This week sees an official attempt on the world record for running a half marathon carrying a 40lb pack. The attempt is being made by one of my clients, Lee Riley, who is a Personal Trainer and former Royal Marine. However this is just a stepping stone on the way to Lee’s real goal, to break the official world record for running a marathon whilst carrying a 40lb pack, which we hope will occur at this year’s London Marathon.
When Lee first approached me with his intention, and request for assistance, in October 2010, I was flattered, but also a little nervous. True I was a runner, with almost 22 years experience behind me, I had run the distance back in 2003 and had athletic coaching qualifications alongside my Personal Trainer qualifications, but I’d never run carrying anything approaching that kind of weight. In fact I’d never run with anything other than a top and a change of clothes on my back previously. Still I believed it was all down to logical thinking, flexibility and planning, so I had no hesitation in taking on Lee and his ambition. I did have one restriction, due to the nature of his work Lee was only able to commit to 3 runs a week.
The official marathon record currently stands to Paddy Doyle, who achieved 4 hours 42 mins and 44 secs in the 1991 London Marathon. Lee doesn’t just want to beat that, he wants to run sub 4 hours. Now anyone who has run a marathon before will know what a feat to run sub 4 hours is, but to run that with a 40lb pack is phenomenal. Adding to all the excitement is that Lee is not alone in this quest. Apparently two other runners are attempting the same feat and so it is possible that all of them will beat the existing record but two will be disappointed. But that’s a few weeks away yet, and we still have some hard work to do before that attempt.
As you’d expect from a Personal Trainer and former Marine, Lee is fit and strong. The strength side of it meant that I had no concerns about his ability to carry the pack over the distance, particularly as Lee had already completed an 150 mile run over 5 days, carrying a 30lb pack. However, in order to achieve his goal Lee would need to run at a faster pace continuously for the 26.2 miles, an altogether different challenge. Lee had previously done a few runs with my running group and whilst he was fit and fast, he struggled a little on the longer speed endurance reps, so my first task was to set Lee some challenging long repetitions at a fast pace. This would be both physically and mentally challenging, requiring Lee to run hard for 30 minutes during a 55 minute run. However, I knew Lee was up to the task as he’d never dropped out of my sessions, even when he was hanging on, and I knew that this would build up his confidence for what was to come. As Lee became fitter I increased these runs so that he was running hard for 45 minutes worth of repetitions. I also started incorporating long runs carrying the pack, gradually increasing the length so that we were almost covering the length of time we anticipated Lee would be running on the big day.
As a gauge of his fitness, and to test out his ability to race with the pack, I also incorporated some races. The first of these was the Cheddleton 10k on 27 November. My target for Lee was to run sub 50 min. On a difficult course on a very cold day, Lee excelled to finish in 46 min 42 sec. Two weeks later Lee was in action again, on another tough course in cold conditions, he completed the Stockport 10 miles in 73 min 10 sec an unofficial world best for carrying the 40lb pack. The next challenge was on 23 January, The Helsby Half Marathon. This gave us a few weeks to build up some mileage. The official World Record for running the half marathon with a 40lb pack is listed as 1hr 43 min 42 sec by William Hugh MacLennan, achieved at the Redcar Half Marathon on 25 March 2001. When Lee ran at Helsby he set a new unofficial record, official records need to be overseen by Guinness, of 1hr 41 min 08 sec. Now he goes for the official record, with Guinness present, at Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Lee’s training has now switched into full marathon mode, because we’ve lined up a number of races carrying the pack and to ensure he can cover more distance in his tight schedule we’ve dispensed with the pack in training. Lee’s ultimate goal is still the sub 4 hr marathon, interestingly the official world record for running the marathon with only a 20lb pack is 3 hr 49 min 14 sec, now to beat that time carrying 40lb would be something. I should also point out that Lee isn’t just aiming to break the world record, he’s also aiming to raise money for ABF, the Soldier's Charity. He’s already raised over £1,400 for this cause, if anybody would like to donate anything to that cause please get in touch.
Not to get ahead of ourselves here but knowing Lee, after the marathon, he’ll be looking for his next challenge. I notice that another friend of mine, Paul Simon the Salford and former Shaftesbury Barnet runner, currently holds the record for the fastest marathon dressed as Santa Claus, at 2 hr 55 min 50 sec. I know Lee already has a Santa suit so watch out Paul!
Finally, just so it’s not all about Lee and for those who have been following the blog since it’s inception. I have been considering whether I should enter the BMAF Cross Country Champs in my current unfit state. I made the decision to give it a miss when I realised there would not be a Herne Hill team present. Then, this weekend, my partner reminded me of some of the things I tell my clients, specifically that racing will bring me on both physically and mentally, helping me towards later success when I am fit, and also that if I didn’t race I’d end up having to go shopping. Shopping, not being one of my favourite pastimes, but the experience further enhanced by the addition of the potential future mother-in-law, who just happens to be down that weekend. With this important information to mind, I quickly printed off an entry form and got it in the post before the closing date.
Good luck Lee.