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Q&A: Tim Don on his documentary debut

The Man with the Halo is the documentary following Ironman champion Tim Don’s recovery from a broken neck. Here, the man himself reveals what it was like behind the scenes.

Q&A with Tim Don

 

How did you first hear about plans to film your recovery in The Man with the Halo

Tim Don: I was in the park with my family, and I got a phone call, and it was a Swiss number. I presumed it was my sister, because she lives in Switzerland. It was actually Oli, one of the co-founders of On. It was three or four weeks after the broken neck and he wanted to check how I was doing. We were chatting, and he's like, ‘If there's anything we can do, if you need anything, seriously, reach out,’ which was pretty nice. 

 

Then he said, "Hey listen, there's absolutely no pressure, but we've had an idea, I've been chatting to Ladi, who's the athlete manager, and a few of the other guys, and we've come up with the idea of maybe documenting your journey, taking something that is quite gutting, and negative to a degree, me not being able to race, and trying to turn it into something positive. Don't answer now but have a chat with Kelly (Tim’s wife) and see what you think. Maybe we can make a documentary, or a short film." I said, "Hey thanks, cheers. Enjoy your Swiss cheese and watches! Speak soon!" I chatted to Kelly, and we said, "Yeah, why not?" So that's how The Man with the Halo came about. 

 

What was it like having a camera there for some very personal moments during the recovery? 

TD: Yeah, that was a worry at times! Kelly always wanted to know when they were coming so the house could be tidy! But seriously, I first met Andrew Hinton, who's an Emmy-Award-winning documentary maker, in a coffee shop with Franko, my manager. Straight away I could tell he was a really calm, relaxed guy. He wasn't one of these media types who was hyper, a thousand miles a minute. The filming was awkward at times, but Andrew is such a nice chap. He made everything feel pretty easy. I spent a lot of time with him and he could tell when I was uncomfortable enough not to film. He was there for all the big moments, like when I had the halo taken off, my first race, the first time I was training, the first time I was running. Andrew's been a part of the journey as much as I have in a way.

 

How did your family react to being on film? 

TD: My kids, Matilda, who’s seven, and Hugo who’s three, were a bit shy at first, and then Hugo started to go bananas. I don't think he's in the film that much, because he was too crazy!  But no, they were fine. It was sometimes quite intrusive having someone in your bedroom, your bathroom, or your kitchen when you're trying to do things. I might come back from a training session, and Kelly doesn't know how it's gone, and the camera's there. That could be quite intrusive to a point, but as I say, Andrew is so good at his job that in the end we were happy enough to have the camera there. 

Did having your recovery documented add pressure to succeed? 

TD: No, not at all. The documentary is not about pure performance, about me doing something absolutely amazing, and going crazy fast. I want people to see it and see that I'm a normal person, and I'm just trying to do normal things. If anyone can watch this and go through a tough time, whether it's an athletic injury, or another area in their life, and can see that by drawing on the community, and their friends, and having that belief and grit, that determination that they can overcome adversity that’s everything. It's not about my ‘supreme athletic ability’, it's definitely not about that. It's just about a normal guy who broke his neck, and tried to do the best he could.

 

How was it seeing The Man with the Halo for the first time?

TD: Watching the film for the first time, it was emotional. It was uncomfortable because it was me. Some of the moments were very, and it sounds weird, but ‘deep’ I guess. I think people's reactions surprise me, and embarrass me a fair bit, because I don't see what I've done as being special, because I truly believe anyone in my situation would want to make the most of their life going forward and not feel sorry for themselves. That's what Kelly and I decided right from the start. It was going to affect our lives, but if we can take something positive from it, it's to get through this together, and hopefully we're stronger people, and hopefully people can see that. I hope people enjoy the film. I don't know if enjoy is the right word, but I hope people start watching it, and watch it all the way to the end!

 

What message do you hope people take from The Man with the Halo?

TD: I think hopefully that one of the messages is definitely never give up, believe in yourself, and through hard work and determination, anything's possible. For me, the last six months have been about overcoming a broken neck. I could not have done it without Kelly, and my family. Even the support I've had from the On family. It’s a funny thing, sponsorship. I've been in the sport for such a long time, that I know there are sponsors, and there are sponsors, and definitely it was really nice for me to go to Zurich (to On HQ) and meet everyone who I've maybe corresponded with on emails, or met briefly. There's definitely a sense of community within the endurance world. I think that's even stronger now. I have a great connection with that through breaking my bloomin' neck!

 

A fun one to finish. If The Man with the Halo was made into a Hollywood blockbuster, who would play you? 

TD: Audrey Hepburn. Ok, maybe not. Not Tom Cruise, he's too short, Tom Hanks is too old, Arnold (Schwarzenegger) hasn't got the London thing going, Definitely not Mickey Mouse, he's old school. (Jason) Statham? No, Daniel Craig, yeah, definitely. Or is he too old now? I don't know how old he is, but I'm only 22 haha!. Ah, I know, Harry Potter! Daniel Radcliffe! I'd like him to play me. Yeah, let's go for someone a bit different, yeah it’s Radcliffe.

 

Watch the full story of Tim Don’s remarkable recovery from a broken neck now at manwiththehalo.com