The other week (19th March 2010) Sports Relief took place in the United Kingdom. One of the TV specials that built up to the ‘telethon’ event on the 19th was a programme about Eddie Izzard, a comedian, who had completed a quite extraordinary feat; he ran the equivalent of 43 marathons over the course of 51 days, a total of 1166 miles. I didn’t actually watch the programme at the time but had recorded it and finally got round to watching it on Friday evening (9th April).

As a bit of a recreational runner, I have never seriously entertained running a full marathon and consider it quite an achievement (as I prepare for a half-marathon later in 2010) to have completed 8 miles so I tug my forlock (metaphorically, as I am somewhat folically challenged ;o) ) to anyone who has completed the 26 miles 385 yards of a marathon. Yet, here is a man who with only 6 or 7 weeks training ran a marathon for 6 out of 7 days, for just over 7 weeks. During the programme the attempt was described as ludicrous and it was highlighted that Eddie was carrying a number of injuries and physiological problems that simply meant he was not designed for running. In completing this feat, Eddie Izzard defied the odds and the musings of some of the most respected sports scientists/coaches in the UK Olympic movement.

So what can we take from this, as I examine the success of Eddie Izzard there are some key things to note:

  • Eddie had a clearly defined outcome/product goal – that being to complete the 1166 miles in 51 days
  • He also had very well defined process goals – to complete a marathon every day for six out of seven days. Rather than focussing on whole task, he broke down his goal into smaller sub-goals – completing next maraton, getting to end of next 6 runs and on final day to run his fastest marathon
  • Althought it wasn’t explicitely stated, I believe there were a few very strong reasons why Eddie wanted to complete this monumental task
    1. The challenge itself
    2. The amount of money that was likely to be raised for charity
    3. The fact that he had publicly committed to completing the task (Cialdini weapon of influence)
  • There was a clear plan
  • There were lots of people involved – for expertise, specialist skills and support & others got involved who gave moral support and encouragement throughout
  • Eddie took personal responsibility for completing the task and showed determination to the point of out and out stubborness to make sure that happened

What stood out for me from the programme, is just how strong the human spirit can be and how much can be achieved when the what, why and how coupled with strong will come together

Respect to Eddie Izzard

If you would like to make a contribution the click this link to the Eddie’s fundraising page. You can also follow Eddie on Twitter @EddieIzzard