For some of us, running a long-distance race is a once-in-a-lifetime bucket-list item; for others a marathon is an annual ritual. But there is a group of runners who are not satisfied with doing just a few races a year – they challenge themselves to feats of endurance most people would think impossible. Complete 100 marathons? Run four 100-mile races in five months? Do 60 marathons in 60 days? Yes, the women you’re about to meet have achieved all these incredible things.
As a clinical hypnotherapist I’d say the reason these women couldn’t stop at just a single challenge is that they’re ‘positively addicted’. Just as it’s possible to develop addictions to negative habits such as smoking, it’s possible to become ‘addicted’ to positive, life-affirming things too. The emotional high that comes from achieving such goals spurs them on to keep seeking additional ways to challenge themselves.
But how, many would ask, do they manage to knock out mile after mile without getting ill or injured? Running coach and sports massage therapist Beatrice Schaer (croydonsportstherapy.co.uk ) says sleep and rest are key as that’s when our bodies recover and repair. “Schedule regular rest days where you do no running and instead spend time with friends and family or perhaps have a sports massage,” she says. Schaer also advocates strength and core training, and doing occasional cross-training sessions such as cycling, which has the most benefit for running, but without the impact. Diet is also key, she says. “Eat well overall and avoid junk food.” And finally she suggests getting a running coach. “It’s great to get feedback and they can ensure you’re progressing as planned without the risk of overtraining.”
“I broke three bones on my way to running 100 marathons”
“I was rubbish at running as a child and was always falling over (and still am!),” says Karen Summerville, 50, a gynaecological cancer nurse specialist from London. “However, in 1999 I decided to train for the London Marathon, inspired by two of my patients who’d run it. I found the training really hard: I was two stone overweight and too embarrassed to run outside, so I ran on a treadmill, eventually progressing to running round and round on a track. London felt like an out of-body experience – I couldn’t quite believe I was running a marathon!
“After that I began entering marathons, and later ultras, regularly. Having set my sights on joining the 100 Marathon Club, I built up to doing two marathons in one weekend, and eventually did a few quads (four marathons in four days) and even 10 marathons in 10 days. I fell on three occasions and each time broke a different bone. Two years ago I was diagnosed with Behcets Syndrome, a very rare autoimmune disease. Even when the doctors told me I wasn’t physically strong enough to run due to both the condition and breaking several bones I never gave up.
“My 100th marathon was actually 64 miles over a weekend in the Cotswolds: I chose it because a quarter of all my 100 races had been ultras. The best thing about running is the friends I’ve made and the amazing places I’ve travelled to. Having run 55 marathons this year alone (and with another 10 planned before the year is out) I’m aiming to run my first 100-mile event in 2016. I feel very privileged to have been given the gift of running and I will treasure it for the rest of my life.”
“I aim to run four 100-mile races in five months”
“As a keen runner who’s done over 250 marathons and ultramarathons, at the start of 2015 I decided to do the Grand Slam, which is a series of four 100-mile races within five months,” says Mel Ross, 40, a catering manager from Sutton. “It was a huge challenge because my fitness had gone after being injured for over a year. I was also dealing with lots of grief having lost two grandmothers, two aunts, an uncle and my stepmum – several of them to cancer. I wanted to use the challenge to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and Friends of Anchor, whose support had been invaluable to my family over the past 18 months.
“My first race was the Thames Path 100 in May, and I finished it in 24 hours 38 minutes. I found it hard as it was so flat but I had the support of my hubby, who paced me for the last 50 miles. In my second race, the South Downs Way 100, my head torch battery went flat so I had to stick with other runners so I could see where I was going during the night. The hardest race was my third, the North Downs Way 100, as the relentless hills, steps and unforgiving flint ground took their toll. I thought about one of my aunt’s suffering a lot during it and that made my pain seem insignificant. My final race is the Autumn 100. It’s very rewarding knowing that this challenge means I can help other families whose lives have also been touched by cancer.”
“I am running 60 marathons in 60 days”
“2015 was my year of challenges!” says Alice Burch, 33, a lawyer from Southampton. “I ran the North Pole Marathon in April, and completed the Barcelona 70.3 [half] Ironman and Copenhagen Ironman. I’ve always loved being active, and eight years ago completed my first marathon in New York. I was incredibly nervous about it but, having done many races since, I can see it was a fear of the unknown – and because 26.2 miles is a long way! I think that every day during my 60:60 Marathon Challenge, which I started on 1 October. It involves running one marathon a day for 60 days to raise money for Spana, an international working-animal charity.
The current record is 53. I’m running mostly around the Southampton Athletics Track (each marathon is 105 laps) and am doing some loops in the New Forest for a change of scenery. I also ran the Bournemouth Marathon as part of this challenge as I was sponsored. It was lovely running along the coast and through the pretty city streets.
“I feel a bit like a guinea pig as I have no idea how my body will react! I had a bad muscle tear in my calf on day three so days five to eight were particularly challenging but I’m hoping to be over that injury. Every day I seem to discover something else that needs treatment in order to ensure that I’m ready for yet another marathon when I wake up. But, no matter how slowly, I aim to move forward and take each day as it comes.”