This challenge started as a way to see the country and run a lot of marathons. It definitely delivered on both fronts, with the unexpected extra challenge of the Covid pandemic in the middle resulting in 16 race cancellations. The logistics weren't as tricky as I initially expected - although I did run more ultras than I thought I'd need to!
I did road races (City of London, Merseyside), trail races including some incredibly muddy ones (West Sussex, Cambridgeshire), races partly or totally at night (Northumbria, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire, West Midlands), I did races on both Saturday and Sunday in different counties (Dorset & Hampshire, Buckinghamshire & Isle of Wight). I did ones beside the beach (East Sussex, Suffolk, Norfolk), hilly ones (Cornwall, Surrey, Wiltshire, Shropshire) and flat ones (Greater Manchester, Devon, Hertfordshire). I had some horrifically long journeys (Suffolk, Hampshire, Tyne and Wear, Cornwall), I did 10 loops of a Grand Prix track (Cheshire) and 106 laps of a running track (Hertfordshire), I did a race that started at someone's house (Worcestershire), I did one in fancy dress (West Yorkshire) and one four days after eye surgery (Gloucestershire). Somehow I managed not to DNF a single race although I DNS'd 3 of them.
It has been an incredible experience so I decided to pull together some statistics on the challenge as a whole, as follows:
Total distance: 2468 miles / 3791 kilometres
Total running time: 291 hours
Total elevation: 28591m (3 and a bit times the height of Everest)
Average speed per kilometre compared with time of year: I slow down in the summer
There follows a list of interesting statistics and subjective opinions about my challenge as a whole which I quite enjoyed looking up, thinking about and writing!
Fastest: Greater London (Richmond marathon, in 3:59:33) Runners up: East Riding of Yorkshire, Devon
Slowest: West Midlands (Escape from Meriden: 18 hours and 6 minutes)
Longest: West Midlands (Escape from Meriden: 127km)
Slowest in mins per kilometre: Cornwall
Most ascent: Cornwall (1930m)
Most scenic: Herefordshire (Wye Valley Trail). Runners up:
Most fun/enjoyable: Dorset - had a festival atmosphere with a beer tent and food concessions and everyone was incredibly friendly
Favourite race director: Paul Albon of Big Bear Events (Staffordshire/Warwickshire/Leicestershire) Runners up: Richard Weremuik of Beyond Marathon (Lincolnshire, West Midlands), Denzil of How Hard Can It Be Events (Shropshire), White Star Running team (Dorset)
Best organisation: Norfolk
Worst organisation: Surrey
Favourite item in post-race goody bag: Dorset (pint glass). Runners up: Cumbria (gingerbread medal, Kendal mint cake, water bottle), Hampshire (Garmin sweatband)
Best finish: West Midlands (1st female, Escape from Meriden) ultra; East Riding of Yorkshire (1st female, Hornsea Trail) marathon
Worst weather: Isle of Wight. Runners up: Buckinghamshire, Tyne and Wear
Hardest (for me personally): Suffolk. Runner up: Oxfordshire
Hardest (terrain): Wiltshire (cold, mud, elevation and repetition in January). Runner up: Surrey (elevation, temperature, lack of aid stations)
Hottest: Surrey (average 30 degrees). Runners up: Northamptonshire (28 degrees), Lancashire (26 degrees)
Coldest: Cambridgeshire (11 degrees). Runners up: Devon (11 degrees), probably Cheshire (temperature not recorded)
Favourite medal: Greater London (Richmond) - sparkly, shaped like a crown, doubles up as a handy bottle opener Runners up: Merseyside (Liverpool Rock n Roll), Essex (Life’s a Beach Coastal Series), Shropshire (Piece of Cake marathon)
Worst medal: Surrey (Woldingham marathon) - the most generic medal ever. Runner up: Suffolk (Endurancelife Suffolk coastal trail marathon) really tiny and same medal for 10k as full marathon
Nicest pre-race meal: Oxfordshire (Waterside Inn, Bray). Runner up: West Sussex (South Lodge hotel, Horsham)
Nicest post-race meal: Wiltshire (bean hotpot with cheese and bread and butter)
Biggest surprise/defied expectations: Hertfordshire (track
marathons aren’t totally miserable). Runner up: Lancashire (race director had an ice cream van providing free ice cream afterwards)
One I’d do again: West Midlands (Escape from Meriden)
Most popular race report (based on Blogger views): Rutland. Runners up: Northamptonshire, Hampshire
How many races each year: 2016 = 1, 2017 = 2, 2018 = 7, 2019 = 14, 2020 = 6, 2021 = 9, 2022 = 9
Total weight of medals: 4.8kg
Least participants: Staffordshire (30: due to Forestry Commission restrictions during Covid)
Most participants: London (40,382)
Ultra marathons vs marathons: 15 vs 33
Best stay the night before: East Sussex (The Artist Residence, Brighton) Runner up: West Sussex (South Lodge, Horsham), North Yorkshire (Low Costa Mill, Pickering)
Worst stay the night before: East Riding of Yorkshire (The Embassy Hotel, Hull (on an industrial estate, next to the prison)). Runner up: Northumbria (Blackcock Inn, Falstone)
And finally ... a few thank yous:
Firstly to all the lovely runners I've met along the way, including quite a few I'm now Facebook and Strava friends with and the lovely Chloe and Paul who have become friends 'in real life' too
To my parents, for letting me use their house as an overnight stop on my way to marathons up and down the country and for supporting me with their giant sign (see City of London, Northamptonshire, Kent)
To everyone who came along to my final marathon including Lee-Anne and James, despite not really being all that interested in running!
To my daughter Iz, who spent my Worcestershire marathon sitting in the car doing her homework and popping out to wave at me each lap, my Cumbria marathon sitting in a café sketching the lake, Bristol - fair enough she got to go and see some cool graffiti, and County Durham she walked round the town centre in sub-zero temperatures before we both nearly died on the way home. Fun times!
To Mattgreen, for helping me out with the statistics (Again)
To Ian, for his unwavering support at the start when I didn't know if I could do this, and his financial help in making it achievable.
To all the people who read my race reports and leave comments - it's a lot of effort sometimes when I'm busy/tired but knowing people enjoy reading them makes it worth it. I'm still hoping to turn it into a book one day...
To Ant at Zero Six Zero for the fabulous map - definitely the flashiest thing on my website - many thanks for all your efforts over the years
And finally, the gorgeous Ben, who I met when I still had over a third of my challenge remaining. He’s become my biggest supporter and has done an awful lot of driving, washing sweaty kit and standing around holding jelly sweets. He was a cyclist (hisssss!) when I met him but has increased his own running from 5k to beyond half marathon and started saying things like, “I think I’ve got a marathon in me one day”… so obviously it’s a slippery slope from here...