New World Record for the most marathons run in a year!
“I really don’t like running much” said Englishman Traviss Willcox. It sounds very odd coming from someone who, in 2011, completed 114 officially sanctioned marathons. Yes, that’s right, 114. Just the month of December was busy for someone not liking running much too; 19 in 31 days on two different continents.
Traviss is the first to admit he’s not likely to beat the Kenyans any time soon. But if you asked the elite Kenyans to run 100 marathons in a year you might not seem them in a rush to tie their laces up and get cracking either.
What’s more amazing is that Traviss, in his mid-forties, still worked his full-time job as webmaster for Golf Today throughout the year as he completed his 114 marathons. And another amazing tidbit is that, in total, Traviss has only completed 150 marathons at this point.
Which, of course, is way more than most of the world. But in the world of 100 Marathon clubs he would still be considered a relative newcomer. In fact, he said that just a few years ago he couldn’t even run 100 yards. But he’s a newcomer who simply gets on with it. No fuss; has his sights set on specific goals and gets on with it.
In 2007, as with many others who enter their forties, he felt he was getting out of shape and had to do something about it. His girlfriend Rachel started running 5 Km races and was keen to run the London marathon. Naturally she would look to Traviss as her training partner and he said “yes”. To say he got the bug would be an understatement of massive proportions. Traviss ran his first race – the 5 Km Pants in Park in 2009. He said “I wasn’t last but it was an awful struggle, but I finished and rewarded myself with a huge Burger King meal.”
The trajectory is familiar. Their distances increased from 5 Km to 10 Km …10 miles … Half marathon … and then the full marathon. He and Rachel joined the Maidstone Harriers, a British running club, and the social dimension of distance running became more and more prevalent in their lives. They also met members of the UK 100 Marathon Club and, as stunned as he was that people could run 100 or more marathons, he decided that that was something he could try and do. So with determination, resolve, patience and some incredible planning he set about the goal of completing 50 marathons, with his first marathon – the Thunder Road Marathon – successfully being completed in 2009. By the time ‘50’ came around, the 100 marathon mark seemed quite doable and was clearly in his sights.
In a recent interview with Golf Today Traviss commented on his first marathon: “About 50 yards in, I felt “something” ping in my left knee. By about 8 miles I was falling back rapidly, by 14 I was hobbling and having to walk. By 17 it was screaming when I ran so was just shuffling and by mile 25 I could barely move. But at the back of a marathon there is a great sense of camaraderie, no one is having a good day back there, and you kept getting jollied along by other runners, and you jollied them along and passersby would give you some encouragement and so on. If I had been sensible I would have quit, I finished dead last with motorcycle outriders for company 2 minutes under the time limit. I took 15 minutes to creep about 400 metres from the finish line to the car, my knee really was screaming.
Fast forward, but not too far, into 2011. In addition to the World Record for most marathons in a year, Traviss also notched up the following achievements:
Most marathon events completed in a 365 day period: 115 (World Record)
Fastest to first 100 marathon completions: 688 days (World Record)
Fastest to first 100 different marathon events: 720 days (World Record)
Fastest completion of 100 marathon events: 284 Days (World Record)
Fastest completion of 50 marathon events: 114 Days (World Record)
Most UK & Ireland marathon events in a calendar year: 82 (British Record)
Of course it wasn’t all run, run, run. He and Rachel managed to squeeze in a two-week holiday to New Zealand and Tahiti in August, which no doubt his body was grateful for. But apart from that break, Traviss averaged more than two marathons every week.
The body, as we all know, needs to be fuelled, and constantly, in order to run the long distances. Traviss is no poster boy for sports nutrition, however, but it doesn’t seem to matter that he’s focused mainly on McDonald’s, Burger King, Dominos Pizza, Cheesecake and protein for his energy. Given the calories expended in 2011, he’s been able to eat pretty much whatever he wants.
Injuries? You bet. Over the year he had problems with his ankles, blisters and shin pain, as well as various knee, quads, calves, and hamstring issues. As he commented when interviewed “My criteria for doing a marathon wasn’t “could I run to the finish”, it was “could I walk to the start”. In fact Traviss said he had doubts about whether he could do what he set out to do pretty much every time he lined up for a race. At times he would run 500 yards and think there is no way he can complete the distance. But he kept on; that resilience and tenacity we know of well in distance runners, and eventually the finish line would be crossed.
And so in a 12-month period Traviss ran 99 marathons and 15 ultra-marathons. He ran multi-day marathon challenges on six occasions. He ran 82 races in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 6 in Europe and 26 in the United States. And all the while, he had a full-time job.
Traviss has been able to complete in one year what most people, including most runners, would consider to be close to impossible. More people have climbed Mount Everest than run 100 marathons. Traviss has done that and then some. In one year. It’s a remarkable feat, or feet, blistered, but it truly attests to the fact that anything is possible.
Traviss is a Messenger for sure. We wish Traviss the best of the best for 2012, and hope he can enjoy his running, and enjoy reflecting upon his incredible accomplishments of 2011.
Malcolm Anderson, January 2012
For more on runners who have completed 100 marathons visit this runplaces bookstore and review ‘The Messengers’.