Chasing 110 marathons in 110 days

Megan d’Ardenne spoke to Met Gary McKee about his 110 marathons in 110 days charity challenge

Gary McKee

by Megan D'Ardenne |

Gary McKee, for lack of better words, is a fierce running machine. Since 2003 he has been a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Support and, with each challenge, he pushes his body further and further. In 2017 he ran 100 marathons in 100 days, and this year he has taken this epic challenge up 10 notches by pledging to run 110 marathons in 110 days.

The physical and mental endurance Gary musters each and every day is awe-inspiring, but the most admirable part of his running conquest is the funds he is raising for Macmillan Cancer Support and West Cumbria Hospice at Home. Since he embarked on his mammoth challenge in February 2021, he has raised more than £80,000 – smashing his initial target of £10,000.

Gary (pictured above, right) kindly agreed to speak to me about his marathon challenge and the importance of fundraising during Covid-19.

Congratulations on completing your 95th marathon in a row! Most people can’t even fathom running one marathon, let alone 110 back to back! How are you feeling?

I've just had a massage so I feel quite good at the moment! Every morning I do feel a bit stiff but I’m able to walk the feeling off within a few minutes. I’ve just got myself into a routine now and so I know what needs to be done to get through each day.

For me that starts with a decent night's sleep, have a great breakfast, then jog on the treadmill for 20 minutes. And then I get out and run the marathon. There isn't a great deal of science behind it.

How do you stay motivated to get up every day and carry on?

I’ve made a commitment. I’ve told people I’m doing to do 110 marathons and that’s what I’m going to do. I think about the greater good of what I’m doing and the money I’m raising and how many people this will benefit.

Even if it’s raining outside, I push on - I just imagine somebody walking out of a cancer ward having been told they are cancer-free. Even though it's raining, it will be the nicest rain they’ve ever felt. I imagine them standing there thinking how fantastic it is to be alive.

Have you had much support over the course of this challenge?

Yes, whilst I’m running, people are doing cake sales on my behalf and so many people have sponsored my page. When I see the page going up every single day it inspires me to carry on and do more and more.

I set off at the same time every day and run the same route so I see the same people every day whilst I’m running, whether that be dog walkers, commuters or cyclists – everyone is so supportive and proud of what I’m doing and that helps keep me going.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of doing a similar challenge?

Just to believe in yourself. A lot of people think the hardest part of my challenge is the running. But it’s just running. That’s all I’ve ever seen it as. The real accomplishment for me is the money I’ve raised because it's the money that actually helps change people's lives and gives them the support that they need.

I think failure isn't trying something and not getting to the end. I think failure is not trying in the beginning. We should be confident within ourselves and our own ability to push ourselves that little bit further. You'd be surprised how far you can push yourself.

Dare I ask what is next for you after you complete this awe-inspiring challenge?

200 marathons maybe? (Laughing) I always say to people that I operate in windows of opportunity. To me, it doesn’t matter if my what my next fundraising challenge is – whether its 200 marathons or even just a bingo event – it’s all about the money I’m able to raise to help other people.

To date Gary has raised more than £400,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support, and has been named Macmillan’s Fundraiser of the Year twice. The money raised from the 110 marathon challenge will be spilt between Macmillan and local charity Hospice at Home West Cumbria.

The impact of coronavirus has been detrimental to many charities right across the UK, with fundraising events and activities being cancelled. According to the Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer, one in ten charities believe they will be forced to close within a year due to the negative financial impact Covid has had.

Claire Rowney, executive director of fundraising, marketing and innovation at Macmillan, said: “The pandemic has been an acutely challenging time for people with cancer, who need us more than ever, and every penny raised by incredible fundraisers like Gary and his family help fund our vital support services, at a time when our income faces a significant drop.”

A spokesperson for Hospice at Home West Cumbria said: "We need to raise £1million every year to provide our services across West Cumbria, and this is only possible due to the support and fundraising efforts from people within our local communities. We cannot put into words how grateful we are to not only Gary, but the teams who are supporting him during this monumental challenge. As a small local charity the incredible amount that has been raised from this challenge will make such an enormous difference to us and so many families who need our support."

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