Read an Excerpt
Imagine Running a Marathon. Now Imagine Running Over 100 of Them. Incredible True Stories from the World's Most Fanatical Runners.
By Helen Summer
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2012 Helen Summer
All rights reserved.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY, PLUS SOME OTHER STUFF
Before we get to the really interesting bit – the people themselves – let's start at the beginning. How exactly did a club for people who had run over 100 marathons begin?
I was lucky enough to be put in touch with one of the Club's founder members, David Phillips, a man who, by the time this book goes to print, will have run over 400 marathons in 25 years and raised over £50,000 for charity in the process.
I feel humbled. At least I did until he presented me with a car boot full of memorabilia.
I was further aided and abetted in the writing of this chapter by Saint Roger Biggs, current chairman of the 100 Club and patron saint of patience, and Steve Edwards, one of the youngest original members.
During the running boom of the early 1980s, a number of runners kept bumping into each other at marathons around the country and they would tell each other what their totals were – 40, 50, 60 marathons. One of the most prolific was a man called Richard Bird, who ran 76 marathons in a 12-month period, setting a World Record.
'He was probably the biggest influence in setting up the Club and getting other people to do numbers. Everyone knew him, he was at every race,' Dave tells me.
However, it is believed that it was another man, Harry Martin, who was actually the first to reach 100, which he did at Blackpool in about 1987.
'He bought a bottle of cheap champagne to celebrate afterwards,' Dave recalls.
While the group of runners celebrated Harry's achievement, they decided to form a club exclusively for those who had run 100 marathons and to call that club the '100 Club'.
One of those most involved with the setting up of the Club was an Irishman called Brian Doherty, or 'The Ladder Man', as he was popularly known – because he was a window cleaner who ran every marathon carrying his ladder!
Initially, the newly formed Club decided to present each new member with a special medal to mark the completion of 100 marathons but a few years on, Brian purchased a silver trophy from a second-hand shop, which became known simply as 'The Cup'.
'Every new member had their name and details of their 100th marathon engraved upon it and would keep The Cup for a year,' says Dave, whose own name appears thereon as the 25th Brit to complete his 100th in 1991.
Others who ran their 100th in those early days, and whose names appear regularly in old newsletters, were Peter Sargeant, Andrew Radgick, Derek Appleton, Don Thompson (50K Walk Gold medallist in the 1960 Rome Olympics), Sid Morrison, Mike Olivera, Eddie Edmonds, brothers David and Richard Tann, and Steve Edwards, who at that time also took the World Record for the greatest number of marathons run in 12 months to 87. There is also, among the names engraved on that trophy one Ron Hill, probably the most famous multi-marathoner in the world.
But the 100 Club didn't want to encourage only Brits to run marathons, they were keen to encourage everyone and therefore the Club and The Cup boasts the names of runners from all over the world, regardless of whether they are members of the Club.
Of course, once they'd passed the 100 mark there was only one place to go – and that was 200! It is believed two men, Edwin Bartlett and Colin Greene, were among the first to notch up a second century.
And then there were the ladies.
Rita Banks of Staffordshire is believed to have been the first woman to complete 100 marathons, which she did at Nottingham in 1990. She also set a new World Record for Most Marathons Run in One Year By a Woman (52). At the time she was 45.
'After her 100th, she had a party to celebrate in the car park,' Dave recollects. 'She set up a table and we had cakes and coffee.'
Trust a lady to do it properly!
'That was the real start of the tradition of partying after your 100th, and if you didn't have a table, you just did it out of your car boot!' Dave adds.
'Sue Goddard from Luton was another one of the original ladies,' he continues. 'She liked to write about the races and was a regular contributor to the newsletters and early magazines we used to produce.'
Dave should know. With his accountancy background, the club very quickly utilised his particular skills in making him their first treasurer, not to mention first secretary and magazine editor/printer.
'In those days,' he remembers, 'we weren't affiliated to the AA (Athletic Association) or anything. It was just a matter of us all meeting up at races, celebrating our centuries and forming friendships. It was all very informal, but also very positive.
'It was also seen as a way to promote marathon running in England as a whole. In fact, the 100 Club were responsible for setting up 79 new marathons in the UK during the 1980s. Unfortunately, that number dropped to around 30 during the 1990s as the popularity of marathon running decreased.'
However, it's now back on the up again to around 50, with a running boom being reported right across the land, no doubt fired by the impending London Olympics in 2012.
At some point, though it's not clear from the records exactly when, there was the introduction of 'wannabes' to the Club. These were runners who had run 50+ marathons and were now working towards their century.
Probably the biggest change the 100 Marathon Club has faced in recent times is the formalisation of its constitution, which includes becoming affiliated to the South of England Athletics Association and the engagement of an official chairman in the shape of Roger Biggs.
'Roger has really brought the Club into the 21st century,' declares Dave.
By his own admission, Roger is 'a bit of a stats man' and as such, had been collecting and collating results, as well as keeping members informed of races, results and any other newsworthy matters in an unofficial capacity for some years prior to becoming chairman in 2005.
With Roger at the helm and following lively discussions among its members, the Club finally settled on its constitution, which was primarily to provide a focal point for runners in the UK and Ireland who had completed 100 or more races of marathon distance or longer, to share knowledge and experience and encourage newcomers to the sport of marathon running and to promote road marathons in the British Isles.
It was further agreed that only official races with at least three participants and official results could be included in a member's total number of marathons run, and that the runner must have completed the whole race entered (e.g. if it's an ultra-marathon – a race longer than marathon distance – the full race distance must be completed but this would only be counted as one marathon). All road races must also be officially measured and stated to be 26 miles 385 yards or 42.195 km by the race organisers; for trail marathons, where accurate measurement is not always possible, the distance must be rounded down to those distances.
Consideration was also given to making comparisons between marathons run on road, trail or as part of an ultra-marathon event. Eventually it was decided to split these statistics into three separate groups (road, trail and ultra), so allowing like to be compared against like.
Of course, the UK is not the only country to have its own 100 Marathon Club. Such clubs also exist in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, USA, the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia, Netherlands and Finland. Unfortunately, not all of them are governed by the same rules as the UK Club. For example, in Germany it is acceptable to step outside your front door, take yourself off on a 26.2-mile run and include this in your total number of marathons run.
This in turn makes it impossible to compare world performances or to accord performances World Record status – unless, of course, they are verified by the Guinness World Records. Therefore, unless otherwise stated, all national records within this book should be viewed as potential World Records.
Two other important changes Roger has brought to the Club are the introduction of a website (originally designed by his son) and the more recent addition of Facebook. For a club whose members live the length and breadth of the British Isles, this is vital for keeping members informed and in touch with each other.
'It is also the Club's window for the world,' says Roger. 'As such, it is essential that any performances should be officially ratified and recorded as accurately as possible before being displayed on the site as any false claims or mistakes would be instantly picked up and could discredit the Club's reputation and credibility.' The address is www.100marathonclub.org.uk.
To that end, anyone applying to join the Club or existing members wishing to update their performances must provide a list of all the races they claim to have run, complete with dates and times. Roger will then check the validity of such races, making sure they have been run in accordance with Club rules and verifying the results.
There are a few things that haven't changed, though, such as the engraving of new centurions' names on a cup, although The Cup soon became full and a special plinth has now taken its place; a medal (bronze in colour and inscribed with the Club logo on one side and a personal inscription including name, place and date of the individual's 100th marathon on the other) is still awarded to each new member; pins are also awarded for the first 100 and every subsequent century.
There is also the Club kit. Only full members are entitled to wear the Club colours – royal blue with a luminous yellow side panel and the Club logo, '100 Marathon Club', the '100' set within a laurel wreath and displayed quite modestly just below the shoulder strap. The back of the shirt is a different matter, though – get behind one of these guys in a race and you'll know it, for here the Club logo is proudly – almost arrogantly – displayed in large, bold, luminous yellow letters that could only be missed by a short-sighted, illiterate mountain goat. Becoming the owner of the kit is understandably a matter of great pride.
'It cannot be bought like a university T-shirt – there is only one way to attain it and that is to have completed 100 marathons,' says Roger.
Five years on from its inception and the website reflects not only the progress of a successful club, but the steady growth in membership of a club that people might be forgiven for thinking would attract only the clinically insane! However, with full membership currently standing at over 200, as well as the Club's 50+ 'wannabes', either the world is producing more than its fair share of madmen or more and more perfectly sane, intelligent people have found something that not only keeps them physically fit, but perhaps more importantly and maybe somewhat conversely, keeps them mentally well balanced, as well as giving them a real sense of wellbeing.
It also offers them a lifestyle they might not otherwise have enjoyed. With many running every weekend, there is a need to look further afield than the UK for races and it's not unusual for Club members to finish work on a Friday, jump on a plane on Saturday and run a marathon on Sunday before returning to work on the Monday.
'When you tell people what you do they react with shock and go away shaking their heads, clearly thinking you are mad,' explains one member. 'But it's a great life, a great way to stay fit and see places you wouldn't see, if not for the marathon.'
Put like that, it certainly sounds rather more fulfilling, not to mention exciting, than many people's weekend ritual of car washing, shopping and drinking at the local pub! Not that those who run multiple marathons don't drink or know how to have fun either. You won't find many of them tucked up in bed at six o'clock on pre-race night, they are more likely to be found in some hospitable hostelry, making friends with the locals and sampling the ales.
'It's a great way to see the world, meet new friends and try the beers,' says another member.
It would also seem that while running is often cited as an individual sport, conversely, it is actually a great way to make new friends and keep in touch with old ones. Often members of the 100 Club collectively arrange trips away, both at home and abroad, flying out from various UK airports before meeting up in some foreign city, from whence they will eat, drink and explore together as a group.
To keep life interesting, the Club constantly issues fresh challenges to its members, such as running a marathon in the most different countries, or counties (a potential total of 103, including Ireland), or running the most marathons in a year. As well as meeting such challenges and setting records within the Club, several members hold world and nationally recognised records, such as the first Brit to have run a marathon in all 50 American States, the person to have run the most marathons in a career (780 and counting) and the youngest person in the world to have run 100 marathons (23).
Indeed, perhaps one of the most surprising things about the Club is that its members are not all in their dotage, with ages ranging from 23 to 76. Naturally, there are women as well as men and several couples listed as members. One married couple have completed over 600 marathons between them.
Add to that honorary life members in the form of two wheelchair racers and a blind runner, who is guided round races by sighted members and you begin to appreciate that this is a club with no prejudices and only one prerequisite to membership – the completion of 100 marathons. It makes no distinction between race, colour, creed or ability. That in itself must be considered a worthy achievement.
As such, it is a club that is full of colourful, contrasting characters, distinct individuals with idiosyncratic personalities and diverse lifestyles, creating a gargantuan melting pot of humanity. Yet, despite such diversity, one common desire links them all together: to run, and run and run.
Who knows? 1,000 is possible, even probable. But maybe the best thing that could happen would be the formalisation of a worldwide constitution so that proper comparisons might be made on an international level.CHAPTER 2
VIRGINS AND SLUTS
Virgin – someone who has never run a marathon before.
Slut – someone who, while running one marathon, is thinking about another. Commonly a 100 Marathon Club member.
You never forget your first time. Whether you only ever do it once or you end up doing it 100 times, the first time remains with you always. You'll be able to recall with clarity the weather, the people you met, how many drink stations you stopped at along the way, at what mile you felt your best (and your worst), how your nipples fared and what underwear you wore – and despite those last two references you'll have guessed by now that I'm not talking about sex.
You will also be able to recall that magical moment when you stepped across the finishing line after covering 26.2 miles on foot, unaided, with only your mind and body for company. That's not to discount the thousands of other runners who ran it with you or the crowds cheering you on along the way or the countless officials, who handed you water and gels or placed a medal around your neck. There was only one person who got you from the start to the finish, and that person was you.
Excerpted from Running Crazy by Helen Summer. Copyright © 2012 Helen Summer. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.