Roger Biggs, Chairman of the 100 Marathon Club
What is the 100 Marathon Club?
The 100 Marathon Club, as its name suggests, is a running club exclusively for people who have run 100 or more marathons. It has been around for some time, but was reconstituted in 2005 to follow UK Athletics regulations. The British 100 Marathon Club (www.100marathonclub.org.uk) was the first in the world, swiftly followed by Germany (now the biggest in the world), America, Denmark, Belgium, Norway and others worldwide.
How do I join?
The Club allow people who have run 50 or more marathons to join as "wannabes", although until you reach 100 you can't wear club kit.
How do people manage 100 marathons?
It's a slippery slope – runners often try their first marathon, fit in another while they're still fit, and then as Roger Biggs, Chairman of the 100 Marathon Club says, "all of a sudden this magic figure of 100 comes along!"
The social element of the marathon world also feeds into its addictive nature – regular runners see the same faces each week, get dragged along to the next race and it snowballs from there. Roger says, “It's addictive. Put it this way - I've done over 40 marathons a year for the last six years without trying."
How would I train for that many marathons?
Roger advocates a relatively low mileage to avoid injury, an approach taken by lots of 100 Marathon Club members. For Roger, this approach seems to work – after 32 consecutive weeks' racing, he won his age category in his last marathon. Roger's routine generally involves two five mile runs during the week, plus a marathon at weekends - a weekly mileage of 35-40 miles.
Roger's top tip is to swap speedwork for cross-training, on an elliptical cross-trainer which mimics the motion of running without the impact. He says, "Every single step you run thuds through your body, so if you've got the opportunity to cross-train, do it."
What other challenges are out there?
The 100 Marathon Club have awarded a certificate to runners who have completed a marathon in 50 British counties. There's also a 50 states award in the USA. Incredibly, more people have been in space and climbed Everest than have managed this feat.
It's just as tempting to schedule marathons into holidays or trips – as well as the US, Roger counts the Everest and Antarctica marathons among his favourite racing experiences. He says, "I love the fact that I do a marathon and see the sights along the way, meet people and learn about the history of these places."
Meet two 100 Marathon Club runners
Shades Forum stalwart Shades has hundreds of marathons to her name. She ran her first marathon in 1995, hit the magic 100 mark in 2003, and has been dispensing advice and her own training schedules through her hugely popular forum thread, Shades Marathon Training since 2005.
grecian 2000 has notched up 110 marathons so far, and lists his favourite races on his runnersworld.co.uk profile as marathon, marathon and marathon again. All after saying "never again" in his first 26.2 miler.
How did you get started?
S: I watched the first ever London Marathon on TV, and couldn't believe ordinary people did that kind of thing. It went on my ‘wish list' of things to do and stayed there until 1995, when I finally ran the London Marathon. I only ever intended to do one marathon, but I enjoyed it too much!
G: I'd been in the crowd to support friends running the London Marathon. I got a taste for it then, and it was something I'd always wanted to do in my life.
How long had you been running before you started running marathons?
S: I had dabbled with running before, but not seriously - I spent more time partying! The year before my first marathon I started running more regularly.
G: I'd been running for about four years when I ran my first marathon. It was more difficult than I thought it would be, even though I'd trained well. By the last few miles I was swearing ‘never again', and it took me over a year to do my second marathon.
When did you start aiming for 100 marathons?
S: During my seventeenth marathon. I was chatting to two guys when they revealed that between them they'd run over 300 marathons. I was so cross to look like a wimp who'd only done 16 marathons, and that sowed the seed for getting up to 100.
G: I found my first few marathons tough, but my fourth was at Beachy Head and I suddenly realised that there was more to running than pounding the streets. I just wanted to go and do more and more.
How does it feel to pass the 100 mark?
S: Completing my hundredth marathon felt fantastic. But the countdown of the last ten was really stressful. Everyone wants to know when you'll do it, and you're so keen to avoid injury that you get nervous just crossing the road. There was absolutely no sense of anticlimax - every marathon I run gives me the same sense of achievement. I hardly ever think, ‘Why am I doing this?'
G: A lot of my friends from the 100 Marathon Club and my running club were there so it was a memorable day. I knew I would carry on running marathons, but it was still a special moment to celebrate.
What's your favourite marathon?
S: I changed my favourite this year, to the North Dorset Village Marathon. It was the first staging of the race and it was lovely – I did a season's best time, the weather was beautiful and the course was great. I prefer rural, scenic marathons - I don't tend to run flat road marathons very often.
G: It would probably be the Beachy Head Marathon. It's very special, and it is so different to road marathons. It just has something else.
What kind of training do you do?
S: I write my own training schedules. When I'm not racing, I do quite high mileage – I'm running 85 miles this week, and 90 next week. If I am racing, I still run lots - around 50-70 miles a week. I fit it all in by dropping other things – running comes first, it's my priority.
G: I used to follow a schedule, but I've done 23 marathons this year and 30 last year and structured training plans just go out the window. I just try to maintain my fitness in between races. If you do too much, injuries happen. I also think it's important to have a balanced life, and try not to get too obsessed with running!
Have you had any setbacks along the way?
S: Last year was my worst ever. I did the 10 in 10 (ten marathons in ten days), was injured for two months before that and was also injured for the last half of the year. I couldn't race for five months, which was the longest period I hadn't run a marathon since just after I started.
G: My first marathon was meant to be in 2001, but knee problems meant I had to put it off for a year. Then the next year I tore my ankle ligament and my doctor told me not to run. So my first marathon was two years late. Generally I've been really lucky, but I think it's crucial to listen to my body and cut back when I'm tired.
Any tips for aspiring 100 Marathon Club members?
S: I used to coach for the Women's Running Network and the ladies saw me running marathons and realised it was do-able. They were all very busy, so I came up with my three runs a week training plan. It seems to work – all the women did well, and one even got a Good For Age time in her first ever marathon.
I started my thread on the runnersworld.co.uk forum, Shades Marathon Training in 2005, and I still get around 30 emails a day asking for the plan.
G: You have to vary your training as much as you can, and have some sort of structure in place. I've used the runnersworld.co.uk training plan from the London Marathon newsletter, and it's very good. It's best to start slowly, but by the time you get to 50 you're on a mission. If you join the club as a wannabe member you get a lot of support, and you can also do marathons that aren't available to the general public. But it's also important to have a balanced life, and to just enjoy running – surely that's the main reason why we all do it?!