Adam Holland has won more marathons than anyone else in the UK, at over 120 and counting. This also puts him in the top five in the world for marathon wins. Still only 29 years old, Adam has (at the time of writing) completed 264 marathons/ultras. He has also run the fastest 10 marathons in 10 days, in an average time of 2:58:38. He’s not just running marathons – he’s running them like lightning. I chatted with Adam to find out more…
“I started running at school when I had a few mates who ran. I wasn’t very good at first, but I got better and my friends started to drop out!”
By 19, Adam had run six marathons. A conversation with a friend prompted him to look up who held the record as the youngest person to run 100 marathons (Steve Edwards, who completed his 100th at 28 years and 3 days – find out more about Steve here.)
Adam thought “I can do that!”
He did. He smashed Steve’s record by completing his 100th marathon, rather pleasingly on the 10/10/2010, at just 23 years old.
Since then his exploits have included running 24 marathons in 17 days in 2015, with 12 of them sub-4 hour and four sub-3s. This was to support ultrarunner Kate Jayden in her effort to break a record. Adam won 23 of the 24 marathons.
In 2014, he ran the world’s fastest 10 marathons in 10 days at the Great Barrow Challenge, averaging 2:58:38. (He hasn’t officially claimed this as a Guinness World Record.)
Last year, Adam joined with Rob Young, aka Marathon Man UK, on a 25-day relay of 2,000 miles, the UK leg of the international Champions Walk for Peace. Adam and Rob took it in turns to run or cycle the distance, encouraging people to join them en route. The Walk for Peace was an effort to raise money for a peace-building project in the Rift Valley in Kenya, and involved many of the best elite East African athletes.
It was half way through this 2,000 mile journey that Adam stopped off in Chester to run another marathon, and broke his PB, running 2:28:29.
Motivation and Mental Strength
When I ask Adam about his motivation for running this number of marathons, his answer is uncomplicated:
“I love running.”
“I see the same people at races, so I just want to go and see my friends – it keeps it fun and sociable.”Adam also talks about the sense of achievement from doing well in so many events. I ask him about the mental strength needed for the level of endurance involved in these efforts, particularly the multi-day events. He says:
“It’s great to complete an event like the 10-in-10 because I hadn’t realised I could do it. When I’ve pushed myself in a challenge, my body gets used to it and I can do more than I’d expected.”
I’m curious about whether this number of marathons has given Adam a precise pacing strategy, but he surprises me with his answer:
“I just set off running fast and see how long I can last.”
“I often run the first half between 1:13 and 1:16, and then slow down from around 18 to 20 miles. I just see how long I can keep going at the faster pace. Sometimes I think I could go faster but I don’t want to get injured.”
It’s tempting to suggest to Adam that with some serious attention to pacing, tapering and rest, with a peak marathon to focus on, he could be capable of becoming one of the UK’s top elites. But that may be missing the point. Adam clearly gets sheer pleasure from his running, and his unregimented approach to marathons is refreshing in many ways. Running for the joy of it rather than with a laser-focus on performance bucks the general thinking of athletes this good, but suggests a liberated approach which is heartening and full of joie de vivre.
So does Adam train between his marathons?
“I joined a local club and sometimes run with them on Tuesdays or Thursdays if I’m not working. I have started using Strava and want to be top on all the segments, so that makes me get out and run a bit more!”
Adam also appears to be fairly bullet proof when it comes to injury.
“Last time I had a proper injury was when I was trying to run from John O’Groats to Lands End, and my ankle swelled up so I had to pull out. But it wasn’t really a running injury – I play hockey and it came from getting hit during a match.”
Adam continues to churn out marathons at a rate of knots. But he also continues to be involved with charitable causes and to support the growth of running. His website MaraMile Events aims to encourage people to run, particularly to work towards a personal goal of completing 100 total training miles, regardless of how many weeks it might take them.
He also goes into schools to talk to children and hopes to excite them to start running.
In October, Adam will be taking part in the Kenya Peace Torch Relay, following on from last year’s Walk for Peace. They aim to sign up 1,000 torchbearers to run 10km each to help raise awareness and fundraise for the programme of peacebuilding.
Find out more on the website: www.walkforpeace.co.ke