Friday, 5 March 2010

Eddie Izzard - Marathon Man

“We are different, we are the same, we are United Kingdom, we are Africa. We are humanity!” Eddie Izzard

With BBC Three currently airing their three part documentary following comedian Eddie Izzard on his 43-marathons in 51-days for Sports Relief, here’s the article I wrote having caught up (but only just) with him as he ran through Oswestry and Chirk (at the time aiming to complete a mere 30marathons). Have a read then please donate to his challenge at

WHEN Sir Ranulph Fiennes announced he would attempt seven marathons in seven days, I remember being impressed though not exactly shocked, but when comedian Eddie Izzard announced he was to run 30 marathons in 30 days however, I was probably not the only person waiting for the punchline.

Amazingly though, last week the world famous comedian, who most recently starred in the blockbuster Valkyrie alongside Tom Cruise, arrived in Oswestry on the 13th day of his incredible challenge, having run at least a marathon distance every day and hitting the 30- mile marker on a several occasions. Having caught up with Eddie on the outskirts of Chirk, we joined him as he crossed the border into Wales and caught up on his challenge so far.

“OH WOW, that’s right, he did, didn’t he!” says Eddie, genuinely startled, as I mention Fiennes’ seven marathons in seven days, perhaps for a brief moment realising the scale of what he himself has achieved already, nearing the end of his 13th back-to-back 30-mile day.

OK, admittedly Fiennes’ marathons came just three months after a heart bypass, but let’s be honest, the world’s greatest living explorer is just the kind of person you would pick for such a feat of endurance. If you sat down with a piece of paper and drew up a challenge more than three times as long, I’m not sure too many people would have Eddie Izzard at the top of their list of potentials.

But that, he explains, is the point of the challenge: “I really do believe this is something we all have in us and that it is in our genes to be able to do this kind of thing. “For centuries, people have run like this for days, hunting food and tracking down their prey, and in other parts of the world people still do and have retained that ability.

“Even here though, I believe that if say another world war broke out tomorrow and we were forced to run, either for our survival or to fight, I feel we would all find the capacity.”
In all Eddie will cover 1,000 miles in seven weeks, raising money and awareness for Sports Relief. Not bad after just four weeks’ training!

“Sport Relief asked me if I would like to do a sporting challenge. I had always wanted to do a big physical running challenge and this seemed a great way to do it and also raise money to help Africa and the poorest countries in the world as well as projects that Sport Relief fund in the UK.
“I told them I wanted to try to run around the whole of the UK. London to Cardiff to Belfast to Edinburgh and back to London.
“They said ‘Great. You’re nuts’. They said ‘How far is this?’ I said 1,100 miles. I will try to run 30 miles a day for six days a week. It will probably take seven weeks.
They said ‘Right, anything else?’ Yes, I'm leaving in five weeks!”

As we headed for the Welsh border at Chirk, Eddie prepared to change from the English flag he had been carrying to his Welsh one, a symbolic gesture at the heart of his chosen route.
“It started as a vague idea, but has become something of a mantra and is the reason I’m not just carrying the Union Jack,” he explains. “I tell people; we are different, we are the same, we are United Kingdom, we are Africa, we are humanity.

“I’ve been really enjoying this part of the run, you’ve got great history - being the place where Oswald was killed in battle - the scenery is beautiful and I’ve been able to watch the butterflies and the bees as a I go by, which takes my mind off running, but that’s part of it too. I could be running here, or in Africa, or in Yemen - where I was born - and still find that beauty, we’re all part of the same thing.”

As we left Eddie continuing on towards Wrexham, I couldn’t help wondering if he was right. Perhaps we really do all have, built into the genes of our ancestry, the capacity for such incredible feats of endurance. After less than a mile however my genes were telling me they would rather I went back to the office and donated online. You can do the same by visiting: or