Friend films feat of endurance

Friend films feat of endurance

A friendship forged at QE between Jonathan Ho and Johan Byran has remained strong – despite their careers following very different paths: Jonathan is a successful film and video-maker, while Johan is a medical doctor.

Now Jonathan is making a documentary about Johan’s marathon-running exploits and his determination to beat his own rheumatoid arthritis, focusing especially on his training for next year’s famous Marathon des Sables (the Sahara marathon), billed as the ‘toughest footrace on earth’.

In preparation, Johan has already been training in a special laboratory-type environment which emulates the desert’s heat and Jonathan is interviewing him in various locations – in a classroom at QE, where the photo above was taken, and also at University College London, his old university, and in Morocco.

Both Jonathan and Johan were at QE from 1997 until 2004. Jonathan went on to study at London College of Fashion for a year then to Kent Institute of Art and Design (now known as UCA Rochester), where he gained a degree in Photography. He has since: made a number of music videos for acts including Rudimental; filmed fashion shoots for top names such as Victoria Beckham; shot corporate videos for blue chips like Marks & Spencer and Ernst & Young, and made short films and documentaries on varied subjects.

For his part, Johan studied Medicine at UCL and now practices as a GP in Enfield. He also works in palliative medicine at St Francis Hospice near Romford in Essex.

Johan has run many marathons and in 2015 set himself the challenge of completing one per month. His JustGiving page explains why: “I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 18, just weeks before I was due to go to Medical School. At 18 years old, most people probably thought they were invincible and, sure enough, so did I. However, in a matter of weeks, I was dependent on my brother to care for me in university halls. It was hardly the life of Med School I had imagined. I was destroyed physically and felt powerless to change my circumstances.

“My turning point was running my first marathon in 2008 – the Flora London Marathon. The significance of completing the race was that at one point I would struggle to walk 200 yards down the street to get to my lectures – so the idea of running 26.2 miles was my challenge to not allow this disease to dominate my life. What I took away from that day was that I was able to overcome my physical adversity through a great support network and determination.”

In the following years, he completed multiple marathons as well as an Ironman triathlon and the London2Brighton 100km run. His next is the Stockholm Marathon on 4th June this year and he plans to run the Marathon des Sables in April 2017.

It is run over six days and is more than 150 miles long and the event’s website spells out to potential competitors what they can expect: “Conditions: Stating the obvious – it will be hot. Very hot. Midday temperatures in the Sahara can get up to 120 Fahrenheit. So you will need something on your head. But your feet are just as important, if not more so. You will be running or walking on uneven, rocky or stony ground, with up to 20 per cent of the distance in sand dunes.”