Multi-marathon man Steve Edwards, 52, has run 700 plus marathons in under three hours and 17 minutes – one of several of his world records. Steve reveals why, how he trains and how marathons have become a way of life
Steve’s 700th marathon was the Bournemouth marathon, when he crossed the line he also became the first athlete in the world to run 600, sub 3-hour 30-minute marathons and the first British athlete to run 300, sub 3-hour 15-minute marathons, and he ran his last 100 marathons in just 106 weeks. For the statisticians amongst you, Steve has now ran a marathon on average every 14 days for the last 27 years. Not bad for someone who used to try and get out of cross-country races at school and ran his first marathon for a bet.
Damian Hall: You run rather a lot of marathons. Why?
Steve Edwards: There are many reasons. I enjoy running, it keeps me incredibly fit and makes me feel good physically and mentally. But it’s also a way of life, there’s a great camaraderie and social side to it and I’ve made many friends. I’ve also visited many wonderful places I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. It’s also been about putting something back. It’s enabled me to raise around £25,000 for charities. It’s amazing how many people contact me to say how it has inspired them to do something challenging themselves, which is humbling but also very powerful. Why do I do these types of challenges? To explain, I would have to go back to my childhood, and one day I’ll talk about that. For now, let’s just say that as long as I can stay fit and healthy, I will always look to push the boundaries within my sport. It’s in my nature! Knowing I’ve already achieved something no other human has achieved is a fantastic thought. Focusing on something that may never be emulated is an even more fantastic thought. The body is an amazing machine. It’s said that the human brain is under-used and that’s also true of the body. It never ceases to amaze me just how much the body can respond when tested. You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced that feeling of pushing your body to the absolute limit!
DH: How did your marathon running start?
SE: My first marathon was in October 1981 in my then hometown of Coventry. I saw posters going up, thought why not and made a bet with some mates about being able to complete it. I was 18 and it was my first road race. At school I ran 400m and occasionally 800m, but hated longerdistances
and cross-country and would try everything to get out of them! After finishing in 3 hours 38 minutes, I thought I’d conquered the world. However, the following day I had to crawl down the stairs backwards. It took me nearly a week before I could walk properly and I swore I’d never run one again!
DH: What is it about the marathon that you love?
SE: After the pain had gone, I realised how good it felt to be extremely fit and to run freely without getting out of breath. I tried different distances, five miles, 10 miles, 10Ks, half marathons, but I didn’t get the same buzz. I also seemed to be more geared towards endurance and had greater success
at the marathon distance. A coach thought I could run around 2 hours and 30 minutes, with the right training. A fantastic time for my running CV but it was never going to win a major city marathon. So I thought about becoming an extreme marathon runner and setting running records instead. It would mean running reasonable times consistently over a long period of time, a completely different discipline, as longevity over many years would play a major part in whether I would be successful. The 1,000 marathon barrier has to be the ultimate goal. But only if I can continue to run them in reasonable times, because that’s what gives these records credibility.
DH: Would you say you are addicted to running?
SE: Definitely. But in a positive way. Some people use the word obsessed, but that’s a word used by the lazy to describe the dedicated! Most athletes will say they have to be focused and determined, almost to the point of selfishness, to achieve their goals.
DH: How do you train?
SE: I do 45-60 miles a week of running, depending on whether that week includes a marathon. I vary the routes and types of session, I try to fit in steep hill reps and a threshold run most weeks, and I vary distances from anything between 4-10 miles. With age I’ve had to learn to train smarter, rather than harder, however I do push myself and it always seems like hard work, even harder as I’ve got older! I also cycle to and from work 2-3 times a week, approximately 30-40 miles. I also do about six sessions of core work and a weights session each week. Maintaining and improving overall body strength and posture has helped my longevity and made me a more efficient runner, this is especially important in the latter stages of 26.2 miles, for maintaining good form.
DH: Have you had many injuries and what do you do to prevent them?
SE: On average I’ve ran an official marathon every 14 days for the last 27 years and if you add the training miles, my body has held up pretty well. Aside from odd niggles, such as muscle tears, strains and soreness, the only real injury I’ve had was a stress fracture in my ankle. Having a good foundation of fitness from my younger days when I did weights, circuit training, martial arts, and generally coming from an era when all kids were very active, gave me a good platform. I also pay particular attention to nutrition, taking good quality supplements, natural-food based kinds. I’m also particular about hydration, again all natural, not containing loads of sugar, artificial colourings or flavourings. I’m also particular about recovery after racing and training, with stretching, a protein drink, ice baths, a foam roller, having a massage every other week and compression clothing.
DH: How difficult is it to fit events and training into your life?
SE: I cycle to work, about eight miles each way, at least twice a week, or occasionally run it. I get there early and do a bit of core work. Most training runs are during lunch and when I get home I do a core or weights session before dinner and then have the evenings free to relax with my wife Teresa. I also run for a club, Bourton Roadrunners, where I’m chairman. With a non-dependant adult son, it’s just Teresa and me at home. We spend a lot of time travelling to events, so we’re away at weekends a lot. Balancing my sport with everyday life can be challenging, however without Teresa’s understanding, love and support I couldn’t have achieved all I have.
DH: Have you ever been tempted to give up?
SE: There have been moments when I’ve questioned why I’m doing it and wondered what it’s all about. But then I think about what I’ve achieved and what I could go on to achieve. I would hate to look back over my life with regret that I didn’t fulfill the ambitions I had, or at least given them my best shot.