I was never into running during middle school or high school. In fact, I wasn’t really into any sports at all. I was always the one who had a headache when it was time for gym class. It wasn’t until I started college that I started running. My body was changing in ways I didn’t like — I was eating and drinking more than usual. I was unhealthy and I didn’t like the way it felt.
I was too embarrassed to join a gym or a sports team, so running seemed like the safest option. I could go early in the morning when no one would see me. My first run was a struggle, but six months later I could run a half-marathon distance. My love for running grew and so did my passion for fitness in general. I faced my fears and signed up at the gym and eventually become a personal trainer and sports therapist.
I’ve always wanted to find a way to encourage the public — especially young people — to become more active and live a healthier lifestyle. So, last summer, I took on the challenge of running 53 marathons, in 53 cities and towns throughout the United Kingdom, in 53 consecutive days. I raised money for The Isabelle Lottie Foundation, which campaigns for the early diagnosis of brain tumors in children and young adults, but I also wanted to show that being fit is fun.
On September 27, 2014, I successfully completed my goal and set a world record for both women and men. Though it’s important to note that I didn’t run 53 marathons the typical way — I broke some rules. Here’s how I did it:
1. I never took a rest day.
I woke up at 6 a.m. every morning in preparation for running 26.2 miles a day. I would have to jump straight in the camper van after each run to head to the next city, without taking a day off in between.
2. I didn’t ice bathe regularly.
A lot of runners swear by ice baths, but my body seemed to crave nice warm baths or just massages. Plus, I didn’t always have an ice bath in the hotels, so I had to make do without.
3. I didn’t stretch half as much as I should have.
I was so tired after running all day, I often wouldn’t have time to stretch. I had to get right to the next city. By the time I ate and settled in, it was time to sleep.
4. I wasn’t conscious of how many calories I was consuming.
I tried not to get too wrapped up in what I should be eating, when I should be eating, and how many calories I was consuming. I just listened to my body and ate when I was hungry and knew I needed food. I couldn’t be too fussy about foods as I was always eating in restaurants and on the go.
5. I didn’t have a physiotherapist with me at all times.
It’s hard to find someone who can take 53 days off of work to support such a big challenge, unpaid. I settled for sports massage and treatments when I could get them.
6. I was fueled by the popular European candy, Percy Pig sweets.
When I was running, I felt like my body needed quick calories, so I was eating a lot of candy and chocolate to give me a fast energy boost. Percy Pigs and Jelly Babies sweets were definitely my favorites. I know this may not have been the healthiest option, but it worked for me.
7. I only went through two pairs of running shoes.
According to experts like Runner’s World and Asics, you should switch your athletic shoes every 300-500 miles. If I followed that rule, I would have gone through three to five pairs of shoes. I actually had five pairs with me, but my legs and body got used to wearing the same ones. Changing what I was wearing on my feet made a huge difference in how I felt, so I only used two pairs over the course of 1,388.6 miles.
8. I never foam rolled.
Every runner’s worst enemy and best friend at the same time is the foam roller. I’m a big baby when it comes to using it. I just find them too painful — so I avoided using it during my races.
9. I had red wine occasionally.
I think most people think you need to cut out alcohol to be fit and healthy, but a glass or two every now and then is fine. I found drinking a glass or two of red wine every once in a while actually helped to relax my muscles.
10. I didn’t always wear typical athletic gear.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of unicorns and The Little Mermaid. I love cute and funky tops so I wore colorful T-shirts a lot. They weren’t fashion-forward or moisture-wicking tops; they were loose, bargain shirts, but they were fun and funky — matching my mood and the aim of the challenge.
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