At 4am, whilst most of us are tucked up in bed, Martyn Thorp is out on the dark streets, undertaking his astonishing 3,500k running challenge for Livability. We catch up with his progress so far.
Martyn, tell us a bit about yourself …
Well, I live on the Isle of Wight with my wife and daughter, and I work as a business development manager for our local paper, the County Press.
What inspired you to take on this incredible challenge for Livability?
I’ve been a serious runner for about four years. A couple of years ago, I heard about Livability and what you do, and it blew me away. More recently, at the start of Covid, a friend of ours passed away with lung cancer. She was only four years older than me and it makes you think about your own mortality.
I hit 35 on my last birthday, 4 November, and I decided to create the challenge for myself of running 3,500k in my 35th year. For me, it’s got to really be a challenge – no point if you can do it easily! And my fundraising goal is at least £3,500, all going to Livability.
How’s it working out for you?
Because it’s busy at home – my daughter is two and my wife works full-time – I go out dead early, 3.30-4am. There’s no one else around and the roads are deserted. I love it because I get back and I’ve already done my run for the day – gives me a sense of accomplishment. It’s massively good for my mental health in lockdown.
How far do you run?
In an average week, I should run about 67k, which means shorter runs in the week and up to 40k at the weekend. I’ve had to take a week off because of a groin strain but I’ve done nearly 600k in ten weeks. I’m also going to clock up miles at this year’s Brighton and London marathons.
What’s been the best bit so far?
I’ve achieved a couple of new personal bests, including a half marathon in 1hr 51 mins and a 10k time of 43:43.
And the worst?
Getting injured is frustrating, but I’m trying to listen to my body (although inside I’m climbing the walls!).
Do you give yourself a reward after a run?
No, I just take a banana on a long run. I’m quite strict with myself about what I eat, but on Fridays, I eat whatever I want – pizza, chocolate, I go for it that day!
How many pairs of running shoes do you expect to get through?
I am already into my second pair of the challenge so I fully expect to go through , at least, another 4 pairs.
Why are you going to such lengths for Livability and the people we support?
It’s nice to be able to give something back by putting in some effort. I’m not a wealthy person but I can do this. And it’s been great to hear back from a few people who say my run is inspiring them to take on a running challenge too.
Do you find that running helps with your mental health?
For me, personally, it is a constant reminder that I can. I run because I can. Not a lot of people in the world have that same luxury and I am grateful to be able to run. That gratitude makes me feel alive. Also, my running gives me clarity. Whenever I feel foggy, or overwhelmed, a run helps to clear my mind and allows me to think things through and quite often find answers. I feel that running not only moves your body forward but also propels your thinking into a positive space.
As part of Martyn’s story, when students at our school in Dorset heard about his heroic efforts, they wanted to help. Over half-term, PE teacher Simon Higgins posted a daily accessible exercise video, featuring ‘35’-based activities, in solidarity with Martyn’s 3,500k run. Simon included challenges like 35 keepy-ups and 35 sock catches, using household items that students could easily get hold of and that work for young people with disabilities.
You can watch Mr Higgins live every day on his YouTube channel ‘Mr Higgins Indoor Inclusive PE’ here