This is what 1,000 miles worth of medals looks like. The collection belongs to Medal Watch and Loveto.Run website owner Sarah Matthews who completed her epic 1,000 race mile challenge on the 18th September at English Half Marathon. The challenge, completed three months early, was taken in order to raise money for the MS Society.
Why did you start the challenge?
I was lucky enough to get a charity place for London Marathon to run for MS. My illness makes me quite isolated and so I don’t have that big of a social network to ask for donations. I knew I needed to do something big in order to ask people to donate and this is what I came up with. Everyone told me it was a crazy idea and even I wasn’t fully convinced that I would manage it so to finish 3 months early seems pretty amazing to me.
The biggest challenge was actually finding new challenges. Last year I did a lot of back to back race training in to prepare for the Dopey challenge in January (a 5k, 10k, half and then marathon over four days) and it was tough but once it was over I needed something more. I did a 5k, 10k, and half in two days in February then four marathons and a 47 mile ultra in just over 30 days in April. By the time I got to the Tour of Merseyside (52 miles over 6 races in 7 days) in July it didn’t seem enough so I added a marathon to the front, a 5k on the day off, a parkrun before the final tour race and a 10k to finish it off. I ended up doing 90.7 miles over 10 races in 9 days. I ended the 1,000 race miles with a two marathon in three day challenge followed straight after by the final half marathon.
What was the most difficult race for you?
Well each of the marathons and ultras were tough in their own way but I have to say that the hardest race I did was the Liverpool to Manchester Ultra. I can honestly say that both me and my fellow runner Darren would not have completed the race if we hadn’t had each other. Broken feet, Storm Katie, and after completing the final 6 miles wrapped in a silver foil blanket I thought I was never going to be warm again. Sheer will and stubbornness got us both across the finish line and the journey to get there will bond us for life.
And what was your favourite?
This might sound crazy but I really loved Foxton 24, running 24 hours on a track. I swore no more endurance events after this year but it’s the one I would love to go back to. It’s probably one of the few times I’ve been competitive too, using strategy to pace myself to get to second position. I ended up completing 72 miles and came second lady to the amazing Jane Lightfoot and our combined effort got us first team place for Warrington Road Runners too. There wasn’t even a medal but I still loved it and somewhere in the back of my head there’s a goal of going back to do 100 miles there in a few years.
That’s like asking me to pick between my children, I love them all for different reasons. Every medal has its own story. Obviously I love the Disney race medals and the Rock n Roll medals are amazing however the medal that has got the most attention is actually the SVN Roald Dahl challenge (and it weighs the most!). Runfest Wales 10k, Milton Keynes marathon and the Isle of Man marathon might be some of the smaller medals but they’re the races I felt I ran best so they’re up there with my favourites but I’ll always love the extra Orlando New Year Run medal a little more than the others I think. I got it for coming second in my age category, an event I don’t think will ever happen again (I’m still a little gutted that I didn’t stay for the second race awards because I came second in that one too and would have got another medal).
How are the legs?
I’ve actually been pretty lucky and stayed almost injury free for the entire challenge. My left IT band has been giving me issues from the first marathon in January but I’ve managed to keep it going with a lot of Pilates and stretching. I can’t emphasise enough how important stretching before a race is if you want to be able to keep running after. Now that the challenge is over my leg has had enough and it pretty just gave in during Disneyland Paris half so I’m taking a month off now to rest it.
So what’s next?
Well I still have another 9 marathons entered for the year but I will most likely only run 8 because I’m skipping Chester Marathon. Then it’s back to 5k’s to try and get faster again. Maybe a few races a month so that the husband no longer feels like a divorcee.
What have you learnt from it all?
That miles change you. I have this theory that to race fast you mostly run with your body and the fight with your head is to stay focused and on track but to race so that you can race again and again and again straight after you have to have some serious talks with your head. It’s very much a mind game. Even just allowing yourself the freedom to race slow is a battle in itself because you have to stop caring about time and speed and just focus on the finish line. Each race becomes a journey and often an adventure where you meet the most amazing people and share some unforgettable experiences. Sometimes you’ll see the fast runners streaming past looking all pained and sweaty and you’ll want to tell them they don’t know the fun they are missing at the party at the back. I think everyone should try it sometime.
1000 miles by numbers:
262 Days to complete the challenge
13 Half Marathons
9 Fun Runs
5 Different countries
4 Pairs of trainers worn out
3 24 Hour Solo events
If you have a spare few quid, you can still donate and help Sarah reach for target for MS at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/SMMSLondon or by texting SMMS80 followed by your donation amount to 70070.