50/50 marathons

50. Isle of Wight Marathon

4th October 2020.


Bit of a wet start

Total donations to Mind

£5,481

It does seem hard to believe that I’m here at the last of these 50 marathons. When the thought first popped into my head several years back to do this challenge, I can honestly say, it really was just one of those random thoughts, along with the likes of, with an orange, which came first, the colour or the fruit? Or, who would win in a fight between a weasel or a stoat?

When I first started to mention the idea to people, the general response was that I was mad. I had previously taken on a few challenges so it wasn’t completely random, but I hadn’t taken on anything of this scale. I think I was about 45 when I first thought about doing it, so I had time to consider the logistics, but of course, I couldn’t really start planning each event until the year before, when I could start booking races. This was also when I could begin training.

Anyone who’s run a marathon knows that the marathon is just the tip of the iceberg. The hard work starts well in advance, at least 3 months before, when you need to put in all those miles of preparation. I had decided that, in light of the number of marathons I was aiming to do, I needed a full year of preparation. Starting off with smaller runs and gradually building up the distance. I knew this would be more about endurance and less about speed or PB’s. so each week I was running between 40 – 50 miles, mixing up shorter tempo runs, hill training, and long runs. Each Sunday I would run between 18-22 miles, I needed time on my feet to build up to the 50 marathons. I’d run plenty of marathons prior to this, but I was never really that great at the preparation and would often wing it. But I could not wing this, so I entered the preparation stage wholeheartedly and tried to follow a strict training routine.

Alongside the training, I would spend hours scouring the internet for events. Believe it or not, it was hard to fill the calendar. There are times of the year when it’s easy to book a marathon, but I found a lot of these events are held on the same day and there were times of the year when I just couldn’t find anything at all. Marathon running is generally not best run in the winter or summer months, but to complete the challenge I needed to go right through. Sure there were marathons around the world I could have entered, but my budget didn’t stretch that far, I needed to find races each week that didn’t break the bank too much.

I did nearly fill the calendar. I booked 45 races in advance. As it turned out, I need not have bothered! 2020, as everyone knows, had other plans.

When the first event came around, I was excited and nervous, but as ready as I ever could be. I started at the Isle of Wight Marathon on the 6th of October 2019. It was horrible! Even after all that preparation, I was done by the halfway mark and the last 13 miles were a slog. After finishing by the skin of my teeth, I seriously considered quitting the challenge. That first marathon was quite a sobering experience. In all the excitement of planning this big year, I’d totally forgotten that I don’t like running marathons, they’re really hard.

Fast forward a year and I’m finishing where I started, 4th October 2020 at the Isle of Wight Marathon, my nemesis.

Off I go

The start wasn’t until 11:30, so I had plenty of time to stress and get agitated. On top of preparation, I also had a chap from South Today coming over to interview me about the marathons (eek!) I’ve never been on TV before so I needed to do my hair.

Right up until today I’ve been wondering what I should wear. It occurred to me that perhaps I should drag out the Wonder Woman costume again, but the weather was so shocking, so it lost its appeal. It was only when the chap from the BBC said he wanted to interview me in the running kit that I decided to do it. Perhaps not the best attire for a day of wind and rain, but if I didn’t do it now, I never would.

The start wasn’t the usual mass group, we were all allocated socially distanced groupings, depending on predicted time. I was pretty much right at the back, old slowcoach. The weather was a complete contrast to last week’s marathon.

Right from the start, I was amazed at the support from family and friends and also from complete strangers! This continued throughout the marathon. It was so nice to see friendly faces shouting encouragement had waving signs. The wind and rain didn’t phase them at all. It gave me a massive boost.

Not much to say about the race itself. The weather was shocking. I was completely numb, but I guess I deserve it for wearing a Wonder Woman outfit. The Isle of Wight Marathon has always been quite a tough one for me, but I’m happy to report that I kept running the whole thing, even the horrible hills at the end. Not a graceful gallop, more of a painful shuffle. But, in comparison to last year’s attempt, I was doing ok.

It felt amazing to turn the corner onto Park Road and approach the finish. Friends were beaming under their hoods. It quite choked me up seeing everyone.

And then there was the finish line in front of me, I always love the approach to the finish, but this was something special. There were Caroline and Winnie, surrounded by friends. And my Dad was there too. I had to hold back the tears. I’d finished! I genuinely didn’t think I’d reach this point.

Caroline gave me the last medal. This one was from her, a lovely big 50. She’s been my rock through this whole challenge. I can’t thank her enough. I can spend all this spare time on my hands making it up to her.

Guy and Julie Boorman
Dave and Alice Baker
running, still smiling
Support crew
Crossing the finish line

The past year has been a weird year, for various reasons. Not just because I’ve been running a marathon every weekend. It’s been the year that my daughter Ella started university. The feeling of your child leaving home for the first time, the worry that surrounds this, is not something that I had factored into my preparation. I won’t lie, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My work life has been as challenging as ever, business has been…… undulating! And the icing on the cake was COVID! All my planning was basically screwed up in an instant!

I managed to complete 23 of the marathons before COVID took over and I needed to rethink things. Marathon 24 I dubbed the Self Isolation Shuffle. This was the first of many runs around the Isle of Wight. At first, it was quite nice not having to travel for the marathon. I could start when I liked and just run from my front door. This soon wore off.

But out of all this chaos came a revelation. Something that I never expected and will always be grateful for. After completing marathon 24 I was greeted at the end in Ventnor by a group of friends, and then I was handed a medal, not just any generic medal. My good friend Trevor Macneill donated a medal that he got for completing the Seven Sisters Marathon back in 1986, his one and only marathon. This would have been very special to him, and he gave it to me!

This continued week after week. It transpired there was a group of friends brought together by Guy Boorman and my wife Caroline, who was going to ensure I got a medal at the end of my marathons! Each week Caroline would hand me a package and inside would be a medal, carefully hand made or a thoughtful gift to mark the end of another marathon. This soon became the highlight for me.

I’ve never had an abundance of self-confidence and I struggle in social situations, feeling awkward and uncomfortable. But this experience has proved something to me. I have some amazing friends who actually seem to like me! That probably sounds odd, but one symptom of depression that I have experienced for years is a feeling of general self-loathing, and part of this is the feeling of not really fitting in. Hence why this has been such a revelation to me. The support that I have received has just knocked me for six. I can’t explain how good this has made me feel. Without this support, I have no doubt that I would not have got to the end.

I have been trying to raise money throughout this challenge for Mind, the charity for better mental health. I haven’t personally benefited from the support that they can offer to people with mental health issues, but I know from my own experience that support from them and other similar charities is essential to beat the stigma that still surrounds mental health. It’s more common than you think and the more it is talked about, the more people will be helped, especially in these testing times.

For years I bottled things up for fear of being judged. I didn’t want people to think less of me or that I was incapable, plus I didn’t really understand what I was going through. I just knew it wasn’t right. It was only when I did open up and talk to Caroline about it that I started to accept and understand. She encouraged me to go to seek medical advice. If I hadn’t opened up, I dread to think what might have happened.

I don’t like to think of people suffering in silence. This should not be the case. Anyone who suffers from a mental health condition has their own experience, everyone is different, it is not a one size fits all thing. But talking about your experience is essential. Do not suffer in silence. Reach out to someone you love and trust and talk to them. It’s not a cure, but it’s a start. And from my experience, there are people out there who are happy to talk and offer support, but it’s up to you to take the first step, put your hand up and say ‘I’m not alright.’

So, after all this time, have I enjoyed the experience? There have been moments that I will cherish, and there have been times that I wouldn’t want to experience ever again. I can only describe it as a wonderfully horrible experience. Not quite the adventure that I originally planned, but an adventure all the same. It pushed me harder than I ever thought I could be pushed. I often think about the likes of Eddie Izzard and Dean Karnazes and I wonder how the hell they can manage to do back to back marathons like that, there is no way I could do that.

When I started this blog, my intention was to create a source of information about different marathons, to help other runners looking for good events, I managed to document a few, but beyond that, I now know some amazing trails on the Isle of Wight.

I think my favourite out of all of the proper events that I ran was the Eden Project Marathon. Not an easy one, some difficult trail, but I really enjoyed it. The hardest… too many to mention, but I would say it’s a toss-up between Lenham Cross or the Portland Coastal.

Thank you to everyone who has donated to Mind. You’ve managed to exceed what I had hoped to raise. When I last checked the total was at £5,481! This year has had a massive impact on charities, with all events being canceled, the money they rely on to function hasn’t been there. I’m glad to have been able to help, albeit in a small way.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me during this challenge. I genuinely couldn’t have done it without you, I am so grateful and I owe a lot of people a beer!

Finishers medal
Big 50 medal

4.40

Time

1,601ft

Elevation

3,274

Calories

I have run these marathons to raise money for Mind. If you like what I’m doing and would like to donate you can go to my Just Giving page below. The current total is £5,481. Thank you so much to everyone who has made a donation.


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