Last autumn I had the privilege to meet Eddie Izzard at the Labour Party Conference. I normally get really shy around celebrities, but I got chatting to his assistant at a party and plucked up the courage to ask her for an introduction. I didn't speak to him for long as I was a bit starstruck, plus he had squillions of other people clamouring all over him, but I did manage to give him a big handshake to congratulate him on managing to run a mind-blowing 43 marathons in just 51 days to raise money for Sport Relief that summer.
He was extremely modest about his accomplishment, but having now watched two episodes of Marathon Man, which documents Eddie's mammoth challenge, I must admit I am completely blown away by his stamina, grit and determination. I'm by no means an athlete so I can't speak from experience (although I did manage a TWELVE MINUTE run recently), but from those crazy individuals I know who have run marathons, the last thing they'd want to do is to run another one the day after that, and the day after, and the day after. And so on.
But Eddie manages to keep going. And the weird thing is, that he NEVER seems to be out of breath. After my 12-minute run I was (shamefully) gasping and could barely speak, yet Eddie seems to finish each of his marathons with no panting and can quite easily manage a conversation, seemingly without any need for recovery time. Fair enough if you're a professional athlete, but the whole premise of this challenge is that Eddie had never run more than 5 miles before.
It seems to me that, although Eddie is certainly not a natural athlete, he appears to possess a sort of super-human natural fitness that some professional sports competitors could only fantasise about. In the most recent episode (2 of 3), Eddie's support crew got a bit concerned about his diet as he didn't seem to be eating the right sort of food for the amount of calories he was burning off. A dietitian was drafted in, who convinced Eddie to consume a mountain of potatoes each night. But this regime only lasted one day before he was back on the ice creams, Calippos, coffee, pints and vodka shots along the way.
The programme is really inspiring, and I think my favourite parts of the documentary are when local people run or cycle alongside Eddie to encourage him to keep going. In Merseyside two young lads cycled the furthest they'd ever been, and one of the boys described it as the best day of his life (the crew called their mums to get their permission, then responsibly bought them cycle helmets and high visibility vests, which got my seal of approval. I trust they gave them a lift back home, too....).
If you haven't watched the programme I'd really urge you to do so. The first two episodes are on iPlayer, David Tennant is the narrator, and the final one is broadcast this Thursday at 10.30pm on BBC3 (bad scheduling in my opinion). Oh, and you can donate to Sport Relief here.
Image from Sport Relief.