The Golfing Marathon Runner

Three years ago I ran the gruelling ultramarathon called The Comrades, which was 56 miles in length. When I had completely recovered, which took 10 weeks as my feet and legs were in a terrible state, I discovered that my stamina had dramatically increased. My running times started to reduce as I realised I could run faster for longer. The subsequent year I managed to complete the Tokyo marathon in under 3 hours 15 minutes which meant that I had achieved a “good for age time” which gives you automatic entry into most marathons around the world. The next target was a marathon in under 3 hours, which I was on target to achieve the following year in the Edinburgh marathon, but annoyingly I “hit the wall” with less than a mile to go and finished in 3 hours and 1 minute!

My children, like all children, love to read the Guinness book of records. My nine year old daughter saw a whole page of world records for completing a marathon in fancy dress. “Dad, how fast can you run a marathon?” I replied “about 3 hours”. “Good”, she replied, “fancy trying to get into the Guinness book of records as they have lots of fancy dress records for running a marathon, and most of them are four or five hours”. So we had a look and decided that the easiest one to beat would be the category “fastest marathon dressed as a golfer” which was 3 hours and 43 minutes. Having completed the application on the internet, I was given the OK by Guinness World Records to attempt to beat the record in the NY marathon in October 2011.

I decided to run in plus 4’s, long socks, a golf shirt, golf glove and carry a golf club. All I had to do was to buy them and do lots of training. It was easier said than done. Thorpe Hall Golf Club do not stock plus 4’s, neither do Garons. They each said I must try the internet. To my surprise there were only a few outlets selling them and the smallest had a waist size was 34” and I needed a 31”! So my only choice was to have some tailor made. I chose the lightest material and ordered them - £90. The most expensive, useless pair of trousers I have ever bought. Then I scoured the internet for some matching long socks and I bought a Calloway golf tee shirt. I would wear my blue golf glove to match the rest of the outfit.

I was not sure what club to carry. A putter would look silly, a child’s club would be cheating, so I decided to try to find an old wooden shafted club as that would suit the plus 4 image. I eventually found one in Les and Gary’s. I had no idea how much it would cost, and decided a maximum of £30. When I went to pay, he said “£2 please, mate”. Phew. The training with normal clothes started fine. Then I started to run with the golf club. This proved much more difficult than expected. After a week of trying every position I could think of, the one which seemed the easiest was to hold it just behind the head and to move it backwards and forwards parallel to the ground. It took about two weeks to master running with it. With two weeks to go, the plus 4’s arrived. They were plus 8’s! Almost like a long pair of trousers - a nightmare. I sent them back and they agreed a fast turnaround.

Running with them on was not too bad. They had 4 pockets for the energy gells, money and handkerchief. The socks felt very strange as every run I had ever done were in Hilly twin layered socks. They have an inner and an outer sock to prevent blisters. The long golf socks were just one wool layer. I knew they would cause problems during the race. The only disconcerting element was that I had not had confirmed from Guinness World Records what I should actually wear. They had one of those annoying websites with no telephone number to ring. I just had to hope what I was going to wear was OK. All I knew was that the record holder had carried a golf club for the whole marathon. I arrived in Washington on a business trip a week before the race to make sure I had acclimatised to the USA time zone.

My wife was really worried about me training in USA carrying the golf club in case I was arrested. So on one of my early morning training runs I ran passed The White House in my full racing gear carrying the golf club. I did get some funny looks but was not arrested! I again emailed Guinness World Records and told them what I was going to wear and was it acceptable? In NY everything went to plan. I decided to try for sub 3 hours and see what happened as I was fairly confident of beating the existing record.

After a terrible start as there were so many people running the race, I was 1 minute behind schedule after ½ mile. After 2 miles I was back on track. Things went well until half way and then I started to slow a little. After 15 miles my right hip started to ache a lot from carrying the golf club and I was on 3 hours and 5 minute pace. After 18 miles my left hip was very sore. After 20 miles my toes were quite painful. At 21 miles I felt a toe nail pop off! At 22 miles off popped another. I was now on 3 hour 12 pace, but wanted to run under 3 hours 10 and so tried to up the pace. I had a very good last 3 miles and managed 3 hours 9 minutes and 48 seconds. I was shattered and very pleased. I had beaten the record by over half an hour.

After some celebrations back in the UK, I received an email from Guinness World Records who said what I had to wear for the record was plus 4 trousers, golf socks, a golf shirt, carry a golf club and wear a brightly coloured V necked golf jumper - I had failed! The email contained a telephone number, which I rang. They said sorry, but rules are rules, I had not broken the record. After expressing my annoyance they said they would do all they can to help my application if I decided to try to break the record again. Fortunately I had already been accepted to run the London marathon because of my “good for age” time and so I decided to try for the record again in that one. The guy at Guinness World Records was true to his word. I emailed a photo of a proposed jumper and he approved it. So I was ready to go.

Two months before the London marathon was the Seville marathon. This is a very flat course and so I decided to run it. The start was terrible as the runners did not stick to their seeding pens and so everyone went to the starting line and not their pre determined starts which are all organised by expected finishing time. I should have been in the second of 10 pens, but I ended up starting behind 2000 others when I should have been behind the elite athletes. For the first 400 yards I was stuck behind someone who was pushing a buggy with their child in it! After 2 miles I was 3 minutes behind schedule, so I recalculated what speed I needed to run at to break 3 hours and upped the pace accordingly. I was ecstatic to finish in 2 hours 59 minutes and 26 seconds.

With this time under my belt I decided to run the London marathon in about 3 hours and 10 minutes as wearing a jumper was going to lead to big sweat problems. The training went well, but my children and wife would not let me run in my full golf gear and carrying the golf club as they were too embarrassed.

They would only let me do it at night in areas covered by trees so that no one could see me. This was difficult for a 2 hour training run. So I wore normal running clothes and carried the golf club with a plastic bag on the end, so that it looked like a stick. Because I had strained my hips in NY from carrying the club, I decided to add some weight to the club head during all of my training runs to strengthen my hips, so I added 2 large bars of soap to the club head to make it heavier. For the week before the race I did my usual taper, where you run less and eat lots of carbohydrates for maximum stock of fuel in the body for the marathon. I also had my usual pre-marathon half a pint of beetroot juice a day for a whole week, which is supposed to increase your stamina. On race day, I turned up at the Guinness World Records tent which was next to the celebrities start so that they could check my kit. Fortunately it was acceptable. There were over 100 people attempting records during the race. I also found out I was racing against two others who were also trying to break the record for Fastest male dressed as a golfer! I managed to sneak a look at their expected finishing times and saw that one was 3 hours 30 minutes, and the other was 3 hours 20 minutes. I was hoping for 3 hours and 10 minutes. So we had a race within a race! Just in case I decided to change my plan and aim for 3 hours and 5 minutes.

The clock started and off we went. By the end of the first mile, I was dripping in sweat. This was a really bad sign as I hardly sweat when I run, and the temperature was only going to get hotter as time went on. There were water stations at every mile and Lucozade Sport every 5 miles. I decided to drink at every other water stop and all of the Lucozade ones. After 5 miles I was fine, very hot but OK, and still on for 3 hours and 5 minutes.At 7 miles a Roman soldier overtook me and said there was a man in a golf costume carrying a golf club 200 yards behind me! This made me nervous so I made sure I was on 3 hours and 5 minute pace.

The halfway point came and I started to slow a little. I realised I was dehydrated due to being so hot because of the jumper, so I started to drink at each water stop. As each mile went by, I slowed a little more, which I was convinced was because of dehydration. At mile 19 I decided to drink a whole bottle at each water stop. I was now on for 3 hours and 9 minutes. From mile 21 onwards I had a continuous stitch as my stomach was full of the water I was drinking, but I was fairly sure I was still sweating more than I was drinking. Mile 25 was very hard, I kept running as fast as I could in case one of the other golfers passed me. At last the finish line. 3 hours, 10 minutes and 4 seconds.

There was a Guinness World Records stand 50 yards after the finish line. I stopped there, they confirmed I was the first finisher dressed as a golfer and they took a photo of me holding a sign that said Guinness world record. 29 of us broke records that day.

Simon Le Mare (Tuscany, 1977 – 1980)