Two runners are closing in on the finish line of an epic marathon record-breaking challenge.
Fay Cunningham and Emma Petrie, who lived in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, today ran their 98th consecutive daily 26.2-mile marathon.
Two days ago, the couple passed the previous official Guinness World Record for the most consecutive days to run a marathon distance.
In 2020, American high school teacher and professional runner Alyssa Clark clocked 105 daily marathons. The title was previously held by UK runner Alice Birch with 60 marathons.
Guinness World Records list the men’s record as 59 days by Italian Enzo Caporaso, although a Spanish runner, Ricardo Abad, claims to have run more than 600 consecutive marathons.
However, Fay, 36, and Emma, 26, have not stopped running. Their goal is 106 marathons, which they will finish on June 4.
Fay explains: “Originally, we set out to run 100 marathons, with the aim of the 100th being the Edinburgh marathon this weekend.
“But in April, we received the news that two other women had recorded potentially new records that would exceed our 100 marathons target.”
First, British runner Kate Jayden announced a new unofficial record of 101 marathons in 101 days. Then, South African runner Jacky Hunt-Broersma, who lost her lower left leg to cancer in 2001, ran 104 marathons in 104 days.
Fay adds: “We decided we would just keep going to reach 106 marathon. However, since then we have heard that both women ran some of their marathons on a treadmill and according to Guinness World Records, the marathons must all be done outside to count.
“So, we believe that neither of these records will be verified. That means we have recorded a world record already with our 96 marathons but just to be sure we’re continuing to 106.”
98 daily marathons and still counting
Fay and Emma, who run a personal training business Match My Workout together, make the feat sound easy. However, so far, they have run 2567 miles, which is almost five times the distance from Aberdeen to London.
In the early days, both suffered some injuries. Emma had blistered feet and swollen feet, while Fay’s leg muscles and knee become painful.
Fay says: “I never believed I would not carry on but the leg pain was a worry in the first week. I hoped it wouldn’t get any worse and actually, it didn’t. Massage and general recovery really helped.
"Then, from about day 15, I have felt pretty good every day. It’s crazy how the body seems to adjust to doing the same thing day after day.”
Emma confessed she was less confident about the record-breaking challenge, although she reveals she was surprised by how well it has gone.
She says: “It has been really good and different to what I had expected. I was worried about getting injured and in the early days my feet were sore and that’s when doubts crept in. But that problem went away and it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be.”
Marathon support for marathons record
Both runners are grateful for the support of friends and also strangers who have supported them through the daily marathons.
Emma says: “It has been awesome to have so many people involved. Meeting and running with new people and also our friends has helped the days to pass. We’ve run so many miles with people.
“I think that having so much support around us and from people who believe in you has really helped me to believe in myself.”
Fay adds: “There were only about five days when we didn’t run with someone else. It has been unexpected highlight of the marathons record to run and get to know so many people.”
They also believe that pacing has been key to their success so far. Fay says: “We ran each marathon at a conservative pace, finishing between five hours and five-and-a-half hours each day.
“We varied where and when we ran as well, often to take into account the weather. There has been a lot of wind to deal with, as well as rain and even snow.
“Although almost all of the marathons were run quite close to our home because it meant we didn’t need to go far to start our recovery routine.”
A focus on a daily recovery has helped their progress. Fay says: “We planned to take time away from our work as much as possible so that we could simply run and recover every day.
“We have still been offering support to some of our clients who are aiming for the half and full marathon in Edinburgh, but we made the decision that if we were going to achieve the record we would need to run and recover well each day.
“Good recovery has proved to be very important. We go straight from each marathon to an ice bath for two minutes. Then we either head to our chiropractor or massage therapist, who have both helped massively with the physical recovery each day.
“We also make sure we refuel with plenty of calories and good food. We needed to eat an extra 4000 calories each day although I don’t think we have quite managed that. It’s a lot of extra food to consume and we have both inevitably lost weight – about 5kgs.
“Plus we sleep a lot. We are in bed by 9.30pm and not up until 7am. The recovery has been a major reason why we have managed to keep going and mainly pain-free.”
Runners: we'll finish at 106 marathons
After the 100th marathon as part of the Edinburgh Marathon on Sunday, the couple will keep going. They plan to finish the 106th marathon on Saturday June 4.
Emma says: “The whole experience so far has been amazing but I am looking forward to being able to stop. It will be great to have a rest.”
Fay adds: “It was such an enjoyable thing to do. Afterwards, it will feel very strange not to be running a marathon every day but it will also be a relief.
“We have spent so much time focused on one thing and making sure we are eating enough and getting enough rest. We are tired although out bodies feel fine.
“I am looking forward to getting back to running just because I fancy going out for a run - and whatever distance but not another marathon for a while.”
The runners will need to wait for official verification from Guinness World Records, although they are confident they have surpassed all other records and record attempts.
Marathon runners in charity boost
The marathons challenge gave Fay and Emma the opportunity to raise funds for two charities close to their hearts, The Motor Neurone Disease Association and Macmillan Cancer Support. Fay’s dad passed away with motor neurone disease just before the challenge, while Emma lost her mum to cancer two years ago.
Fay says: “Motor neurone is a debilitating disease that stops you doing lots of things and my dad was a big inspiration to me through my life and encouraged me to do sport. He got me into running and I thought that while I still can run, I want to a challenge.”
Emma adds: “My mum obviously had her ability to be active taken away from her. Her memory is a driving force for me.
“Fay and I decided we wanted to test ourselves and push our limits, while also raising money for charity.”
So far their fund raiser has collected almost £21,000.
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Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.