On Saturday April 29th at the Fitness Show in Sydney, I stepped on a Technogym treadmill, pressed the START button at 10:30AM and I kept running until Sunday 10:30AM. Over the 24h I covered 261.180 km (5:30 pace), and set a new Guinness World Record by just 780meters.
Alongside myself on other two treadmills, a female team of 12 and a male team of 12 wonderful athletes also ran 24 hours, relay style, smashing the previous records reaching 346.24km (04:09 pace) and 424.63km (03:23 pace) respectively.
Before anyone ask, we are not treadmill lunatics and this wasn’t a stunt. This was a serious attack to extremely hard Guinness World Records to draw attention and fundraising for Camp Quality, a children cancer charity.
For me personally, this was the hardest thing I ever done.
The mental challenge of maintaining a pace for 24 hours with no room for slowing down (I got the record with only 3 minutes to spare), with the pressure of knowing I was only one step from falling off the back or hitting the bar in front or even worse, lose my balance and unconsciously grab on the treadmill handles (instant disqualification), drained me to the point of crying.
Also the 6 months of single minded focused training were a rollercoaster of emotions like I had never experienced before. There were no fun or recreational runs, every single day and every single session was focused to one single outcome – to run 261km on a treadmill and organize an event everyone could enjoy. From January onwards, 90% of my running was on a Technogym Myrun treadmill in my garage averaging between 120 and 150km a week. My new neighbors saw me running at every hour of the day and night – yes I was the weirdo on the treadmill without a life -, testing and simulating every single thing.
During my long training runs of 60-70-80km, often finishing in time for breakfast and a full day playing with the kids, I focused on a 1 meter gap between the two houses on the other side of the street. With no music or entertainment… “Just run” – I told myself – “it’s all good mental training”.
In the end it all paid off on race day as the confidence in my training and my mindset carried me forward to reach all my checkpoints of 6 hours (70km), 100km (8h:40m), 12 hours (137km), and 200km (18:05h) with a 500m precision. Even during the toughest spots, when the words of my wife, Pat Farmer, Brendan and many others came to help, I was confident and somewhat in control. I just needed to made peace with the idea of the pain that was still ahead of me and embraced it – rather than fight it.
The heat was a real problem for me since the start. Because of the lighting on the stage, it was like running in a sauna. My heart rate was 20bpm above my normal and had some serious chafing going on. To cool me down, my ingenious support team cut up a t-shirt that looked like it belonged to the Incredible Hulk, and pointed 2 industrial fan on me.
If at any point I thought of slowing down, I only needed to look at my left and right to be inspired by the team runners, my local idols. The men were taking turns every 10 minutes running at 3:20 pace while the female team were running 4:10 pace for half hour blocks.
The hurt locker started at 11:30pm and I waited and waited for a second wind which never came. So I locked-in my gaze on my wonderful wife and a red dot 5 meters ahead of me and rode the wave of excitement generated by the teams annihilating their respective records well ahead of time and pushed through the end.
Only 6 minutes to the end I finally broke my concentration and smiled, before erupting of joy when I broke the record and eventually reached 10:30AM of Sunday.
I dismounted and, God knows why, I did a push up! before they handed me a microphone.
How do you train for months with such a specific goal and never thought what you could possibly say when you get off that thing is beyond me! So, without thinking, I said what I truly felt.
“This wasn’t about breaking records. This was about doing something we love and helping others. And maybe.. just maybe, in the process achieving something incredible”.