Running one marathon is enough of an achievement for many people, but for a select bunch it’s not quite enough. Meet the runners who haven’t just run one marathon, they’ve run over 100…
Introducing the 100 Marathon Club
For any first-timers currently working through a training plan for a spring marathon, the thought of getting round one 26.2-mile race probably seems like enough of an uphill battle. But if you look closely among the charity vests and club vests at any marathon-distance event, you’ll spot a good number of runners wearing the bright blue-and-yellow kit of the 100 Marathon Club. And there are guaranteed to be plenty more in the crowds aiming to join this elite – yet not elitist – group.
There are several 100 Marathon Clubs around the world, but the UK’s was the first and has been in existence for some time, although it was reconstituted in 2005 to gain UK Athletics affiliation.
Membership isn’t based on marathon times and members don’t have to run all the Marathon Majors – the club is simply open to anyone who has completed 100 qualifying marathons.
Most road races of 26.2 miles, trail races of at least 26 miles, and ultras over 27 miles count towards 100 Marathon Club membership, and there are no age limits. For example, Adam Holland became a member at just 23 years old in 2010. Whereas Malcolm Brookes achieved the 100-marathon milestone in 2009 at the age of 74. And more people are either end of the spectrum are joining every year.
Age is no barrier to beginning a journey towards 100 marathons either, as the records show that 100 Marathon Club member Rita Williams ran her first marathon at the age of 59 years and 117 days. Those who have run 50 marathons qualify for associate membership, but can only claim their club vest and medal once they hit the magic century.
One of the most inspiring things about the 100 Marathon Club is the number of ordinary amateur runners in clubs up and down the country who have qualified for membership. My own running club, Ealing Eagles, has its 100 Marathon Club legend in Piers Keenleyside, though to be honest, there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about Piers. Piers is famous for two things: first, running the London Marathon wearing a mankini (inexplicably, on more than one occasion) and second, for currently being the Ealing Eagles’ only 100 Marathon Club representative.
Piers ran his first marathon in New York in 1985 – taking advantage of the fact that his job with British Airways afforded him membership of British Airways AC and a free flight to join the marathon team in the Big Apple – and realised around 2011 that clocking up 100 marathons might be a realistic possibility.
“I noticed a few of the 100 Marathon Club vests around at races,” Piers explains. “And I thought it might be nice to join the club. I didn’t actually know how many I’d done at that point, so I had to count the marathon medals and certificates in my shoebox at home! It came to over 50, but checking the rules on the club website I had to knock off four or five as they didn’t qualify. I’d run over the marathon distance in a few ultras – even up to 87 miles on one occasion – but had pulled out before the finish, and the rules say you must finish the event.
“I turned 55 in 2012 and reasoned that if I could manage one marathon per month, I should be able to get to 100 by the time I turned 60. Surprisingly, I found doing one a month quite manageable and actually ended up reaching my 100th in May 2015. I’m now working towards getting to 200 and all being well would like to eventually reach 250. I did 23 marathons and ultras last year, but I think it was too many as I have picked up too many injuries. I’ll try to limit myself to around 16 per year in future.” Highlights of Piers’s journey to 100 marathons include a PB at the 1997 Potteries Marathon of 3:04:51; the Comrades Marathon in South Africa; bagging second place in the 50+ age category at the incredibly scenic Mauritius Marathon in 2015; and running Jersey’s Round the Rock ultra twice. Not to mention the mankini marathons in 2011, 2012 and 2013! And what does he find most inspiring about the 100 Marathon Club? “The fact that it is not a club just for elite runners, and the support 100 Club runners show to fellow runners and other club members.”
Although membership of the club is open to anyone who qualifies, there are inevitably some incredible stories among the members. Anyone who takes a passing interest in running news will no doubt have heard of Steve Edwards, who in October 2017 managed the incredible feat of not only running 800 marathons, but running them all in under 3 hours and 30 minutes, with the world’s fastest average finishing time, 3:18:12.
An incredible 325 of the 54-year-old amateur runner’s 800 marathons were sub-3:15. Steve’s next goal is to run 1,000 marathons – a feat achieved by fellow 100 Marathon Club member Brian Mills in 2014 – and he hopes to also break the average pace records for 900 and 1,000 marathons along the way.
With the huge rise in popularity of marathon running over recent years, and with more and more races springing up all over the country, it’s certain that more people will be aiming for membership of the 100 Marathon Club.
And the sheer number of events certainly makes it easier to find qualifying races – as does the increase in the number of multi-day events that allow runners to clock up several marathons over the course of a few days. There are now a handful of ‘10 in 10’ events in the UK, for example, including the Brathay 10 in 10, the Saxon Shore Seaside Series and the Great Barrow Challenge. There is also Enigma Running’s ‘Quadzilla’ event, a series of four marathons run over four days every February near Milton Keynes. These events may be pretty hardcore, but if you have the guts to complete a 10 in 10 challenge, you’re already 10% of the way to 100 Marathon Club membership!
If that’s not quite your style, there are marathon events practically every weekend of the year now, so with a bit of training and dedication it’s certainly possible to rack up an impressive number of races in a comparatively short amount of time.
Will you be next?
So, if you’re running your first marathon in 2019, you never know, it might turn out to be just the first step on your 100 Marathon Club journey. Many members talk of it being a slippery slope – once you’ve clocked up a few races, suddenly that magic number of 100 doesn’t seem so far away, and if you’re a member of a running club or a group of social runners, there’s bound to always be someone who’s training for something that sounds too tempting to miss out on.
The inspiring thing about the 100 Marathon Club is that there are no limits on age or pace, so as long as you’re a runner, you’ve got a chance of making it on to that elite list. Next time you’re running a race and you spot a blue-and-yellow vest, give that runner a thumbs-up – and perhaps it’ll inspire you to hit that magic number too!