Eugene ‘Oggie’ Winters is living proof that you can achieve amazing things in the running world, no matter when in life you start.
By the time he turned 60, back in May 2017, he had just completed a ‘300 marathons in 300 weeks’ challenge – a task that seems impossible for most of us. It actually only took him 270 weeks to complete all the marathons, putting him seven months ahead of his own schedule. He wanted to do this challenge for Action Mental Health Northern Ireland, to which he donated £1,000 of his own money for this great cause, something he says he was delighted to do.
He has also run marathons for other great charities. His first World Marathon Major was London in 2013, which he did for Cancer Research UK. Oggie’s 88-year-old partner Brian sponsored him £2,000 to do this event, as at the time Brian had just been diagnosed with bowel cancer and wanted to help this great cause.
Over the years, Oggie has also run for Mencap Northern Ireland, Autism NI, Marie Curie Hospice Belfast, Foyle Hospice, MS Society, Action Cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support, The Simon Community, Marie Curie, Southern Area Hospice Services, The Donkey Sanctuary and more. He says: “If you take on a challenge in the marathon game and you do it for a charity, it really helps you to finish your challenge, no matter how small the amount is. It really gives you something to focus on.”
But Oggie isn’t a lifelong marathon runner; he only took up the 26.2-mile challenge in his 50s. His first-ever marathon was the Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon in 2012, when he was 55. He also says this is still his favourite marathon, as it was his first city marathon: “I did find a 16-week training plan on Google for this marathon. I trained very hard for a sub-4. I did stick by it and I ended up with sub-3.52!”
Here he caught the running bug that set him on a journey that would see him take on more marathons than someone even half his age would struggle to keep up with. He is always setting another challenge for himself, such as aiming to run 100 marathons in a year, which he did in both 2017 and 2018.
In 2017, he hoped to complete as many marathons as possible in sub-4 hours, with the intention of working towards the world record for the oldest person over 60. He managed to complete 61 marathons in this sub-4 target time, but when he made the application he was turned down, as they do not accept age group categories for this record. However, it is still an incredible achievement, when many of us dream of doing just one marathon in that time.
Oggie’s main challenge now is to complete 500 marathons within 500 weeks from that first marathon in Belfast. So far he has completed 464 marathons in 356 weeks, and he is hoping to complete his 470th marathon back at the Belfast Marathon this year, marking seven years since he started marathon running.
After that first marathon in 2012, he went on to do two marathons that same year. In 2013, he did 12 marathons in total. And as it turns out, that was to be a quiet couple of years, with him now regularly clocking up a lot more every year since.
His marathon running has taken him all around the world. He’s now run all of the World Marathon Majors: London, Boston, New York, Berlin, Tokyo and Chicago. He’s run a marathon in Cape Town, and completed a 24-hour endurance event, achieving 100 miles. To reach this high number of marathons, he has put in the work entering back-to-back marathons, trebles and quads. He has twice done a 10-in-10 (10 marathons in 10 days), once in Ireland in 2014 and once in Kent at a Saxons, Vikings and Normans event. He also took part in Hell of the Hill, a UK endurance event running five tough marathons in five days, which he completed with walking poles due to an ankle injury. In Italy he completed eight marathons in eight days in 2015.
Oggie is a member of the UK’s 100 Marathon Club, as well as Marathon Club Ireland, Super Marathon Club Italy and the Global Marathon Challenge. He holds various accolades within these clubs too, for example he holds the ‘Quickest time to complete 400 marathons’ as a V60 Male in the 100 Marathon Club at 225 weeks 6 days. Out of his total marathons to date (464), 30% of them have been run in under four hours. He says: “When I get to the start line of any marathon, I always like to push my body to the limits throughout each marathon. Let it be a good race or bad race – every marathon is so different!”
Advice and motivation
Surely it must be hard to stay motivated when running so many different marathons? For Oggie, his motivation is to keep racking up those achievements. “I want to prove to people out there, and myself, that it is not impossible to start running marathons later in life. It’s good for the mind and the body. Before I started running my weight was 16 stone; it’s now down to 12 stone, which I feel good about.”
While there are clear physical and mental health benefits, running this many marathons does have an impact on the body, from time to time. Oggie says he, “tries to focus on the challenge and not the injuries. In other words, slow the pace”. Has he ever thought that his running days might have come to an end? “Many times I did think my running was over, but I always try to fight back. Sometimes I need to be very determined. Lots of people ask me when I am going to ease off and I tell them maybe when I get my challenge finished. But that’s been going on since I started running marathons! I always like to make a new challenge after I finish the old one!”
Having done so many marathons already, are there any left out there that Oggie would love to do? “Yes, the World Marathon Challenge. To run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days: Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America.”
And finally, what would be Oggie’s words of advice to those considering taking on the 26.2-mile challenge for the first time at any age? “My advice to runners out there who have never done a marathon before and would like to try one is please go for it! You will never forget it after crossing the finish line, just like the first one I did in Belfast in 2012 – it’s the one I will never forget.”