I originally wrote this post in December 2019, when I had decided on the challenge of running 20 marathons in 2020. COVID19 had other plans for this year so we’ve changed it to #21in2021.

My vision, however, is no different from what it was entering 2020; I want to do something I love (a little crazy I know!) to change the lives of others. Below is my [updated] interview with myself from this time last year.

20 marathons in a year… are you insane? Or even #21in2021?

Well you know the answer to this question… and nothing has changed in twelve months!

Yes, I have doctor’s note that confirms that I am certified!!! 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 in the summer of 2019, although it had admittedly been put to bed long before I decided, in December, that it was something I really wanted to do.

The adventures of 2020 and the impact on lives has only served to strengthen that resolve.

But you’ve not really been running much?

In December 2019, I had not been running much at all. However, at the time of re-editing in December 2020, I am loving it again and recently bought a bike to ensure I’m sensible with my impact work. In other words, I’m good to go!!

Were you not enjoying it any more?

In December 2019. I still loved it when I was out there but it was more difficult to motivate myself than usual.

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 found it so difficult to create the headspace to get any kind of joy and satisfaction from running.

Through most of this 2020 year, however, running has been a great gift, giving me balance through many of the challenges of the pandemic.

And you’ve been injured too?

I had a big injury scare at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020. However, I have been fully fit since Spring 2020 and loving my running again.

So why take on this #21in2021 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… hopefully 21 in 21 even more so!!

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

So tell us about the #21in2021 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.

Lupus UK are the national charity helping people with the presently incurable illness. Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body, including the skin, joints, and organs inside the body. About 9 out of 10 adults with lupus are women and I have seen it totally dismantle my mother’s quality of life since her diagnosis in 2013, which in itself was six years on from initial symptoms.

I was privileged to be involved in recent campaigns with Heads Together and think their work is so impactful. It has been a privilege to work with them and meet the Duke of Cambridge on a couple of occasions during their brilliant work around in around football and mental health, which 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.

Me and my wife talking home-schooling and mental health with the future King!

Football Beyond Borders supports young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are passionate about football but disengaged at school, in order to help them finish school with the skills and grades to make a successful transition into adulthood. They do this by providing long-term, intensive support, built around relationships and passions, in the classroom and beyond. I’ve had so many opportunities in life and am passionate about empowering less fortunate young people by giving them opportunities. I featured their work elsewhere on the site.

Similarly, The Running Charity is supporting young and vulnerable people. Around 83,000 young people are homeless in the UK, so it’s a privilege to support a charity who are helping to improve those lives. Homelessness and mental illness often go hand in hand, and my own personal experience of the former was something which frightened me much more than the illness itself. The Running Charity believe that running builds resilience, confidence and self-esteem and use this to improve the lives of 16-25 year-olds who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

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 had a much better ring to it… not as good as #21in2021 though!!

The main difference is that I was in peak physical and mental condition in 2017. 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?

The list is here and includes my first attempt at 5 marathons in 5 days, not to mention 2 marathons in 1 day. It also includes two majors later in the year, in the shape of London and Berlin.

Have you any doubts?

None at all. The 2019 New York 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.

A year on, mentally I’m beginning to feel excited and sharp for what lies 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 was going to sponsor £5 after each of the 20 events… has anyone told him it’s now #21in2021?

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… or at least I was in 2020 before COVID and social distancing came into our word cloud! However, 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-ONE is a little bit nuts, and I hope it’s nuts enough to justify the incredible generosity of those who donate to this #21in2021 year.

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