Completing a marathon was always enough to satisfy the appetite of most runners seeking a true test – and for the vast majority it still is. But there seems to be a growing trend for the most epic challenges possible. Challenges that go beyond organised races, ones that come from each runner’s wild – sometimes crazy – imagination.
Take ‘Marathon Man’ Rob Young who ran 370 marathons – an average of 28 miles per day over a whole year. Remarkably, the whole challenge was on a whim and inspired by watching the London Marathon in 2014. The next day he ran a marathon around Richmond Park and continued every day for a year up to the 2015 London Marathon, raising over £80,000 for children’s charities en route.
What about Shropshire physio Amy Hughes who broke the women’s world record, completing 53 marathons in 53 days last year. Or Devon’s Kevin Carr who became the fastest man to run round the world this year and the first to circumnavigate the world on foot unsupported? More recently American James Lawrence completed 50 Ironman-distance triathlons in 50 days in 50 states. Incredible hey?
This September will see another mind-boggling challenge as Ben Smith of Bristol begins his attempt to run 401 marathons in 401 days to campaign for anti-bullying. The challenge will see him cover the whole of the UK from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
Each month seems to throw up a new challenge attempted by another – seemingly ordinary – person. Where did it all start? What was the inspiration? Was there a celebrity influence? Was it Eddie Izzard’s marathon challenge? David Walliams’ channel swim? John Bishop’s epic triathlon? Did Forrest Gump sow the seed?
Who knows what the reason is. But there is a definite rise in the number of individual feats of extreme endurance. Personally, I don’t envisage ever attempting any challenge of this type. But it doesn’t mean I am not inspired.
I was lucky to witness first hand Kevin Carr completing his round-the-world run earlier this year. I hope I am not doing him a disservice, but you simply could not wish to meet a more ordinary-looking bloke. Which is what makes it all the more incredibly motivating. With some determination, courage and sheer will, human beings - ordinary human beings – can be incredible. We all have the capacity to do the incredible. Remember that the next time you go for a run.