Our latest Wear it with Pride acknowledgement goes to our very own Dan Marsland, Head of Marketing at Weird Fish and the wonderful duo John and Martin behind Mad Hatter Sports Events.

Weird Fish has sponsored the Mad Hatter Sports Events for five years now and boy, has it has flown by! We continue to have so much fun every time we bump into the boys behind these challenging events and love being able to help with prizes for all their events throughout the year.

Who are the Mad Hatters behind these events?

Event organisers Martin Southgate and John Yelland.

Martin Southgate runs a successful double glazing firm during the day and has been a sports enthusiast for a long time. Martin was a footballer for most of his life but came into multisport later on and has completed half Ironman events and several long distance running events.

John Yelland works in IT during the day but is hoping to make a career change. Much like Martin, John had always played football, though at one point Johns weight reached 19.5st so started to run to try and improve his health and fitness. John then got into multisport and has completed an Ironman, numerous 70.3’s, ultra marathons and swimruns.

John and Martin’s favourite discipline is the coffee and cake post event!

We asked John a few questions about what it is like putting on the events, the challenges involved and all that jazz, check out our mini interview below!

The Interview

How do you fit organising the Mad Hatter events round your day jobs?

Martin struggles due to the nature of his job whereas John is lucky in that he is sat behind a computer all day so can email and make phone calls around his job. It can be stressful sometimes trying to fit it all in but that is where the wives (Angela and Elaine) come in, they try to pick up the bits and pieces to take the pressure off. We also have some very good friends who help us out when we need it. Sometimes, like for the Hokey Cokey Roseland we had to take days off our day jobs to mark the 40km course. We would love to quit the day jobs and do Mad Hatter full time but unfortunately, contrary to common belief there isn’t that much money in it based on the hours you put in.

You guys almost stopped running the events, what pulled you back in?

Hmm, The pressure got to John but after some discussions we managed to move around the workload making life a bit easier. It’s stressful when you have an event and you organise the water cover with 20 people confirming they will do it only to be told the morning of the race that 3 people wouldn’t be able to help with the water cover now.

We also felt that we had made a lot of investments in the business and made so many new friends that we would miss it if we stopped and that we would be letting those people down. In hindsight, it was the right decision. There is no greater buzz than to see people going through a journey and achieving something they never thought possible.

What is the hardest part of putting on these sporting events?

Each event has its challenges, one challenge for us is that we set out early on to be creative with some of the medals, using local artists and businesses to create unique medals and trophies which I think is one of the things we are known for. Continuing to find new ideas and designs is a real challenge and I spend a lot of time at craft fairs (My idea of hell) looking for ideas. Another challenge is getting all the permissions and agreements in place for events, for the recent Hokey Cokey Roseland there were over 40 individual people, landowners or organisations we needed to communicate with. The general organisation is now pretty slick as we have done it before and know what to expect but we always face the unknown or unexpected.

Have you ever taken part in any of your own events? Would you like to?

Haha, this is something we talk about a lot. We do all the events before the competitors as we like to know what they will experience and how they will feel. We often say that it is easier to do the event than to organise and run it.

If we weren’t organising we would definitely be taking part!!

Do you have a favourite event?

My personal favourite is the Hokey Cokey Charlestown as that is our longest running event and is a cracking day. The event started in 2016 with 60 competitors and has grown now to 350 people taking part. The communities of people doing these events make them for us, you tend to see the same people and make friends with them.

Is there a maximum amount of people you can have enter?

The only limit we have is the venue and safety of our competitors, not sure my blood pressure would cope with thousands of people attending our events but it’s a nice thought.

A bit about our man Dan

Dan has been with Weird Fish for 16 years, running the marketing department with a smile. Our man, Dan, is a fantastic swimmer with Ben, our Direct to Consumer Director nicknaming him ‘the fish’ because he swims like one, he is a pro! Dan has always been an avid swimmer and can usually be found most days at the local Cheltenham Lido who Weird Fish also sponsor.

We love that Dan always has a smile on his face, has a timely 11am tea break after our catch up meetings and genuinely cares about his team. We are very proud of what he achieved at the 5k sea swim on the 17th July 2021.

The event

Dan took part in a 5k sea swim. Fortunately for him, this was during the July heatwave so, a dip in the ocean was a treat! By 9 am the temperature was already in the 20s! Many of the entrants in wetsuits were rather keen to cool down in the ocean, whereas the brave people who decided to ocean swim in swimwear only, the ‘skins’, were happily enjoying the sunshine. Due to the warm weather, there were plenty of jellyfish around, but luckily no one was stung!

There were 144 participants taking part in the swim, setting off from Charlestown and swimming across to Polkerris beach. Each swimmer had a time chip on their ankles to record their times. We do have to say, Dan did a fabulous job and came 13th overall with a time of 1 hour 27 minutes. What we love about this event and all the Mad Hatter Events is that everyone is made to feel like a winner, there is a true sense of achievement and community, everyone is so supportive of each other.

There were prizes give to the top three placing individuals, plus winners in their age categories and fastest ‘skins’ (those without wet suits).

The Mad Hatter Events are known for their unique  medals, the medals and trophies for this event were designed by Mark Richards.

We would like to say a huge congratulations to all the participants and a giant thankyou to the organisers, John and Martin, helpers and support staff who volunteer so much of their time to put on these fantastic events.

Fancy taking part yourself? Check out the Mad Hatter Events schedule.

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