20 marathons in a year... are you insane?

Well you know the answer to this question. Yes, I have doctor's note that confirms that I am!!! Although that is not the reason I am taking on this challenge.

But have you really thought this through?

Actually, this really hasn't been a whimsical decision... well not totally anyway!

I first had the thought of running 20 marathons in 2020 sometime last summer although it had admittedly been put to bed long before I decided, a few weeks ago, that it was something I really wanted to do.

But you've not really been running much?

I've definitely not been running as much as I usually would.

I've done 102 miles this month, and 287 in November and December combined... I'd usually expect to do circa 250 miles per month.

Are you not enjoying it any more?

I still love it when I'm out there but I have found it more difficult to motivate myself than usual.

Above all, I've been absolutely exhausted, working very long hours and really finding it more of a challenge than usual to have any kind of energy to be out there.

Beyond that, the latter part of 2019 saw me experience a prolonged bout of depression and anxiety and, while running has so often been the one thing to give me headspace, I've more recently found it so difficult to create the headspace to get any kind of joy and satisfaction from running.

And you've been injured too?

I've been struggling with niggles but it all ties in with everything else going on.

Working ridiculously long hours has meant too much emphasis on Deliveroo or Pub Grub on the way home

Anxiety and depression has triggered comfort eating

Running 30 miles a week instead of 60 means I am, at 13 stone 8, 19 pounds heavier than I was when I got married last February and 22 heavier than London Marathon day in 2019.

In short, I'm not physically fit, I'm carrying niggles and holistically everything is out of kilter.

Race to the Stones 2017
You'd never guess I was 60 miles into an ultramarathon in this photo!

So why take on this challenge now?

I'm a dreamer and want to change lives. I really believe in the work of the charities that I'm supporting... and 20 in 20 seems something people would get behind.

But to really answer your question, of course it is a way of motivating myself back into peak mental and physical condition.

So tell us about the charities?

Mind needs no introduction. You guys have helped me raise close to £25k for Mind since 2013 and they continue to impact lives in the same way as they did mine after my suicide attempt in 2006. They are an amazing charity who have been at the forefront of changing the landscape around mental health in the 21st Century.

I was privileged to be involved in recent campaigns with Heads Together and think their work is so impactful. I loved their recent #TakeAMinute campaign and it reminded me of how important football had been in my own recovery. As a campaign, it is about promoting mental wellbeing as opposed to simply raising awareness and I love that.

Football Beyond Borders is doing amazing work to change the lives of underprivileged kids, using football as a tool to actually keep them in school and maximise their potential in other areas of life. I've had so many opportunities in life and am passionate about empowering less fortunate young people by giving them opportunities.

Similarly, The Running Charity is supporting young and vulnerable people. Around 83,000 young people are homeless in the UK and I was once one of them, so it's a privilege to support a charity who are helping to improve those lives.

Great charities, but surely there's an easier way?

The best things in life are never easy. God has given me the gift of running so this is an opportunity to use that gift to elevate others.

What makes this different from 2017?

For those who don't know, I did 18 marathons in 2017... it was meant to be 17 but my maths wasn't great!!! However, 20 in 20 has a much better ring to it.

The main difference is that I was in peak physical and mental condition then... I'm anything but at the moment but believe me when I say I will be.

I also didn't have the joy of being married or a senior level job then, so it's a much more worthwhile challenge!

What are the events then? (answer updated on 11 March)

The list is here and includes for of the World Marathon Majors, and two ultras. However, it is all subject to what lies ahead with the Covid-19 outbreak.

Have you any doubts?

None at all. I openly admit that November's New York City Marathon really was a bridge too far and ultimately had a really negative impact on my mental and physical shape, although I maintain that I am very proud to have hung in there and finished it.

Although I'm still physically a long way from my best, mentally I'm beginning to feel excited and sharp for the year ahead.

NYC - a bridge too far
NYC 2019 was literally a bridge too far but I can't wait to be back there!

When should we sponsor you, now or at the end?

Why not all the way through the year???!!

Genuinely, it doesn't matter, your generosity is a motivation and inspiration all the way through the journey. However, it would be great to get some great donations up front to motivate others to do so!

I like the method of one of my closest mates, Adam, who is going to sponsor £5 after each of the 20 events.

And how do we sponsor you?

Go to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RoTwenty20

And any other business??

I'm hoping to have some fun events, everything from auctions to quizzes and curry nights, so watch this space... and if you have anything you can donate, whether memorabilia or expertise, please do contact me.

As blasé and casual as I like to come across, I'm never under any illusions and always respect the challenge. ONE marathon is difficult, TWENTY is a little bit nuts, and I hope it's nuts enough to justify the incredible generosity of those who donate.

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