I finished my 105th consecutive Marathon in Brighton just after 4:30pm on December 23rd 2010. I returned to where I started on September 10th at Brighton Pier having completed a lap of Britain. It was a journey which has allowed us to embrace the charm and wonder of our magnificent island. My motivation for this challenge lies in my hope that one day a generic cure for Cancer will be found.
I ran in memory of both my Grandfathers who died of Cancer when I was very young. My fathers father, Barney from Cadamstown, Moyvalley in County Kildare , died of Pancreatic Cancer in 1981 when I was a year old.
My mothers father Patrick from County Armagh in Northern Ireland died of Prostate Cancer in 1990 when I was ten years old. May they both Rest In Peace.
Running is a passion and combined with a personal cause which has directly affected my family, every penny we have raised will fight Cancer head on. We have had the opportunity on this trip to see exactly where the money raised is going having visited the Southampton Institute for Cancer Research. It funds the very researchers who spend countless hours trying to make a difference in people’s lives. Cancer Research UK is funded entirely by the public and our money is funding clinical trials and new treatments which we hope will yield advances in our understanding of the mechanics of Cancer and as a consequence how we can combat it.
It has been a journey of generosity, where strangers stopped me to find out why I was running. When I explained to them what I was doing, the response was always the same, one of warmth and kindness. In so many cases they wanted to contribute to the cause, which was wonderful. Cancer affects almost every family and we each can relate. I have heard during this trip some heart warming stories of the bravery of people and how they have fought against Cancer. When I heard stories of lost loved ones, it served to strengthen my resolve to do all I could through this challenge.
I wanted to push the body to show just how astonising it is, to show that limits or perceived limits do not exist. What this journey has taught me is that there are no limits to how far we can run, just limiting factors. For example, our health, time, money, attitude etc. Every journey, in whatever sphere of life has its high points and low points.
I remember one instance which really stands out when on Day 39 in Scotland. It was very early on in the marathon and I was struggling with a shin injury. I remember in the middle of a rural forest a passing car pulled over ahead of me. As I approached the car, two senior ladies got out. After finding out what I was doing and seeing that I was struggling, their words of support resonated through me and spurred me on. They got out their wallets and I remember they gave me £6 to put towards Cancer Research UK. This served to change my whole mood and outlook on the marathon that particular day as the generosity struck a cord in me. I remember telling Sam and Rick about this at the next drinks stop as their kindness lifted me especially as I was feeling low because of injury.
I have had many high points during this journey which has taken us around England, Scotland and Wales. I have fond memories of the route taking us toward John O’Groats and the tip of Scotland where I would be stopped by passing tourists in camper vans or cars intrigued about my challenge. In one instance I can remember being stopped by a family in a car who had seen me running for each of the three days previous as they themselves were following the same route across the northern tip of Scotland on holiday. They greeted me with warmth and kindness. It is this support which served to reinforce my belief in what I was doing irrespective of injury, terrain and weather.
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, my body adapted slowly but surely. This law of adaptation was confirmed and enhanced in Taiwan, when I ran 30 Marathons in 30 Days around the island (www.marathonmad.com) in 2008. At the end of that challenge my body had adapted to such a degree that I felt great disappointment at having to stop at the end knowing that there was alot more to come.
I decided back then that I had unfinished business and the need and desire to understand how far our body could be pushed lead to this challenge around Britain. I found that as I progressed through this challenge I became fitter, stronger and faster. Although my body had to overcome injury during the first half of this challenge, once it adapted it meant I could dictate the pace at which I ran. I recorded my fastest time on Day 100, running 27 miles in 4 hours 38 minutes. It was a great feeling to determine my pace as injuries were not an issue during the final month.
This entire journey would not have been possible without the help and support of two exceptionally selfless individuals who each gave up their own time and money to help me achieve a dream – Sam Aynsley and Rick Alleyne. Both of whom I consider very close friends and I hope one day I can help them to achieve any future aspirations in life as they have helped me. It was on a friday night in the Haiwaian Bar in Kanamachi, Tokyo when I first talked to Sam aka Wiza about my Marathon challenge. Over a few beers I explained my passion and motivation to push myself after Taiwan and raise money for a cause close to my heart.
Although I had only known Wiza for a very short time I asked him to help me achieve a dream and two years down the road it came to fuition. I struggle to find the words to sum up just how incredible Sam has been during the past 3 and a half months. Highly philosophical, reflective and positive in his outlook, Sam constantly found solutions to problems encountered during our journey. From finding accommodation to negotiating changes of route Sam adopted a productive and optimistic approach to each day. I continually sought his opinion and advice during the past 105 days and his attitude and work ethic were tremendous. This journey would not have been possible without his commitment and endeavour. We also celebrated his 27th Birthday along the way in Scotland. I look forward to future travels in India my friend.
After Futsal one Wednesday night in Omiya, Japan I sounded out my marathon challenge to Rick and I explained as I had with Sam how I was inspired by the late great Canadian Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope. I asked Rick for help and he offered to lend his support when the occasion arose. Rick possesses an imagination which is bound by nothing. He has a tremendous thirst for life and is always striving to push himself.
I remember during a cycling trip we undertook with a number of other friends from Tokyo to Kyoto in 2009, one particular moment stands out. It was the beginning of Day 5 and I was really struggling with a knee injury picked up a couple of days previous. As a consequence I was in pain but determined to finish what I had started. Rick kindly rode alongside me and provided fantastic support. During one instance of acceleration leading the way to allow us to form a cycling group with Nate and Paps, his burst of speed served to rejuverate my mind and allowed me to push through the pain in my knee.
Rick, Sam and I share a common passion for football and playing alongside them and representing Shane FC in the Tokyo Metroplis League remains some of my most happiest and proudest moments. When I arrived back from Shanghai via the World Cup in South Africa in June I sought to put into motion the foundations for Marathonmad105.
Both Sam and Rick answered the call. With Sam committing to the entire journey and Rick pledgeing at least a month of his time we were set for the big off on September 10th. The issue of finding a vehicle for the journey was solved by Sam as he suggested his sister’s car. Although it was a motor bestowed with a number of problems, Sam’s father ensured that it was in tip top shape by Week 2 of the journey. For the first week, Rick’s mum had kindly lent us her car as we waited for Sam’s car to be roadworthy. Rick also organised fundraising t-shirts, pens and magnets for the car which looked superb. Thank-you to both the Aynsley’s and Alleyne’s for everything you have done in support of my challenge.
When I look back over the past 105 days, I have had the honour of running with a number of family and friends whether that be a Half or Full marathon. Rick, Charlotte, Maryanna, Steve and Geraint ran their first ever marathons with me. Gary Walton, brother of Mike ran a full marathon with me on day 15 and Colin Gough ran a full Marathon with me on Day 73. My cousin Marayanna took a flight over from Rome where she was studying to run her first ever Marathon with me. Her attitude was tremendous and im sure this is the first of many marathons for her.
My Auntie Frances took the ferry over from Dublin to meet me on Day 97 in Torquay and ran over 7 miles alongside myself and my Mum. What a wonderful effort and Frances I thank-you. My parents came and supported me on three separate occasions in York, Starthcarron and for the final day in Brighton. Their enthusiasm and optimism was a great source of strength for me. My mum ran with me on each occasion and in total ran the equivalent of a marathon with me. A fantastic effort.
I also had the honour of running 23 miles with Paps on Day 105, 20 miles with Craig on Day 105 and 8 miles on Day 18, 15 miles with Kanako on Day 105, 18 miles with Ben on Day 16, Half-Marathons with Deano on Day 1, Emily on Day 20, Kay on Day 69, 12 miles with Nick on Day 93 and Robbernochi on Day 94, 7 miles with Cici on Day 14 and numerous others miles on various days, 6 miles with Alice on Day 98 and the final two miles of Marathon 105 with my brother and Wiza. Thank-you to everyone who ran with me.
A particularly fond memory was on Day 97 of my Mum and Frances whom I would see jumping out of the car in front of me at any given point during the marathon and running for as long as the pavement would last. Brilliant! My beloved Cici came and visited from China and provided wonderful support at a time when I really needed it when suffering from injury. She joined us on two further occasions and her hard work and attention to detail especially with the route was fantastic.
Danielle, a good friend living in Shanghai came over from China and joined myself and Wiza for 4 days. We played alongside each other for Shanghai Galacticos in the Shanghai Premier League and were part of and she also played for Shane FC in Phuket in 2010. Danielle is an extremely gifted footballer with a tremendous attitude and represented the Australian national youth team when in her teens. Her support was fantastic and she brought over with her 1,000 A5 leaflets explaining my challenge to give out to people as we went along! Danielle also produced a giant banner for fundraising – Thank-you for everything you have done Danielle. My brother Darragh, Shona and Cici provided superb support on Day 100 and 101 while Sam was away. Thank-you Der for being there when I needed it the most.
A special thank-you to Alice and Brendan who set up the Marathonmad105 website and gave up their own time to continually update my progress. It was a wonderful moment to see Alice join the support team on Day 97 and run 6 miles with me on Day 98. Alice provided incredible support during marathonmad in Taiwan and it was great to have her on board during the run. A big thank-you to Robbie and Kay for their hard work contacting the media with my press release and increasing publicity for my marathon challenge. Also, a special thank-you to my Godmother Bernie for all her hard work fundraising in America.
I would like to thank Compressport for sponsoring me and supplying me with Quad and Calf Supports which were fantastic. Tim Williams of Compressport was very supportive throughout the journey and a special thank-you to you. Also, a big thank-you to Only Sports Ltd in Glasgow for printing the information for text donations and the Cancer Research UK emblem onto my running vest and top. A special thank-you to Chris and Emily and the owners of the Bar “Ouch” for organising the Welcome Home Party for us in Brighton. Also, I would like to thank Travelbound and Paddypower for their kind donations.
I would also like to say a big thank-you to Darren who is a representative of Cancer Research UK in their Colchester Office. It is because of his initiative, kindness and hard work which provided the platform for a greater awareness of our journey and together with Rick they pioneered text donations for Cancer Research UK. Also, I would like to thank Cheryl at Cancer Research UK for her wonderful support and everyone from Cancer Research UK who came down to support me at the finish.
A final thank-you to every Hotel, Guesthouse and Bed and Breakfast who kindly gave us a discount and be in some cases let us stay for free. As we funded this trip ourselves every discount was gratefully received.
So far we have raised over £12,200 for Cancer Research UK and reaching this figure has been down to imagination of friends and family who have staged their own fundraisers to contribute to the total raised:
1. Sports World Swim-a-Thon in Shanghai raised £600
By Danielle Uidam
Neil’s running challenge of 105 marathons in 105 days is truly inspirational. In an effort to follow his lead and raise money for Cancer Research UK, Sports World (www.sportsworldchina) threw a Charity Swim-A-Thon. Although the weather was dismal, some dedicated souls came out to support the event.
Together Sports World swam over 600 laps (15km) and raised 7000RMB for Cancer Research UK.
The day had a wonderful vibe and the theme of the day was to swim 105 laps to follow Neil’s 105 marathons. The Emerald compound was kind enough to donate food for our tired swimmers whilst the Kangaroo Kickers girls soccer team supplied bake sale snacks.
A special mention must be made to our top fundraiser Andrea who raised 2500RMB.
The following people completed an amazing 105 laps (2.625km) of the pool:
• Henry Macpherson (9)
• Katie Dunn (13)
• Freddy (6), Max (11) and Kate Smith
• Sarah (11) and Lisa Witzel
It was a wonderful and very successful day, raising a lot of money for Cancer Research UK. A big thanks to everyone who supported and donated to the wonderful cause. 1 in 3 people will be affected by cancer in their lifetime, and it is donations to organsations like Cancer Research UK which will help to fix this horrible statistic.
2. On Tap fundraiser in Taipei £524 – The Mighty Shane FC Vs Taipei City FC followed by raffle and all proceeds from drinks bought going to Cancer Research UK. A fantastic effort from Jason and everyone at On Tap, Alex and Brian of The Mighty and Ross and Dan of Taipei City. A big thank-you to everyone who part in the footy and took part in the festivities at On Tap.
3. Shanghai Voodoo FC Fundraiser at The Camel in Shanghai rasied £560
A big thank-you to Ned, Julian and to everyone at the club for organising a great fundraiser at The Camel – Great Stuff.
4. Pub Quiz in Galway raised £340
My cousin Patrick organised a Pub Quiz down his local and raised a fantastic amount.
5. Irish Music Night in Armagh raised £300
My cousin Sinead organised a music night in Armagh. A great effort from everyone involved!
Thank-you to everyone who has donated to Cancer Research UK in support of my Marathon challenge. There have been some incredible donations from family, friends and people who have heard about our journey.
My first month in September which lead us following an anti-clockwise route around Britain to Warlaby near Darlington on Day 21, was characterised by persistent strains as my body struggled to cope with the demands placed upon it and eventually it lead to a persistent shin complaint which at times was extremely painful. It lead to me adjusting my running technique to compensate and as a consequence I wore away the sole of my left trainer on four separate occasions during the first 53 Days as I was leaning my weight to the left. Contrast that with the fact that I used only pair of trainers for remaining 52 days. This shows how the body adapted and my running gait returned back to normal.
However, this shin injury invariably became better as the miles progressed and usually I felt only a twinge after the sixth or seventh mile. Ibruprofen and Deep Heat were effective in combating inflammation and pain. Sometimes during some Marathons the pain would persist longer and into the second half of the marathon but this happened on a few occasions. The second half of each marathon was far more enjoyable as the pain had subsided and I could concentrate on the road ahead.
The second month in October lead us to near Lake Fada in the North West Highlands on Day 52 saw this shin injury linger but become more intermittent with glimpses of faster and freer running. My running gait was still compensating for my shin injury but my body started to adapt steadily. Towards the end of the month I felt much stronger and could see improvement in my running technique.
As my body became stronger the emphasis turned to my mind which was tested in the sometimes barren and isolated environment of the Highlands in Scotland. As we entered November, my running gait was almost back to normal as my shin improved. Day 53 was highly significant as I went past the 2010 Guinness record for consecutive marathons which was cause for celebration. It also represented the half-way point of the challenge and by sheer coincidence it was my 100th ever Marathon! My parents made the trip up to the Highlands of Scotland to mark this most special of days. My marathon times were generally faster as my body became stronger as we entered Wales. We finished the month crossing the Severn Bridge from Wales back into England on Day 82.
As I entered December which lead us back to Brighton Pier, injuries were not a concern and the stiffness I used to feel in my legs each morning had all but disappeared. It was as if my body had realised that six hours of running a day was now the norm and as a result my bodily biochemistry followed suit. I felt as if I had developed a number of running gears in which I could access at any given moment during the marathon. If I wanted to sprint I could, if I wanted to run at 60% I could. It felt remarkable.
I remember the road which lead us to Land Ends which will forever be etched in my memory. We had wanted to reach Lands End before nightfall and with fading light an impending issue it didn’t seem possible with 14 miles still to go. As I set off on another set of 6 miles before my next water break I felt strong and fast. As I approached the break I asked for another two more miles before stopping, then another two, then another one, and again until I said to Sam ” All the way” .
As I got closer and closer to the coast and Lands End, I got faster and faster as light was fading. I will never forget the sunset as I weaved through the country lanes leading us to the most southern tip of our island. It was simply stunning with the sky an orange colour then moments later it had turned pink! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing but onwards I ran eventually reaching Lands End at the cusp of darkness. I had run 14 miles without a water break as I wanted to get to Lands End before the sun had set. It was one of my most memorable and most enjoyable experiences of the entire trip.
The ending to our journey on Day 105 was how I envisaged it to be – running with family and friends with Brighton Pier in the background. Daylight was fading and the bright lights of Pier occupied our peripheral then immediate vision as we drew ever closer to the finish line. It was strangley surreal yet exciting with the level of Media interest and it was wonderful to such a large number of Cancer Research UK representatives there to support me. A tremendous end to an incredible journey.
Thank-you to everyone who contributed to an incredible journey.
To the journey – OH YEAH