Rob Young is an amazing person. One morning he got up early and ran a marathon before work. It was the first marathon he had ever run but wouldn't be the last. Not by any stretch! Rob went on to run 370 marathons in a year, setting a new world record.
I was privileged to run with Rob (for a short distance. Very short!) then sit-down and hear his stories of determination, drive, adventures and a fair few miles.
Here is my article published in Riddle magazine of my meeting with the inspirational, motivating, and throughly nice chap, Rob Young, now justly know as the Marathon Man!
Anyone Can be Fit, But it’s Hard to be Hard
Riddle catches up with Rob Young, the Marathon Man, as he chats about his recording breaking feats
When I was young, the school playground was gushing with the gruesome details of Dustin Hoffman as Marathon Man and his eye watering sans anesthetic dental encounters. Rob Young has now stepped into the Marathon Man’s shoes, taking over this heroic monica and the tales of his exploits that are passing to a new generation of school playgrounds are no less incredible – and no less painful!
Rob’s list of athletic accomplishments is genuinely staggering and it’s barely believable that it all kicked off less than a couple of years ago. Rob had enjoyed sports before. While serving five years in the British Army, Royal Corps of Signals he represented Great Britain in various ‘athlons – junior level biathlon and duathlon then senior triathlon. But he’d given it all up to settle down as a family man with a secure managerial job.
That all changed the morning after watching the London Marathon, 2014. Moved by the fundraising stories and for a 20p bet with his partner, Joanna, that he wouldn’t, Rob got out of bed early the next day and ran his own marathon around Richmond Park before work. Not content with this, incredibly his first ever marathon, he decided to run one everyday for a year.
Like a snowball, once he’d started he couldn’t stop. He packed in his secure job and dedicated his time and considerable energies into devouring miles, rewriting the running rule books, and common sense. Rob beat the world record for the most marathons in a year with an astounding 370 in 365 days. What would any normal human being do after such an accomplishment? Rest?
Rob didn’t stop. He kept getting up and running. Marathons became ultra marathons and the year became 420 days (An Ultra Marathon can be anything over the standard 26 miles 385yards, (42.195kilometers). It’s not unusual for ultra marathons to be 50 or 100 miles or more and they are usually in the most inhospitable landscapes the organizers can find. Rob completed an inconceivable total of 420 marathons and ultras in 420 days. That’s over 12,000 miles. A distance equivalent to 476 marathons, run in 14 months. Just think about that for a minute. That’s halfway around the world! And the closest he got to training for all this was watching the London Marathon on TV the day before!
And Rob’s still running now, although he does take the occasional day off. I was fortunate enough to catch up with him (just!) as he ran around the UK for the leisurely named ‘Walk for Peace’. I expected to see a convoy of support vehicles emblazoned with sponsors logos and flashing lights with an entourage of nutritionists and masseurs ready to leap out and assist every need of the elite athlete racing ahead in a beam of spotlights. What came round the corner towards me was a lone figure in a pair of faded stars and stripes shorts, some (very) well worn trainers and a big grin on his face. Rob breezed down the side of the dual-carriageway in the twilight as cars and trucks thundered passed oblivious of who they were passing.
‘I feel good, but a little tired’
There was the understatement of the year. Running along side Rob I quickly realised that “How are you?’ was about the only question I was going to be able to ask. I had naively, and rather optimistically, thought that all those miles would have slowed him down a little but there was no luck there. Fortunately though, as I began to think his next heroic act would be picking me up off the floor, we reached the lay-by where I’d left my car. I gasped some excuse about parking and left to watch him to complete the days run from a comfy seat with four wheels. He raced on, slicing through his surroundings seemingly as oblivious to it and the traffic as it was to him.
Rob was running Walk for Piece with another extreme runner, Adam Holland. Raising awareness and funds to help the Aegis Trust establish a school in Northern Kenya, the trust is bringing young people together and uniting communities in a region where ethnic violence has left hundreds of people dead and displaced. Rob and Adam carried an Olympic style torch and relayed, alternating running with cycling a bike carrying their woefully minimal kit.
As the light quickly faded at the day’s end we tried to meet up with Adam. Rob attempting to quickly describe anonymous areas of Sheffield on an aged mobile phone with a whisker of power. In search of landmarks, I suggested we went to a pub to find some much needed refreshment and a plug.
Settled with a pint (of coke for Rob) I was struck again by how Rob effortlessly slipped into his surroundings and seemed so at ease. Here was someone who had made his legs take his body unimaginable distances but he wasn’t Mo Farah or Usain Bolt. He was just a chap sat in a pub with a big grin and eyes so full of endorphins they were like fireworks, who had just run down the side of a dual-carriageway after many hundreds of miles to get here.
Where were the real fireworks and the cheering crowds?
Rob didn’t seem to notice, or care. With the endorphins that must have been coursing through his every fiber he must have been the most alive person within a thousand mile radius and he enthusiastically shared a slightly erratic stream of stories. Running marathon distances just to get to marathon start lines, once waking on a cliff edge after taking a ‘short cut’ to a race the evening before.
As part of his record breaking year, Rob was the first European to win the Race Across USA, winning by a colossal 30 hours, even beating the race organizers! On the last day he ran so fast he had to wait at the end for them to arrive and set up the finish line so he could officially cross it!
For a disconcerting few minutes the animated sparkle in his piercing eyes focused on me and he explained his master plan that could enable anyone to run a marathon run everyday for a month. To start, he explained, all you have to do is run at half your usual marathon pace (like I had a usual marathon pace!). I had flashbacks to Dustin Hoffman fixed under the dentists spot light. Rob carried on enthusiastically with an explanation about it taking several weeks for the body to adjust then another week for the head to comprehend what was happening to the body. Thankfully my head had already decided the only place my body was going back to the bar.
Hoping for some easy top tips, I pressed Rob for his kit and nutrition secrets but all I got was a humble shrug and a big smile. The shoes he had on were a beaten up pair of Brooks running trainers. They had done over a 1,000 miles and, although maybe not visibly, Rob assured me they were ‘still holding up’. He tried to get a good breakfast if he was staying at a friends and treated himself to a burger if he was carrying some cash, otherwise he just ate what he had to hand.
Robs superhuman determination and Everest high pain threshold have powered his legs and body further than most of us travel in a car. His mental strength and resilience was initially forged through some horrific times in his childhood. Rob is quite open about his experiences and the abuse he suffered from his father, hoping to raise awareness and encourage others to not feel ashamed of what may have happened to them. Sponsorship raised over the many miles is donated to children’s charities the NSPCC and Dreams Come True.
I read the words, ‘Anyone can be fit, but its hard to be hard’ in Richard Askwith’s fascinating book, Feet in the Clouds, in which he opens a window onto the largely unknown and secluded world of fell running. The line has often coursed through my mind as I floundered on a hill willing myself on in the footsteps of greater feet than mine. Askwith tells tales of amazing determination and extraordinary people who take running to the limit. Rob Young got up one morning, ran to the limit and kept going. He is one of the most remarkable and inspirational people, and one of the nicest chaps I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. It was truly an honor to run with him, if only for a mile.
For more information about Rob's latest adventures heres his website: marathonmanuk.co.uk
Rob has written a book about his record breaking year. Sadly we didn't design the cover, but we do like it and its a really good read. Its so much more than a book about running, which is amazing because there is lot of running!