She had to ask, didn’t she? That one simple question that was now irrevocably carved into my consciousness, and would stay that way for the next 12 hours. It was 7:58am on Saturday 28 November and I was standing motionless on a Nordic Track treadmill, locked alone with the manager in the store window of LuluLemon on Kings Road. November is synonymous with male cancer awareness campaigns, and we wanted to do something different that would resonate with the people of London.
It wasn’t enough to simply stick a metaphorical mannequin in the shop window. By trying to run for 12 hours, I was hoping to capture the imagination of anyone and everyone who happened to pay enough attention.
In order to help achieve this, we left a handful of pens outside for passers by to share their thoughts, comments, well-wishes or loved ones’ names on the glass. It was almost time to move, and I watched with trepidation as each second passed, collapsing the void between the present and my intended 8am start time. “What is it you love about running so far?”
We were being pretty (extremely) unofficial with our organisation. The machine had been calibrated a few weeks in advance and was subject to a series of training runs in the interim. We had no one writing down distances for each split and other than a one-photo-a-minute time lapse, and a truly graffitied window display, there is little proof it happened at all. This, of course, hampered our chances of entering it into the record books, even as an unofficial one. The truth of the matter was, I don’t think we ever really expected it to work out the way it did.
As the belt began to turn, I took a glancing look at the numbers scribbled on my arm: ‘6 hours – 50 miles’. The wincing thoughts of pain manifested themselves into a deep breath, a steely gaze of concentration and the briefest of smiles. 8.3mph – 7min 13secs per mile for 50 miles. Writing it on my arm had been easy; etching it into the sands of time was going to be tough.
I settled into my pace oblivious to the steadily rising temperatures of what was now my glass enclosure. In an act of revenge for having banished the everyday squad of mannequins to the storeroom, they had neglected to inform me that heat would now be blasting down from the ceiling. When you’re attempting to dovetail 3hrs 7mins treadmill marathons this is probably less than ideal.
I hadn’t accounted for any bathroom breaks either, so sweating profusely was going to be a problem. The solution was simple: LuluLemon now became the only store on King’s Road with its air conditioning pumping at full blast at the end of a cold November. They didn’t sell much that day, I’m told!
I went through 50 miles in 6hrs 5mins, and decided to slow for a short moment to catch my breath and compose myself after having run through a series of painful stitches. These few seconds of reflection changed my perspective on the whole run. The world record stood at 92.07 miles and it had been hard to not at least dream that the sum of all this pain would be close, if not higher than this number. But as I watched person after person scribble loved ones names and messages of support onto the glass, I seemed to forget about all the laws that govern the world of running. Whether they owned trainers or not made no difference – London was unanimous with its love. We had hoped to inspire people’s imaginations and, in return, they had shown us their hearts.
If at this point you’re still wondering why I love running, it’s simple: this is how I talk to the world. But this had been the first time that we’d given it the means to really communicate back and I was astonished.
Passing 92.07 miles with 11hrs 45mins on the clock, I slowed the treadmill to a brisk but incredibly painful hike. When the clock struck 12 this ‘Prince Charming’ had run 93.47 miles and my fragile feet felt like glass slippers.
All in all, I’ll happily concede that this can’t go down in the history books, even as an unofficial world record. I’ve been thinking about this a lot and, after everything I went through on that Saturday, the acronym and numbers that I want following my name aren’t ‘WR- 93.47 in 12 hours’ but instead ‘CNCR15 £5’. Please text this to 70070 to help my on going efforts with raising funds for Run 4 Cancer.
Watch the time lapse of my world record here.