If the thought of a marathon is enough to make you shudder, then spare a thought for this arguably crazy man. Ross Edgley, a 30-year-old fitness fanatic from Cheshire, has just completed what he claims is the World’s Strongest Marathon.
In short, this involved pulling a 1.4 tonne car for the entire 26.2 miles – in the dark, pouring rain and often total agony for nearly an entire day – all to raise money for charity. After a non-stop 19 hours, 36 minutes, 43 seconds – and ‘an unholy amount of harness chafing’ – he successfully completed his epic stunt held at Silverstone’s iconic racetrack.
His aim? To raise as much money as possible for four charities close to his heart after several family members and friends were diagnosed with devastating conditions. But preparation for the mammoth task – a very real case of blood, sweat and tears – began eight months before.
The demands of getting so physically fit meant a gruelling fitness regime was crucial.
At times, Ross – a former international athlete, swimmer and water polo player for Great Britain – was required to train for up to 14 hours a day. And eager to learn from the best, he enlisted the help of sporting heroes including champion strongmen Geoff Capes and Andy Bolton and athlete Linford Christie.
He also shovelled down a staggering 6,000 calories a day on a high fat diet, eating coconut and almond oil by the jar.
But how did the idea for such an insane stunt come about? And is it really the world’s strongest marathon?
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Ross said: ‘Basically in 2015 – after a series of unfortunate events involving some close friends of mine – the monthly charity donations I usually make no longer seemed enough.
‘The charities involved in this stunt – Teenage Cancer Trust, Sports Aid, Children with Cancer and United through Sport – do some truly amazing work and I wanted do something more to give back. ‘My family and friends agreed running a marathon would be good – but running a marathon pulling a car would be better.’
If, he says, he raises enough money and awareness for these charities, he will consider ‘every blister, rope burn and early-morning-ice-cold run not in vain’.
‘Basically, it’s my hope the World’s Strongest Marathon raises lots of funds for some truly brilliant causes.
‘If it also serves to illustrate the human body is infinitely more powerful than modern science often gives it credit for, I will take a bite of my celebratory protein snacks, sip my shake and consider that a bonus too.’
Indeed, what began as a fundraising effort has escalated into a debate in fitness circles about the best way to train and what the body is physically capable of.
Ross has now amassed more than 500,000 followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter who follow his diet and training tips, while the· #WorldsStrongestMarathon trended for 18 hours on Twitter during the stunt.
Now, to his amusement, he gets tagged in bizarre Twitter posts showing other fitness junkies pulling quad bikes and lawnmowers.
And as for the bold claim of it being the World’s Strongest Marathon?
‘We were researching marathons with friends asking “how can we make it harder, bigger and more captivating to raise more money for charity?”.
‘We needed something no one had ever done. People have run marathons in chainmail armour (40lbs), and with fridges, and the like. But no one had done it with a 1.4 tonne car.
‘So I put it out on social media #WorldsStrongestMarathon and it immediately stuck – and it’s gathered pace massively since then.’
But just how the hell do you prepare your body for something like this? How many hours are needed to train? What sort of diet is needed to fuel it?
‘In many ways pulling a 1,400kg for 26.2 miles is unchartered territory. There’s not really a how-to-guide or blueprint,’ Ross told MailOnline.
Fortunately, he was able to call upon the expertise of Geoff Capes – crowned the World’s Strongest Man in 1983 and 1985.
Standing 6ft 5in and weighing 23 stone, he was known for running 23.7 seconds for the 200m, was a national-level cross-country athlete in his youth and to this day still holds for the record for the truck pull.
‘The best advice I got from him was to bulk up,’ said Ross, who has a sports science degree.
‘It’s simply a matter of physics but weighing 89kg was not going to help me pull a 1,400kg car. Even once I’d managed to put on 5kg of muscle, the second problem was fuelling 14 hours of training a day.’
Rather than eating a high carb diet, his diet was based around fats – ‘huge tubs of coconut and almond oil in particular’.
‘Research from the University of Oxford states the energy needed to sustain exercise for a long period of time needs to come from two fuels carbohydrates and fats,’ Ross explained.
‘Interestingly they found fats found in foods like nuts, avocados and coconut oil were a more sustainable fuel source and provided enough energy to last about 5 days.
‘In comparison, carbohydrates – like pasta, rice, sports drinks and bread – stored in the body are limited – and at most provide energy to sustain 100 minutes of exercise.’
The brutal training regime included sledge drags, tyre pulls and pulling a tractor. ‘It would do it for miles… it did get a bit boring, but I knew it would be worth it,’ he said.
The epic event, held at the end of January, began at midnight – to achieve the goal of finishing in one day.
‘The aim was to do one mile per hour, but some were definitely harder than others,’ said Ross.
‘It started well but by 7am we hit a gradient. It was pouring with rain and so slippery that I was literally falling on my face. And this was only the fifth mile!
‘Pit stops’ were brief – five minutes around every hour – for food and a stretch out. ‘Any longer and there was the very real danger I would seize up.’
And forget sugary sports drinks or Jelly Babies – energy for this brutal feat came from coconut oil added to specially formulated sports drinks, to make them calorie dense.
And the pain during the 19 hour epic?
‘It was unavoidable – and it was from every angle,’ said Ross. ‘I had blisters, it was pouring with rain so I had medication to prevent trench foot, and there was an unholy amount of chafing.
‘The rope burn on my shoulders and between my legs was so bad it was close to bleeding. And the lactic acid build up in my calves was agony at times.’
Miraculously, he sustained no injuries, as there had been worry his back might give out.
‘Went through four different seasons of weather during he challenge. It chucked it down, it was freezing and then at the end, it was sunny.’
Then at 7.36pm, emotionally and physically wrecked, Ross hauled himself and the Mini over the finish line and into the arms of the 10 family members and friends who had watched the heroic stunt.
‘I was an emotional wreck when I finished – but more tired than anything else, recalled Ross. Everything hurt – not just my legs.’
‘And I was so grateful to everyone there for their support. The maximum speed was three miles per hour – definitely not a spectator sport!
‘Immediately after finishing I was straight home, eating anything I could get my hands on – including the whole of my Mum’s lemon and blueberry cheesecake – along with plenty of recovery protein.’
After a staggering 16 hours of sleep, he woke ‘feeling not as bad as I thought I would’. He concedes: I was a bit stiff but had done up to 16 hours of training a day.
He also discovered support for the almighty challenge on social media had been remarkable.
‘It was overwhelming,’ he said. ‘This might sound cheesy, but the Mini became a ‘vehicle’ (yes, pun intended) that brought together athletes from so many different sports – from elite strongman and professional endurance athletes to those looking for inspiration with their New Year resolutions.’
Now, he is desperate to raise as much money as possible for his chosen charities.
‘All of the effort will have been worth it if I can raise enough money and awareness for these amazing causes.’
Via Daily Mail
To donate, visit Ross’ fundraising page.