The Great Bard himself may have lived four centuries too early to compete in the Virgin Money London Marathon, but on the eve of the 400th anniversary of his death, his first cousin (11 times removed) will be taking on the challenge.
With a surname as historic as theirs, it is no surprise Bethanie’s family have dug deep into their past and discovered they are directly descended from William’s uncle, Matthew Shakespeare.
“My dad is a history teacher and one of his main passions is researching our family tree and he has discovered we are related to William,” said Bethanie, who, though not sharing her ancestor’s flair with the written word, does have a passion for language.
“I’m a speech therapist,” she explained. “It’s quite weird actually because some of my patients are actors and there’s a good chance they are seeing me to then go on to perform in one of Shakespeare’s plays.”
While Bethanie will be running as a Shakespeare in the club colours of Kent AC, there will be one man running dressed as her (11 times removed) first cousin.
Luke Hollowell-Williams, who is the artistic director of the Primary Shakespeare Company, has decided to run as the Great Bard himself, complete with sculpted beard, Elizabethan ruff, red and yellow-striped Elizabethan hose and white tights.
The Primary Shakespeare Company work with children in London's primary schools, raising attainment and achievement by engaging with Shakespeare, and Luke will be running to raise money and awareness of the charity.
Luke, 52, from London, said: “There has never been a better year to run the marathon as Shakespeare. With the 400 celebrations going on around the country, Shakespeare’s genius is once again in the forefront of people’s minds so hopefully I will get a lot of support on the course.”
There are three more genuine Shakespeares ready to take on the 26.2-mile challenge on Sunday 24 April: Matthew, Jordan and Simon.
Matthew, from Solihull, may not have the same ancestral links as Bethanie, but he has shared a home town with the Great Bard.
“I worked at a hotel in Stratford-upon-Avon for two years,” said the 32-year-old. “I had coach trips of tourists coming up to me, spotting the name on my badge and then firing off all sorts of questions.”
This year’s start list also includes a cast list of Shakespearian characters.
There is a Romeo – jetting in from southern Italy, who will be chased by 10 Juliets, while there are also two Lears and one Macbeth who will be hoping to avoid the tragedies of their namesakes come Race Day.
There will be 29 Henrys “standing like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start”, as their namesake Henry V and his men were ahead of Agincourt, while there are 26 Anthonys but sadly no Cleopatras for them to pursue.
And everyone running will surely have in the back of their minds Shakespeare’s famous quote from Julius Caesar: “Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible.”
Notes to Editors
The 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon takes place on Sunday 24 April. For more information, media guides and details of accreditation go to: www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com
The London Marathon was first held on 29 March 1981.
The six founding principles of the London Marathon are:
• To improve the overall standard and status of British marathon running by providing a fast course and strong international competition
• To show to mankind that, on occasions, the ‘family of man’ can be united
• To raise money for the provision of recreational facilities in London
• To help London tourism
• To prove that when it comes to organising major events, ‘Britain is best’
• To have fun and provide some happiness and sense of achievement in a troubled world
In 2015, the Virgin Money London Marathon raised £54.1 million for charity, setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest annual single-day charity fundraising event worldwide for a ninth successive year.
Since 1981, The London Marathon Charitable Trust has awarded grants totalling more than £57.7 million to 1000+ organisations in London, Surrey, Silverstone, Birmingham and Liverpool
The 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death is on Saturday 23 April. He died, aged 52, in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 23 1616.
For further information, please contact:
Lianne Hogan | Press Officer | London Marathon Events Ltd
e firstname.lastname@example.org | m 07921 465111
Ryan Goad | Press Officer | London Marathon Events Ltd
e email@example.com | m 07950 708 574