From Coventry to Connemara …
Possibly the fastest 500 Marathons ever run by an individual athlete!
When Steve Edwards ran the inaugural Coventry Marathon back in October 1981, he vowed to never run a marathon again. Little did he realise at the time that not only would he ignore that vow but nearly 29 years later, go on to fulfil an incredible personal challenge of becoming the first athlete in the world to run 500 official marathons in an average finish time of sub 3hrs 30min.
On April 11th 2010, Steve crossed the finish line of the Connemara Marathon in Ireland to not only complete his challenge 2 years earlier than expected but did so with a staggering final average finish time of just 3hrs 18min 18sec. To run 500 marathons alone would to most seem an impossibility when you consider the physical demands of trying to stay fit and healthy for such a long period of one's life, not to mention the discipline and sheer dedication that is required. However, to run 500 marathons in an average finishing time of 3hrs 18min is quite extraordinary.
The Cotswolds based athlete who runs for Bourton Roadrunners started running in 1981 at the age of 18 when he completed the Coventry Marathon, his first ever race! Although finishing in a respectable 3hrs 39min, he couldn't walk properly for two days after and realising the demands of running 26.2 miles, concentrated on shorter distances instead.
However, he was drawn back to the marathon distance and continued to chip away at his personal best time in the hope that he could become a successful marathon runner. Then in 1988, after being told by a coach that he probably was only ever going to be capable of running around 2 hours 35 minutes at best, decided to set himself a rather different but nevertheless equally difficult series of challenges which would themselves be world records should he be successful..
The first to become the youngest athlete to run 100 official marathon races which he achieved in 1990 at the age of 28. The second to run the most official marathon races in a one year period which he achieved in 1992 with a total of 87 marathons averaging just 3hrs 14min for each one. Then the third and arguably the toughest, to run 500 official marathon races averaging sub 3:30 by his 50th birthday in 2012.
Commenting afterwards, Steve said "its very hard to sum up in words how I feel right now and you may be surprised to hear that I have very mixed emotions of both elation and deflation. A famous athlete once said, 'I go to bed in pain and wake up in pain', and there have been many times, especially in the last couple of years when I've felt exactly like that. So you could say that a part of me is questioning whether its been worth it? But then when I consider the bigger picture, all the places I've visited, the friends I've made, the experiences and memories from the many trips all over the UK, Europe and beyond, the money I've raised for various charities, then its been more than just an athletic achievement, its been an incredible journey which I guess no-one can buy and not that many more will ever experience, so yes I'm glad I did it but also very relieved".
"Pushing the boundaries has also given me the opportunity to learn a lot more about myself as a human being, not only in terms of my character and make up but in a physical sense to realise what an amazing machine the human body actually is. In fact it never ceases to amaze me just how much further you can push yourself even when you think you can't".
"Looking back, I guess its also fair to say I've been incredibly lucky when I think how much could have gone wrong over the last 22 years". That's not to say things didn't go wrong though and during those times, Steve didn't mind admitting that he's had doubts about his ability to succeed. None more so than quite recently when he slipped on the ice whilst out training over Christmas and was out of action with an injured hip for nearly 6 weeks. At that point he still had 7 marathons to go and with the commitment to do the 500th at Connemara the pressure really got to him. But he continued to train hard in the pool as if his life depended on it and just kept believing that he could get back in time to regain the running fitness required to complete the task.
This incredible journey has taken Steve to 26 countries in all, not to mention the length and breadth of the British Isles, from the Isles of Scilly to the Outer Hebrides, some 60 counties all told. He has run marathons on consecutive days many times including on three occasions the gruelling 10 marathons in 10 days challenge around Lake Windermere where he set another world record for completing a 10in10 in the fastest time and still holds the Vet Masters record for this.
On average, he's run a marathon every 16 days for the last 22 years. His personal best time is 2hrs 51min, he's also recorded 66 sub 3:05s, 121 sub 3:10s, 214 sub 3:15s and 437 sub 3:30s. All of this equates to running 13,100 miles at 7min 34sec per mile which makes him by far the fastest in a very exclusive group of only 50 or so athletes world wide who have completed 500 marathons or more.
All that said, Steve felt that he couldn't take all the credit for his achievement. "I think no matter who you are and what you've achieved, your success is just as much attributable to the people around you as it is to yourself. In that regard I would like to sincerely thank my club colleagues at Bourton Roadrunners and all the friends I've made through running over the years, they've all been incredibly supportive. I'd also like to thank my sponsors, Mannatech and Team Nutrition who's nutritional supplements and sports drinks products have helped me perform and recover so much better over the last couple of years, also a big thank you to the physios and sports therapists who have kept me on the road, especially since I've got older!. Of course, the biggest thank you has to go to Teresa my wife, the other half of Team Edwards, I've said it before but its nevertheless as true as ever, without her love and support, I would never have achieved any of this".
I think anyone would agree that the belief, determination and dedication that Steve has shown clearly demonstrates that you don't have to be an elite athlete on the world stage to realise a dream and that ordinary people can indeed achieve extraordinary things!
A wonderful achievement. Well done Steve!
Source: Steve Edwards