Tuff Fitty Triathlon Club’s Sim Scott recently met up with Marathon Man Steve Edwards, who has ambitions to complete 1,000 marathons.
Hosted by Sussex Trail Events, multiple world record holding Steve was in Worthing recently to give a talk about his achievements, his inspirations and how he prepares and recovers from his seemingly never-ending race schedule. With an amazing record of over 700 marathons under his running belt, in 1990 Steve became the youngest person to join the coveted ‘100 marathon club’ at the age of just 28. He currently holds world records for the fastest average finish time for 400, 500, 600 and 700 marathons and has ambitions to complete 1,000. All of this on top of a being a devoted husband, father, grandfather and holding down a full-time job.
I managed to keep pace with Steve for a stroll along Worthing Pier, where I asked more about his amazing achievements, what keeps him going and what he plans to do next...
So how do you balance everything? Working full-time, family, racing, training, travelling, hobbies…
I try to fit my training in around the working day; a morning strength session before cycling to work, a run at lunchtime (instead of sitting around eating sandwiches, reading magazines or playing on the internet) and then cycling home. Once I get home I’ll do another strength or weights session once or twice a week. I get all that done and then spend the evening relaxing with my wife – that’s the most important thing.
As we walked I showed Steve the starting point of the Worthing Parkrun (he was disappointed to have forgotten his barcode this weekend, otherwise he would have given it a pop) and told him about the happy faces and sense of achievement I saw after the first Parkrun earlier this month, whom for many this was their first experience of a mass-participation event. One recent running convert - a local man in his fifties - even asked me to convince his wife to start running!
What would be your advice for anyone just starting out?
Join a running club, it’s important to be around people with the same interests. It can sometimes be isolating and so it’s good to be around others doing the same. You realise how good running makes you feel, not just physically but emotionally and mentally. Also, be patient, don’t try to achieve too much too soon. You need to build the strength and endurance that comes over a longer period of time and build up to things, rather than jumping straight in to a marathon. There is no set plan – try different things and find what works for you.
I’m with Steve on the club recommendation. I came to Worthing from my native North East five years ago knowing no-one but a couple of work colleagues, one of whom introduced me to Worthing Harriers. As part of the club I met new friends, found beautiful routes across the Downs and learned more about running and racing. I later joined Tuff Fitty Triathlon Club to concentrate on multi-sport training and this has become a huge part of my life and one of the main reasons I decided to make Worthing my home. The club has become an extended family to me and we regularly travel together to take part in events, our most recent being a strudel-fuelled trip to Austria to take part in Vienna marathon. It’s a hard life!
…also, involve your loved ones in your running (Steve’s wife Teresa accompanies him to every event and is herself an experienced runner who was bitten by the bug during the early years of their relationship. Together, they’re known as ‘Team Edwards’). Bring your partner with you, share it, do it together.
I was impressed at just how strong, healthy and youthful Steve looked for a man in his 50s with so many competitive races under his belt and asked how he keeps himself in good condition.
When I started doing this (in the 1980s), there were people who said my targets were impossible. I was told my knees would break. I was a very active child and so had a natural base fitness and I grew up doing weights, martial arts and playing football and cricket. I believe in keeping your body fit for your sport and not using your sport to keep you fit. Nowadays if I have a spare 15 minutes and I’m not running that day, then I’ll do some strength work or plyometrics (‘explosive’ exercises used to build strength and speed).
You must have to eat a lot to sustain yourself. What do you eat in an average day?
During the day I eat really well, my treats come in the evening. I always have a protein shake before training, then a good cereal breakfast. I drink green tea during the morning, then a strong coffee before my lunchtime run. I’ll graze on sandwiches and lots of fruit at work during the day. On an evening it’s a meat and veg dinner, then an hour later the first cup of tea of the day…with a piece of cake.
Cake, now you’re talking. In the interests of investigative journalism, I probed Steve to name his favourite. A true midlander, it had to be the mighty Bakewell Tart.
You’ve taken part in some amazing events all over the world…do you have a favourite?
That’s a hard question, but for sheer excitement and atmosphere you can’t beat New York (marathon). An electric atmosphere in a diverse city, with all the culture, running through different boroughs - the whole package is very exciting. Also more tranquil marathons like the Scilly Isles – running round a quiet island with hardly any inhabitants and beautiful beaches. A tough course though, with lots of ups and downs and concrete paths around seven laps.
One of my all-time athletics heroes is Daley Thompson (in Steve’s book he tells a story of how Daley Thompson once insulted him!). Who is your hero?
Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopian multiple world record holder and former Olympic and World Champion); he’s done absolutely everything from the mile to the marathon but is so humble, such an unassuming gentleman. When he was ruling the world he just quietly got on with stuff. If I had to think of a British hero then it would be Seb Coe. However, my real inspiration came from the few guys who formed the 100 marathon club (a club of dedicated runners who have completed 100 or more official marathon events), especially Richard Bird whom I met during the Gainsborough marathon in 1988. If I hadn’t met him then I probably wouldn’t have joined the club and I certainly wouldn’t have gone for the record (of youngest ever member) the following year. Richard was just a normal guy who nobody would have heard of.
On the subject of the 100 marathon club, congratulations to Nuala Smyth of Arunners Running Club who this month became our region’s latest member after completing the South Downs Way marathon.
From what I’ve read in your book, you wouldn’t be content with settling down once the running eventually stops. What are your other aims in life? Best hedgerow in the Cotswolds maybe?
Steve started to answer this in typically high-achiever mode, telling me about the £1.50 wisteria he bought from Woolworths in the 1990s that now covers three-quarters of his house…
…I love gardening, it’s a total contrast to work and to running. It keeps you very fit but it also relieves a lot of stress; just being out in nature, the sounds of the birds singing, feeling happy in your own mind. Very therapeutic – like running – but in a different way.
One of the things I really do enjoy about running is inspiring other people. A lady recently emailed me to say that after reading my book she was inspired to give herself a target of running 100 marathons by November 2018 (she’s currently on 40) - that’s brilliant. Inspiring someone is a powerful thing…to know you’ve had an effect on their lives and helping them to feel better is very rewarding. So I’d like to do more talks and maybe some coaching. I enjoy going to sporting clubs to give the benefit of my experience and share my knowledge. I’d like to write another book, perhaps a more technical version about training, technique and preparation. I want to always be involved in running.
Speaking to Steve left me feeling inspired, excited and full of optimism at what can be achieved with hard work, dedication and belief in yourself. He is the embodiment of his book’s words ‘never underestimate your potential, follow your dreams’. My teenage dreams of Olympic gold were perhaps pushing it a little, but an ultra-marathon somewhere exotic? Fuelled by Bakewell Tarts? If it’s good enough for a world-record holder…
Steve’s book – ‘The Man inside the Machine’ - provides further insight in to his achievements and is currently available from Amazon.
Further information on Sussex Trail Events can be found at here
Fancy the Parkrun? Click here
Details of local clubs can be found here
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