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Captain Ali Guzowski's blog

50 Half Marathons in 50 Days Challenge

“You are going to run 50 half marathons in 50 days in East Africa, are you crazy?” was the usual response I received in the months leading up to this challenge, which I scheduled to start after my R&R in October. 

I might have agreed with them had I known what was to come – all the aches and pains, nights of waking up cramping and running many a mile dehydrated under the African sun.

However, in my own small way I wanted to help raise awareness (and hopefully some money) for Combat Stress, especially after the suicides of three Scottish veterans in recent months served as the tragic reminder of the invisible wounds sustained in combat.

Even in my relatively short military career, in which I’ve been deployed to Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and Somalia, the connection to Combat Stress is an obvious one and the charity’s work in supporting the mental health of veterans is invaluable.

The Challenge

The current Guinness World Record for the number of half marathons run is set at 52 consecutive days. Due to logistical issues and location, this wasn’t possible to attempt from the start. Therefore, as a round number, 50 half marathons in 50 days was selected for this challenge. It would see me run 1,050km (652 miles), the equivalent distance of running from London to Edinburgh and back again!

So, on 8 October 2018 I naively set off on the first run unsure whether I was physically able to complete this endeavour.

The Highs and Lows

The sheer protracted nature of this challenge came with good days – and a few hard ones too.

The absolute highlight was the people around me willing to support and get me through those punishing 50 days. This was through messages of encouragement, parcels and keeping me company during the hard miles. At the 450km mark, when my right hamstring was suffering, the team took it upon themselves to fashion a make-shift African ice bath out of a wheelie bin filled with frozen water bottles to help my legs!

I think the lowest point was at the 800km point. Full of cold, I had to concede four days to bedrest knowing each day off was a marathon to catch up. This resulted in having to run two marathons, a three-quarter marathon and a half marathon over the final weekend to complete the challenge! I ran the final half marathon in 1 hour 31 minutes to cross the finishing line on 26 November.

In total, the challenge has raised more than £2,500, far exceeding my target of £1,050. The money will be split between Combat Stress and Malaria No More.

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