the feeling of getting better every day. I’m constantly training around my travels and events, as there’s always something new to learn and something to chase. There’s no limit, that’s what got me into freestyle and maintains my interest.You’ve appeared on TV a lot in the UK as well as other parts of the world. Are you on a quest for global domination?
I try and spread the word of what I do and use it as a way to get kids active. It’s important to let people know it’s not a natural talent I possess but down to the practice I put in. Anyone can do it if they put their mind to it; that’s the message. Similar to the marathon really, a lot of people will say ‘you’ll never be able to do that’. That’s how you get better by proving people wrong as well as hopefully inspiring others.