Elaine McAnulty is a seasoned marathon runner – having completed over 200 since she started in 2004.
Missing getting her miles in during lockdown, she decided to try a new challenge – 20 marathons in 20 days (because it’s 2020).
Elaine, from Banbridge, Northern Ireland, knew that marathon fundraising was important to many charities but with events cancelled due to coronavirus, they were going to miss out.
She decided to use her challenge raise money for local charity Cancer Focus NI, after hearing that donations were down 80%.
Starting on 19 May, she ran for around five and a half hours of running every day, finishing on Sunday 7 June.
Every day, she ran a nine-mile loop three times, stopping off once on each loop to get water from her mother-in-law’s car boot.
She said ‘I’m delighted, happy and very thankful I was able to get finished without injury.’
Beauty salon owner Elaine starting running marathons back in 2004, and since then, she has completed hundreds.
Elaine taking in the moment on the finish line (Picture: Elaine McAnulty)
She explains: ‘At first I only did one a year in Belfast and then I found out there was one in Dublin too so I started doing those two. Newry started in 2008 so I had three.
‘I met familiar faces and someone told me about Marathon Club Ireland and recognition medals for 25, 50, 75 and 100 marathons. I thought it would be amazing to try and get to 25.
‘That was May 2016 and I completed 21 that year. Now, I have 212.
‘The most I’ve done is 67 in one year but the most I had done consecutively was four, or three in two days but nothing like 20 in 20.’
Usually busy working, this is the first time Elaine has been able to commit so much time to running and she decided she had to give it a go.
She says: ‘I decided to give myself a challenge and then I heard on the radio about Cancer Focus and how their funding was down.’
She admits it was tough as she had to wake up at 4.30am every day to avoid running when it was too warm.
And even if she was suffering from aches and pains, she had to get out and do the same route all over again the next day.
Sometimes friends joined her along the way to run with her from a social distance.
‘The 4:30am was the hard part. A lot of the days it was 25C when I was finishing so getting started early was helpful.
‘But I had no problem getting to sleep at night,’ she laughs.
On Sunday, her husband David, parents Ivor and Marie McIllroy, sisters Anna and Barbara, brother-in-law Richard, two nephews and god-daughter Isabella watched as she crossed the finish line, completing a total of 524 miles.
They decorated the garden with Cancer Focus bunting and enjoyed a cake to celebrate her achievements from a distance.
After a rest on Monday morning, Elaine even managed to get out and do some running later that day and again yesterday, although a shorter distance than she’s been doing for the last three weeks.
She’s raised over £2,620 for charity, smashing her £400 target but hopes to keep going and raise as much as possible for the cause.
For now, she’s taking it a bit easier and although she hopes to get back to more marathons soon, she’s not planning any more challenges just yet.