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Uncharted waters

Published Mar 07, 2016 – By Ryan Kelly, Head of Digital


Imagine running a half marathon in the middle of the North Sea. It might sound crazy, but that’s what Simon Messenger did last year. 

Since giving up his weekly commute in 2013, Simon has been on mission to run 80 races in 80 different locations around the world. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a film that documents one of his most outlandish runs yet – the first half marathon on the Principality of Sealand, a self-declared country located seven miles off the east coast of England.

Back in the Second World War, the British had built a number of platforms out in the North Sea armed with guns to target German aircraft. After the war, they were all abandoned, but a man named Roy Bates saw an opportunity in those deserted platforms and turned one into a principality. 

I’d wanted to go to Sealand ever since I first heard about it, but I never thought I’d actually get there. But last year I started making short documentary films with a group of friends, and a trip to Sealand suddenly seemed like a real possibility. 

Simon got in touch with Roy’s grandson James, to see if he could run a half marathon out there, and we thought it would make the perfect subject for a documentary. James agreed to let us film Simon’s race – but because access to Sealand is weather dependent, we only had a day to capture what we needed and get back to shore. 

Just getting out there was a mission in itself. We all piled into a rubber dinghy, and then each of us was winched up to the platform on a bosun’s chair – basically a swing. You’re not strapped in – it’s just some rope and a piece of wood that you’d find in a pub garden – and it takes about 10 minutes to winch you up while you dangle above the ocean. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

We thought we’d have all day, but soon after we got there we were told that if we didn’t finish in the next two hours, we wouldn’t get back to shore for a couple of weeks. It was a cool place, but as it’s the size of a couple of tennis courts, we didn’t fancy being marooned there for days. Thankfully, Simon finished his half marathon before the weather turned nasty, and we all breathed a sigh of relief at the prospect of being back on dry land.

We’ve now completed production and the final cut was recently recognised by the Guardian. Documenting the race was miles away from a typical day in the office, but in many ways, it was content creation that led us there.

You can watch the documentary here.

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