Blackpool world record attempt looms with 1.5 tonne van to be pulled 21 miles

LancsLive - Latest news, sport, business and more from Lancashire

Two Lancashire men will attempt to pull a van weighing a minimum of 1.5 tonnes at least 21.1 miles raise money for ROC (Redeeming Our Communities)

 

James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles
James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles (Image: ROC)

Blackpool may see a new Guinness World Record next year with two Lancashire men set to attempt to travel the farthest distance pulling a vehicle in 24 hours.

ROC (Redeeming Our Communities) Garden Development Manager, James Baker, 35, from Blackpool will attempt to pull a vehicle weighing a minimum of 1.5 tonnes further than 21.1 miles at part of ‘Next Big Thing’ events.

James told LancsLive: “We first started training around two years ago and when we first looked at breaking this record it was only 2.1 miles which we thought was quite doable.

“It’s been broken at nearly ten times the length since, however, which is quite a difference so we’ve had to adapt our training.

James Baker, 35, (left) and John Darwen (right), 30 outside Private Label Nutrition is often a starting point for the pair on their training sessions around Amy Johnson Way in Blackpool
James Baker, 35, (left) and John Darwen (right), 30 outside Private Label Nutrition is often a starting point for the pair on their training sessions around Amy Johnson Way in Blackpool (Image: ROC)

“John and I are going to compete with each other on the day which will spur us on and will also mean that one of us can take over if the other one gets injured.

“There can only be one winner however and that’s whoever gets the longest length so it will be quite competitive!”

He’s using the results to inform the science of what’s required in order to manage their energy and muscular endurance across the whole challenge.

James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles
James practising pulling a Citroen Dispatch van for six miles (Image: ROC)

The guidance is much needed as James will be taking on the Blackpool marathon first on September 12 running the 26 miles along Blackpool Promenade dressed as Captain America.

There will then be three ‘practice vehicle pull sessions’ with a nine mile pull on September 18; a 12 miles pull on September 25; and a 15 mile pull on October 9.

Towards the end of this month there will be a ‘Full Dress Rehearsal’ which will be an attempt to officially break the record, but without the pressure.

The event will be captured in full with the pair hoping to learn lots by practising as well as getting some great footage and building some momentum for the main event.

James was joined by his wife and two children last week on a practise truck pull
James was joined by his wife and two children last week on a practise truck pull (Image: ROC Garden)

The April dates and venue for the main event are yet to be confirmed however James and John will be given vans free of charge from Blackpool’s Vantage Motor Group.

“All the events are part of what we’re calling ‘The Next BigThing’ inspired by the fact that people are always asking us ‘what’s the next big thing’ with ROC garden,” James said.

“We’ve had several mini truck pulls fortnightly for six miles without food so Neil can monitor our energy levels.

“To begin with it really did feel like your soul was being sucked out of your body but it’s been worth it because energy management is going to be so important.”

James and John practising pulling ROC Garden vans
James and John practising pulling ROC Garden vans (Image: ROC Garden)

ROC is a national community engagement charity that is based in Manchester and has sites all across the UK, including Northern Ireland. It works to form action-based partnerships with people of goodwill to create safer and kinder communities.

There are currently lots of different types of ROC projects including, ROC Conversations, ROC Mentoring, ROC Restore, ROC Champions, and ROC Cafe.

The purpose of the vehicle pull is to highlight and raise money for a project which James has personally pioneered called ROC garden.

It started off through a local church in Preston just over 11 years ago as a small team of volunteers who stuffed gardening equipment from their parent’s sheds into the boot of their cars and went out into the community.

The aim was to help transform gardens for residents that needed help bringing them to a manageable level.

John giving a 'thumbs up' during a truck pull
John giving a ‘thumbs up’ during a truck pull (Image: ROC Garden)

Over the years the project moved from Preston to Blackpool to grow under the guidance of Blackpool Coastal Housing, and then later moved to become part of ROC in order to help it grow.

Currently ROC Garden is now serving more than 400 regular households with garden maintenance and transforms around 50 overgrown gardens a year for free for residents struggling in social housing.

It also provides practice grounds opportunities for volunteers by revitalising grot spots around the town and has created a volunteer training programme that has lead the vast majority of people it trains into paid employment.

The project is now receiving more and more requests to expand into new areas, and in Blackpool the demand for work is growing week-by-week.

The funds raised will help the charity take on new staff, train new volunteers, purchase a new van to help reach more people, allow it to purchase new uniforms and PPE.

John Darwen at a practise session
John Darwen at a practise session (Image: ROC Garden)

James added: “This is a very personal thing for us both because my dream is to help people get back in employment and help transform people’s gardens.

“In certain areas you can have the “broken window” effect where if there’s litter or mess in a place it’s more likely to influence others to be like that.

“If you clear areas up however it has a positive effect which is great for somewhere like Blackpool.

“At school I always liked sports, however I was overweight and it’s been a real personal journey for me to learn about fitness and nutrition.

“John is also a leukaemia survivor and has years of chemotherapy so he looks so different to what he does now and has come a long way.

“We’re really looking forward to it and hope that people can support what we’re doing.”

As well as helping with donations and sponsorships, supporters can also help by volunteering to help steer their vans and walk alongside James and John.

To find out more and to sponsor the vehicle pull, please visit the JustGiving page here.