“Running races in Paris November 2012” – This Google search illustrates how consuming the challenge had become…. He would race at every opportunity! The challenge in question was that set by Peter Fleming with encouragement from his wife Julie.
In short, to celebrate reaching the age of 40 in 2012, Peter from Ballymena Runners was going to compete in forty events starting with Race Over The Glens on New Years Day 2012 and finishing with the same race on the 1st January 2013.
Further questioning reveals the inspiration behind the challenge. “Originally I had planned to head off on an overseas trip to celebrate the big 40. It wasn’t until I realised that London Marathon would fall on the big day itself that I had a change of heart. A plan began to formulate which would allow me to participate in a sport I love whilst raising money for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.
Cancer is an illness which has affected my close family members over recent years and NICFC have a respite centre in the Mourne Mountains for families of young children fighting the illness”. With this in mind Peter set an achievable sponsorship target of £1,000 which would provide a holiday weekend for 24 families in Narnia, the magical respite lodge nestled in the Mourne Mountains.
In order to fit all forty runs in, surely something had to take a back seat? When I quizzed Peter about this, the reply was really surprising. “Running did, or to be more precise, training did! I knew that continuing with my regular training pattern of four runs each week plus embarking on such a heavy racing schedule would lead to injury.” Peter continues “The real piece of luck was that I only suffered from one cold in January 2012 and my calf muscle gave me problems for a week or so after the George Best 5 Mile race in May 2012. Racing a five miler just one week or so after completing both London Marathon and Belfast Marathon would probably not recommended by most coaches.”
A whole year of racing must have led to plenty of personal bests (Pb’s) then? “Not exactly, as you know, most runners like to reward themselves after a race. So I might have actually gained a few extra pounds.” It wasn’t all bad news Peter reveals, “I was pleased with my base level of fitness as I was still able to run London, Belfast and Dervock Marathons. The real test was running the Causeway Coast Ultra as I knew I was winging it with little training. Finishing it ahead of a few rivals and running 20:06 for 5km in December 2012 were just two highlights on the journey.”
Whilst on the topic of highlights, I’m certain you’ve been asked many times what your favourite race in 2012 was? “That’s a real tough one because they were all very different, whether in terms of participant numbers, terrain, goodie bags etc. Obviously the races promoted by my home club, Ballymena Runners (Race Over The Glens, Fairhill 5 and the weekly Ecos parkrun) were top notch as they are year upon year. In fact the Ecos parkrun and the Race Over The Glens were the only two races which I ran more than once in my challenge”
That’s a very diplomatic answer Peter. The Ballymena man smiles and then reveals more of his favourite 2012 races. “It’s impossible to select one but if I were to have a top ten list it would include the following. The Virgin London Marathon, The Grizzly in Devon, Race Over The Glens, The O’Brien Challenge, The Lurig Mountain Race, The Seven Sevens, Dervock Marathon, NiRunning Magic Mile, Tom Mills’ Slemish Charity Run and the 26Extreme Causeway Ultra Marathon.”
Can people still support the fundraising effort? “Yes Ryan, the online sponsorship page, Virgin Money Giving | Fundraising | Peter Runs Forty At Forty will receive donations for another couple of months and every penny really will make a difference to these young children and their families. If anyone wishes to find out more about this charity and the it’s work they can follow the following link www.nicfc.com”
What’s next for you Peter, more races? “Nowhere near as many, I’m really looking forward to this year and training has commenced in earnest for London Marathon! No silly hats this time, just a determination to Pb in style. My pacing duties continue this year with Belfast Marathon and the Walled City Marathon along with a couple of Half Marathons. I would really like to Pb over as many distances as possible, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“Ryan, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their donations, and thank Julie and the kids for their support”
Of course, work away! Anyone else you’d like to mention?
“Yes, a big thanks to you Ryan for the great work you are doing at NiRunning, it really helped me find races more easily and also my running buddies/buddettes at Ballymena Runners and everyone else in our great local running community.”
What NiRunning think: Sometimes we get so used to seeing celebrities take on challenges (Eddie Izzard, John Bishop etc), doing outstanding things for great causes that we kind of expect it from them. However, to see a local runner, a man most of us would know and recognise take on a year long challenge to raise money for a local respite centre is quite humbling. To think that every £1,000 he raised could create a special weekend for twenty four families is staggering, well done Peter!