Marching a Marathon

Photo courtesy of the Huddersfield University Marathon Band

If you think your local parade is long and tiring—think again. The Huddersfield University Marathon Band marched and played the entire 2011 Virgin London Marathon, achieving the Guinness World Record for fastest marching band to complete a full marathon.

“The marathon itself was amazing!” says Mike Lomas, a music student at Huddersfied University and founder of the Marathon Band. “The crowd atmosphere in London is superb, especially across Tower Bridge. When we crossed the finish line, I felt extremely proud of every member of the band that was with me.”

Lomas, a cornet and trumpet player, had the idea to start the Marathon Band with bass trombone player Kieran Higham. The University of Huddersfield has many concert bands, orchestras and brass bands but not a marching band. Lomas sent out emails to spread the word and get other students to join. Professional cornet player Phillip McCann of Black Dyke joined the group as music director.

The 20-member band played more 32 different songs throughout the marathon, ranging from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” never breaking for more than 30 seconds between songs. They marched between 112 to 118 beats per minute for the entire 26.2 miles, completing the marathon in seven hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds. “The band had regular rehearsals, which sometimes went on to eight hours of non-stop playing,” Lomas says. “We also did long walks around the Yorkshire Moors, ranging from 10 to 32 miles.”

In order to participate, the band had to prove to the marathon committee that they could actually complete the marathon at a fast enough pace and had to pledge to raise a certain amount of money for charity. The band chose Sense, the UK’s national deafblind charity.

“As musicians we require the gift of sight and hearing, so we decided it would be good to give something back to people less fortunate than ourselves,” Lomas says.

While an American group holds the record for longest distance completed by a marching band (54 miles), Huddersfield received the record for fastest marching band marathon time. Lomas hopes to continue the Marathon Band and expand—the group’s already been invited back to the marathon for next year.

“There are too many moments to have just one favourite,” Lomas says. “I really enjoyed the TV coverage we gained for the charity and ourselves. I was extremely impressed and proud in what the team had achieved. It shows that you should never give up even when you think things are getting difficult.”

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