Simone Scott took the opportunity to have an interview with Steve Edwards, aka ‘Marathon Man’ when he was in Worthing doing a talk and book signing.
Hosted by Sussex Trail Events (aka Tuffs Jay McCardle, Danny Cunnett and Chris Ette), multiple world record holding ‘Marathon Man’ Steve Edwards was in Worthing last week 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 1000. All of this on top of a being a devoted husband, father, grandfather and holding down a full-time job. Phew.
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..
SS: So how do you balance everything? Working full-time, family, racing, training, travelling, hobbies…
SE: ‘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.’
I felt tired just thinking about such a jam-packed schedule; nearly as impressive as Tuff Glenn Parisi’s notoriously structured training plan. Now that’s definitely packed with jam.
On the subject of sweet stuff, I manoeuvred the conversation to a subject close to many Tuff Fitty hearts (and stomachs). Cake. Recounting tales of epic cake-based endurance I told Steve about ‘Jonny Five Cakes’ (Jon Roper), as well as Maynard Floyd who ‘went through hell’ on a carb-fuelled tour of Vienna’s strudel house whilst ‘supporting’ his marathon-running Tuff Fitty team mates. In a stroke of Paxman-esque investigative journalism, I probed Steve to name his favourite. A true midlander, it had to be the mighty Bakewell Tart. Controversial?
I asked Steve about a race he mentions in his book – the ‘Cakeathon Challenge’ – where aid stations are stocked with…cake. Surely a challenge even the least competitive Tuff could manage and a strong contender for a future Tuff Fitty away day. More info here.
I was impressed at 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.
SE: ‘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.’
You may be aware that Jonny Five Cakes is as dedicated to stretching as he is to Greggs, so here’s proof that it really works. Go Jonny!
SS: With such a packed race schedule, how do you plan and keep focused?
SE: ‘I plan my schedule ahead of time – I never thought I’d see the day when running became so popular that you had to enter races so early! I have an idea of how many marathons I’d like to run in a year, and a time in mind of when I’d like to get to 800, 900, 1000… It’s nice to have a target but you also need to accept that you might get injured or might be out of it for a while. I have an overall goal and build in mini-targets to keep me focused.
When it comes to race day, that’s it, I run as if it’s my last race. I don’t think about what’s happening next week or how my body is going to hold up. If this was my last race, how would I want to go out? On the morning of the race I just focus on the few hours ahead. I still feel the euphoria at the end, there’s such a big sense of relief. Nowadays it takes a good ten or twelve miles to get in to my zone; as I’ve got older I can’t just turn it on, but in the second half I really get in to it. At Wakefield marathon last week, I was in tenth position at the halfway point and ended up finishing third!’
Hope indeed for the eagerly awaited Clive Patterson-Lett comeback. However, I’ve witnessed CPL running a race as if it’s his last and it was rather distressing. It took years of therapy to erase the memories of that muffin top and saliva-splattered chin…
SS: What advice would you give to anyone just starting out or looking to improve their skills?
SE: ‘Join a 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.’
I’m with him on this. I came to Worthing from my native North East 5 years ago knowing no-one but a few work colleagues, and Tuff Fitty is one of the main reasons I decided to make Worthing my home. The club has become an extended family to me. Me, sentimental? Nooo!
SS: What might you do once you finally stops breaking world records?
SE: ‘One of the things I really do enjoy about running is inspiring other people. If you’ve got an idea, or you have an ambition then just go for it. Don’t let people put you off.
A lady recently emailed me recently 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 embodies his book’s words of ‘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.