He’s set several world records, ran 858 official marathons in an average finish time of just over 3hrs 18mins, he is “The Man Inside The Machine” according to his recently published autobiography.
Steve has kindly agreed to give running bug an exclusive interview, so Ian from HQ got straight to it.
Coventry born Steve Edwards works in IT during the week but at the weekend morphs into The Godfather of marathon running, and his mission is to complete 1,000 marathons
Steve, welcome to running bug
Steve and I both grew up streets apart in Coventry, we went to the same school, we played cricket and football in our local park, though 2 years older than me, he was a nightmare to tackle, if you could catch him that is.
I moved away and lost contact with everyone including Steve, but whilst watching the Brighton Marathon highlights in 2015, Steve popped up in an interview. I got in touched and been reunited ever since.
Steve is the reason why I’m going for 100 marathons and it was Steve who suggested that I try 10 in 10 – that’s 10 Marathons in 10 consecutive days.
How did it all begin for you?
I ran my first marathon aged 18 and it was, in fact, my first ever race. Coventry was hosting its first marathon and I had a bet with some mates that I could do it. I didn’t have a clue how to prepare for it, I hadn’t ran any sort of distance since running cross country at school, hence I did everything wrong but somehow I managed to finish in 3.38, I was over the moon. The next day I could hardly walk and had to come down the stairs backward. My legs felt like gateposts and it was nearly a whole week before I could walk properly again, I vowed never again.
Obviously, you carried in, what happened?
I continued running as I realised it was a good way to keep fit and found a sport that gave me a new found self-confidence, over the next few years I entered lots of varied distance running events, however, it always came back to the Marathon, that was the event that interested me the most. As I did more 26.2 milers and as my times came down I wondered if I could run Marathons on a more frequent basis, multi marathons. In 1988 I set my first big goal, to run 12 marathons in 12 months to raise money for Great Ormand Street hospital. During one of those marathons, I got chatting to someone called Richard Bird from a little known group of runners who named themselves the 100 marathon club, there aim to aspire 100 marathons in their lifetime. I ended up running 20 marathons that year and 2 years later at St Albans in December 1990 achieved my first world record by becoming the youngest person to run 100 marathons – I was 28, from there it was all about setting myself more goals.
Richard Bird went on to complete 71 official marathons in just 1 year – a new world record.
That was to be my next goal.
In 1991/92 I ran 87 marathons in a year to break the world record and a little while after that I set a third world record by becoming the youngest person to run 200 official marathons.
And then you just carried on?
In 1998 I remember reading an entry in the Guinness book of records about an American Canadian gentleman who had ran 500 marathons averaging under 3hours 30 minutes, was it possible to run 500 marathons all under 3hours and 30 minutes?
It took me 24 years and in 2012 the year I turned 50 I managed to achieve my goal.
500 official sub 3.30 marathons and averaging a finish time of 3hours 12minutes – another world record.
Back in the day, many people said it wouldn’t be possible, that my knees would go but thankfully I got there and my body didn’t actually feel too bad so the only logical thing was to push on and to see how much further I could raise the bar.
What other things have you achieved proud of?
Setting the first-ever world record for the fastest 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days which I did in 2008 at the Brathay event around Lake Windermere. It has since been bettered many times but I always look back at this as a kind of Roger Bannister moment where somebody had to do it before others relised that it could be done. I did, in fact, go back the following year and bettered my own times to just over 33 hours which is still a Vet45 record to this day.
Other significant achievements Steve has accomplished are
Sep 2013 – 600 official marathon races, averaging a finishing time of 3hours 13 minutes.
March 2014 – Fastest 7 marathons in 7 consecutive days in V50 Category – 23 hours 34 minutes, averaging 3hours 22minutes per marathon.
March 2015 – First person in the world to run 600 sub 3.30 official marathons.
June 2015 – The first Brit to run 300 sub 3.15 official marathons.
Oct 2015 – 700 official marathon races averaging around a finish time of 3hours 15minutes.
April 2017 – First person in the world to run 700 sub 3.30 official marathons.
Oct 2017 – 800 official marathon races ran in the fastest time averaging a 3hour 17minute finish.
Sep 2018 – First person in the world to run 500 sub 3.20 official marathon races.
He has 66 marathon race wins to date, the second most by any British athlete, has run 100 official marathon races abroad in 34 different countries and 20 capital cities. He’s run marathons in over 60 UK counties, including Scilly Isles and the Outer Hebrides.
On average he has run a competitive marathon every 13 days for the last 31 years and to date has no DNF’s.
Achieving goals this big hasn’t come easy for Steve and he’s made many sacrifices along the way.
With working full time and training and racing on a regular basis we don’t get to see our family as much as we would like. We have a grown-up son, 3 grandchildren and elderly parents and it’s always a struggle to juggle weekend visits when there’s always a marathon to be run. My wife Teresa is very good, she comes with me on most of my races and is extremely supportive, I couldn’t have achieved all that I have without Teresa’s support.
Running wise, what’s changed as your nearing 1000 marathons?
As I ‘v got older I feel that I’m having to work even harder in my training and races to achieve the finish times that I need to stay on target.
At the moment I’m still hitting the 3.20 – 3.30 finish times but I’m having to train a lot smarter these days to try and stay injury free. The other thing is that some of the younger runners on the circuit who I used to beat are now starting to beat me, that’s been hard to accept but I guess I’m been a sort of target, it may sound strange but I feel more nervous now before a race, probably because everyone expects me to do well all the time when the truth is there is so much more that can go wrong during a marathon, you can’t take anything for granted.
How do you keep going?
Physically I do lots of core work and conditioning to keep my body strong and in turn, this helps to keep me running as efficiently as possible. I know from experience that you can’t simply run to keep match fit and you also have to be careful not to overtrain. These days I know that when my body starts to creak that it’s time to back off. When I was younger I would keep going, even if that meant running through injury, but I couldn’t get away with that now.
Mentally I don’t look too far ahead either with each race or the overall target, I take it a mile at a time and race at a time. During a race, I always give 100% as I never want to look back with any regrets that I could have gone quicker. I also say to myself that each race could be my last, which is true, and if it was I’d want to know that I’d had given it my best. Ultimately I tell myself that each time I can post myself a successful performance, I’m extending the records ever higher which will ultimately make them more difficult for someone to break in the future.
Talking of injuries, tell me some of the ones you’ve had and how is the body holding up now?
When I was first starting out, if I had looked years and years ahead I could never have imagined all that I have achieved. I now look back and wonder where the time has gone. You realise that life passes relatively quickly and you only get so many opportunities to achieve things, so you need to grab them when you can. I’m also very honest with myself if I’ve messed up for a reason. Once in the New Forest, I wore just a vest on a cold, wet and windy day and ended up with hypothermia. It was about 15 miles in when I realised that I was in trouble. I struggled to the end, just inside 3.30, but I felt like a right idiot, I gave myself a good telling off and learned a valuable lesson, never stop learning.
Patience is also important, to achieve something big takes time, perhaps many years of hard work and effort always remember the four D’s, Discipline, Dedication, Determination and Desire.
Presuming you reach 1000 marathons, what happens then, will you carry on?
That’s a difficult question to answer, I do visualise and hope that I can continue running into old age, I certainly don’t want to stop. I do in fact have a secret goal to run 50 London marathons, that would take me up to my 80’s, having s far run 24 I can only hope.
Looking back have you had to overcome adversity along the way?
A lot of painful memories came flooding back when I wrote my book, I was bullied as a child as I have a deformed left hand, there was no such thing as political correctness in the 1970s. I had to learn to block it out and to be mentally strong from a young age. However, I think that experience has perhaps has helped me as I’ve got older, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t been bullied. It helped define the person I am today and maybe that’s why my mental strength is good. I’ve actually been amazed at the number of people who have got in touch after reading my book to say they’ve been through a similar experience and have got into running as a result of things that happened in their childhood. You never really know what drives people but to be an inspiration to others is really humbling and it’s certainly something I could never have imagined as a bullied child, inspiring others.
Why did you write your autobiography?
For several reasons really, first and foremost to inspire others and show that ordinary everyday people can achieve massive things, not just in sport but in many other areas of life. Also to leave a legacy for my grandchildren which will hopefully help inspire them as they grow up and perhaps get handed down to their own children in time to come. It also serves as a historical record of how things have changed since I was a child growing up in the 1970s and how the running scene has changed since the 1980s when I first started running
You can get your copy of Steve’s book The Man Inside The Machine here
Have you ever heard of the running bug?
Not really, I had heard of the name but never looked at it until you Ian mentioned it to me. I know it’s helped you tremendously and no doubt plenty of others also, so well done to everyone involved in the supportive online running community.
What do you think of the explosion of inline running sites and magazines?
I think that it’s great that there is a wealth of information at your fingertips on all things running, there’s nothing you can’t find out find out bout now on the internet. This is a total contrast to when I first started, and apart from a few books in the library and a couple of monthly magazines that was it. However, you can feel as though there is too much information at times so it’s important to be selective with what you take on board, not everything applies to everyone and we’re all different so you do need to find out what works for you.
Do you think there are to0 many events now, presumably when you started there were few and far between?
If you mean marathons in the UK then yes there were fewer of these events back in the 80s, 90’s and even the early noughties, but in those days they tended to be traditional road races run on single or double lap courses and you had to do a lot of traveling if you wanted to break multi-marathon running records. In contrast, multi-lap, multi-day and trail marathons seem to have really taken off in recent years whereas the road marathons are very much on the decline.
Many years ago I’d run lots more single road marathons and hardly any multi-lap or trail courses but now it’s the other way round. I guess logistically it’s just so much easier and cost effective to organise multi-lap and off-road events given our busy roads and the cost of policing etc. There’s certainly more choice of events now which is good in one way but I have found that it’s having a diluting effect on some of the remaining road marathons who rely on larger entries to break even which can only mean further declines which is a real shame.
What is the next milestone you hope to reach?
All being well I’d like to set a new 900 marathons record either towards the end of this year or early next year. I’d also like to extend my sub 3.30s record total to 800 if possible, currently, I’m on 771. Training and preparing for each race week in and out takes it’s toll mentally as well as physically so a lot will obviously depend on how well my body holds up and being able to maintain the desire to keep putting in that workload.
Do you have a preference for which marathon will be your 1000th?
To be honest I’ve not really thought about it as I ‘v still got a way to go. If I can get beyond 900 then I will give it more thought. The only thing I have decided on is that if it was to happen I’d like it to be in the UK.
What have been your favorite events ever, if not a UK one which UK event also?
Too many to mention really and all for different reasons. I love all the big city marathons I’ve ever ran, London, New York, and Chicago to name a few. However, there’s also been some fantastic low key events I’ve ran in some lovely places that I wouldn’t necessarily have visited had it not been for attending a race like the Isle of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall and the Isle of Harris, Benbecula, and Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. There’s many more and I could go on but like I say, there really are too many to mention.
Can you confirm that you will be at my 100th?
Will it be Snowdon 2020? If so I’ll try and be there.