The Man Inside the Machine, by Helen Summer

steve edwards

The Man Inside the Machine, by Helen Summer 2016, Starpress Publishing, 464 pages

The approved biography of Steve Edwards.
With a foreword by Dr Ron Hill MBE.

The story of Steve Edwards is one of an ordinary man who has achieved a remarkable feat. At 700 marathons and counting, Steve is a wonder even to fellow members of the 100 Marathon Club.

Completing this number of marathons is eye-watering in itself, but add to that the fact that his average pace is 3:16, and the extent of Steve’s exceptional talent becomes undeniable.

In this approved biography, author Helen Summer provides a window into the life of “one of the world’s most successful multi-marathon runners”.

She works chronologically, starting from Steve’s childhood including some of his unhappy memories of being bullied at school. Born with a deformed left hand, at a time when inclusivity and disability awareness were non-existent and children with differences were openly mocked, Steve suffered constant taunting throughout his schooling.

Steve says:

“The mental torment I suffered as a kid was, in many ways, far worse than the physical pain I suffer in a marathon. Perhaps that’s why my mental strength is so good at overcoming that physical pain?”

Whether it was down to these formative experiences kindling his fortitude and determination, or whether Steve was always destined to live his life to the full through pushing his boundaries as a runner, we’ll never really know the source of his motivation. What is crystal clear is that once Steve lays down a challenge for himself, he will let nothing get in the way of him succeeding in it.

Steve’s earliest world record came in 1990, when he became the youngest person to run 100 marathons, at the age of 28 years and 3 days. A great accomplishment in itself, this was all the more challenging given this was at a time when there was a relatively small number of marathons in the UK (before the more recent proliferation of races, marathons, ultras and multi-day events). As a consequence, Steve spent every weekend driving to races in Europe, covering several hundred miles per trip. With his companions, he would often be travelling through the night and sleeping in cars, as well as typically running back-to-back marathons on the Saturday and Sunday. Reading this, I felt more exhausted at the thought of the travel than the running itself, and amazed that Steve managed to hold down a 9-to-5 job during the week as well.

My favourite moment in the book comes with the revelation that Steve ran a record 87 marathons in a 12-month period in the same single pair of trainers.

“Admittedly they were torn to shreds, but Steve was determined to keep them going to the bitter end.”

Interviewed on BBC television about his record, Steve put his feet up on the coffee table so the camera could zoom in to show the state of the shoes. Unfortunately, star-struck by his first TV experience, he then forgot to put his feet down and conducted the rest of the interview in a rather laid-back looking posture.

Steve’s life moved through ups and downs, personal and sporting. With his second wife Teresa he became half of “Team Edwards”. He developed a strong affinity with the Brathay 10-in-10 event, running 10 marathons around Lake Windermere in 10 days, and became the world record holder for the cumulative time before losing the record again to the younger talent Adam Holland.

But Steve is not short of world records, both current and previous. En route to Steve’s 700 marathon record, he has broken a multitude of other records, including (correct at the time of the book’s publication in 2016):

  • 400 marathons in the fastest average time (3:10:45 – counting his fastest marathons over his running career)
  • 500 marathons in the fastest average time (3:12:42)
  • 600 marathons in the fastest average time (3:14:49)
  • First person in the world to run 600 sub-3:30 marathons

At the time of publication, Steve had 53 marathon wins, had run 100 marathons abroad in 34 different countries, and had completed an official competitive marathon on average every 14 days for the last 28 years, with no DNFs so far. He’s still going, and I have a suspicion that he has his eye on the magic 1,000.

This book gives a considered and detailed account of the many and varied running experiences of an outstanding athlete, which are certainly worth taking the time to admire.

This book is available in The Flying Runner bookshop.
Click here to find it.

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