A 26.2 bumper sticker is sometimes something for the bucket list. But imagine doing that 53 times in 53 days. That’s the challenge Amy Hughes, a 26-year-old sports therapist from the U.K. (already a veteran of several marathons, including the London marathon six times), is currently undertaking.
“I was going to go for 50 cities across the U.K., but after reading the record was 52 [cities in the U.K.], I had to try and beat it,” she says of her effort which is raising money (hopefully £53,000) for the Isabelle Lottie Foundation, a charity set up for three-year-old Izzy Wynne who has battled a rare childhood cancer.
Sound crazy? The world record for consecutive marathons in consecutive days is rumored to be 500 marathons in 500 days, completed by Ricardo Abad, a factory worker from Spain. Dean Kanarzes—an American ultra marathon runner—also ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.
Hughes says she has been training for the 1,400-mile challenge by eating about three times the amount she would normally, clocking up to 70 miles some weeks, and weight training. (She also ran three marathons in three days to prep.) But she rightfully had some hesitations: “I was worried about over training as I didn't want to wear myself out before I actually began. I have just been trying to slow the pace right and spend more time on the road, while trying to up my strength training,” she says. She's confident, she adds, that she'll finish the challenge.
But some experts worry that a feat like this may be, well, just too hard. Alison Peters, Ph.D., a Clinical Exercise Physiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center and co-creator of the Running Performance Program, says that while Amy’s cause is admiral, safety is a major concern for ultramarathoners. “The biggest issue is fatigue, because form starts to fail and this can cause overuse injuries like stress fractures,” Peters says. That’s is why fueling and hydrating properly are so important. In general, endurance athletes can also negate the effects of regular exercise by overdoing it and actually decrease their lifespans, she says. They also run the risk of thickening heart muscles and a buildup of scar tissue, which can lead to dangerous conditions such as arrhythmias. Even three marathons a year is enough to cause long-term damage, Peters says. (Note: A feat like Hughes' would likely call for urine and blood tests throughout, as the breakdown of muscle can deplete nutrients the body needs.)
Fifty-three marathons not in the cards for you? Amy’s first race started today in Manchester. To keep up with her progress, visit her Facebook site 53.53marathons or follow her on Twitter @53marathons.