Up Close in Richmond With: Ultramarathon runner about to complete his 100th marathon

  Posted: 06.08.21 at 18:53 by Jessica Broadbent

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For many a marathon would be the achievement of a lifetime, but for some, it is only the beginning.

Tomorrow runners will take to the Thames Path for 26.2 miles of scenic running from Kingston to Barnes and back again.

One of those runners is Michael Wiggins, who will be celebrating his 100th race when he crosses the finish line and joining the coveted 100 Marathon Club.

We caught up with him today to see how he’s getting on.

“It’s a strange one at the moment,” he said. “It feels like I’m just doing another marathon.

“I’m quite used to them now – this has been 22 years in the making.”

Michael at the end of 100 miles along the south downs way

Michael, 44, is from Streatham and runs for Clapham Pioneers.

He ran his first marathon, The London Marathon, back in 1999 and says he immediately got the bug – though didn’t know how far he would go.

“All that time ago I’d never even thought of doing that many,” he said.

Now he is not only a marathon veteran but is racking up his ultramarathons too, his longest one in Bristol was 155 miles.

And his enthusiasm for racing seems far from over. Speaking to Michael the list of races on his bucket list is never ending, with ideas for runs all over the world continually coming to mind as we chat.

A crowd to welcome him after the Canalrace C.I.C.!

He will be joined tomorrow by his father, 73, who is doing the half marathon in preparation for the London Marathon in October where he hopes to get a PB of 4h30.

“He is 73 and he started running at 65,” says Michael. “He watched me running for nearly 20 years and he did his first marathon at 70!”

Half a lifetime of marathons


Michael said he was inspired to take part in his first marathon by his family. As a child he and his dad would go along to watch his uncles take part in the London Marathon each year.

“I was always sporty but nothing special,” he says. “We were a sporty family."

He started running with his uncle at a local running club in Clapham.

Running the London Marathon 2019

“It was just something I always enjoyed.

“It’s my exercise – my wife swims, some people cycle, I run.

“I enjoy the social side as well. You see the same people at these events. It seems crazy to run three hours to meet people, but you also get the endorphins and the thrill of completing another race and getting another medal.”

He ran his first three marathons in 1999, 2003, and 2005 but has picked up the pace since then – this year he has run around 20 marathons.

“It does take a big chunk out of your social life,” he admits, which is why he did sightly less in his 20s.

The grueling 24-hour track race in Tooting in 2018

Now he runs four to five days a week and runs around 10 to 12 marathons a year, so is pretty much always ready to complete a marathon.

“I’m lucky enough now that if someone said to me ‘Let’s run a marathon next week’, my body is used to it, and I can do it at a drop of a hat.

“I’ve been really lucky with injuries, I haven’t had to pull out of any races,” he says.

During lockdown Michael’s race count slowed, but he boosted his numbers in March with the Phoenix Ten in Ten along a stretch of the Thames – that’s ten marathons in ten consecutive days.

Michael works in advertising and was working from home during lockdown, so decided to take up a running-inspired challenge. He ran a marathon for charity on his road, running up and down 70 times to raise money for St George's Hospital in Tooting.

...and again in 2019!

“I ran in the middle of the street,” he said. “People just stood in their front gardens and cheered me.”

The Thames Meander Marathon


Tomorrow will be Michael’s 6th time at the Thames Meander Marathon, his fastest time on the route being 2 hours 57 minutes.

He says he chose the race for his 100th as it is such a scenic route and easy to get to.

“I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I like the Thames Meander Marathon,” he said. “It’s flat and it’s scenic; it’s a good one to get friends and family to as well.”

He has completed around 85 of his marathons in under four hours, and first broke the magical three hours while training for a 100km race. His current PB is a staggering 2h53, run in Abingdon!

This time he is aiming for 3h15 or 3h20, after having run the length of the South Downs in June.

“My legs haven’t quite recovered from it,” he says. “So I’m aiming for 3h15/3h20 tomorrow and then off to the pub for a few drinks!”

The 100 Marathon Club


To be part of the 100 Marathon Club you have to have completed 100 full or ultramarathons, Michael explains. Ultramarathons only count for 1 race, too.

The Thames Meander Marathon will be his 88th marathon, and he has completed 12 ultramarathons, but he is enviably humble about his achievements.

“It’s a huge amount and I’m extremely proud of doing it,” he says, “but I am not the only one to do it - there’s a guy I know who has run 1800 marathons!”

The club usually list runners on their site who are near to making milestones and will sometimes turn up to present runners with their congratulatory t-shirt.

Michael’s mum and wife both will be there tomorrow to greet him as he crosses the line.

Ultra


Running is a hugely psychological activity and Michael says he enjoys the challenge: “Ultramarathons are never about time – it’s the challenge.

“Anything can happen in 24 or 36 hours.”

He said his mental endurance was perhaps most tested during a 24-hour track race where it rained for 16 hours. Forgetting the rain, the race is a huge test of endurance involving 440 laps of a 400m track at Tooting Bec athletics track (this year was in Battersea).

“We are a crazy bunch us ultramarathon runners!

“But I’d really highly recommend it.”

Helping other runners


Michael loves to help people with training plans and running advice, too.

“Over the years people have asked me to help them when they start running.

“What I really really enjoy about running is seeing other people running their first 10k or marathon, and hearing people saying they are going to run a big race or beat their PB.”

So what would he say to someone thinking about running?

“Absolutely give it a go!

“Start at the complete beginning and don’t put any pressure on yourself about time - They say the average Parkrun time is getting slower and I think that is brilliant because it means more people are doing it.

“Don’t be afraid to walk.

“Just go out and try it, go for five minutes and build it up gradually.

“The most important thing is to get the right trainers from a specialised running shop! Otherwise you can pick up injuries early on.”

100 marathons, what’s next?

Michael says he will keep on running marathons until he feel like stopping, or gets too slow to continue.

“While I can and I’m injury free I can’t see why I’d stop doing it.

“I don’t have a plan, I will just do what I fancy doing.”

He is running his 15th London Marathon in October. He says London is one of his favourite courses – “I’m biased because I’m a born and bred Londoner, but London would take some beating.

“I would also say Berlin, it’s a brilliant city and course and it’s good for record breaking, I’d highly recommend it.

“There are so many on my bucket list!”

His next big challenge is a 250 mile trail race called Thames Ring 250 which runners have 100 hours (4 days 4 hours) to complete with checkpoints a marathon apart along the route. “That is definitely on my agenda.”

Michael, I take my hat – and my trainers off to you.

Good luck to everyone running tomorrow!


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