Meet Mike, the man behind Mike’s EU Marathon Challenge
Mike has pledged to run 28 marathons for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis awareness and Invest in ME
Recently I interviewed Mike from Mike’s EU Marathon Challenge to get to know the man behind the impressive goal. If you don’t remember, Mike recently pledged to run 28 marathons for ME/CFS awareness and in support of Invest in ME’s research efforts. His answers are lightly edited for length and style.
Who is Mike?
I’m a 32 year old guy from Bristol (via Cornwall) with a new-found love for long distance running. I’m a recruitment manager in the day and for the most part; a stubborn runner in the evening. When I’m not running I’m usually watching live music in town with my wife Cat and friends, playing guitar or watching lots of football. I have a kitten called Bruce, I like drinking cider and collecting vinyl.
I was lucky to grow up with plenty of quiet country lanes around me in North Cornwall and a whole load of beaches to run to. As I didn’t have a car and lived 6 miles from the nearest town I started jogging to get to my destination and got to like the feeling of satisfaction of getting from A to B. I enjoyed running distances so much that I soon found myself crazily signing up for the 2001 London Marathon where I became one of the youngest ever finishers. That was my first race and the last for a little while.
I then went to University and on to work where I’d occasionally get the urge to run the odd half-marathon but nothing more until I read the autobiography of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, it was after this point that I rediscovered the drive to spend the rest of my life completing crazy challenges. Since then I’ve completed the 3 Peaks Challenge and most recently I organized and led an event to visit all 92 English Football League Stadiums in 92 hours for Invest In ME.
Why are you doing this crazy stunt?
As with my last challenge, my main driver is to try to help raise awareness and funds for biomedical research projects to cure and treat ME. One of my good friends who I grew up with in Cornwall, Ian, has had ME for over 8 years. Ian was a popular guy at our school and also at university where I visited him, but since he got ME, he has been unable to work or lead a normal life. This is the only real way that I feel I can help him.
Ian has taught me a lot about the inconsistencies in treatment and lack of up-to-date knowledge from GP’s and so-called specialists. It wasn’t until he told me about Invest In ME and the Rituximab Trial that there seemed like real hope for the future. The trial has yielded great results in Norway with significant improvements in patients. A campaign was launched to try to raise the funds needed to bring it to the UK. If all they needed was money to finally sort out an effective treatment, I thought it seemed crazy not to get involved to help.
On the 92 stadium challenge we met a lot of people and children in particular who have ME. It’s really disgraceful that people suggest that ME is a purely psychological illness and the lack of government interest or funding really annoyed and shocked us all. Ian and over 250,000 other UK sufferers have lost years of their lives to ME and it’s about time that stopped.
Why did you decide to do marathons and not something else?
I chose marathons for this challenge as I wanted to do something that sounded impressive. Running just one more marathon wasn’t really going to be enough to gain publicity and serious sponsorship and I wanted to find a way of reaching people across different countries. When I found out there were 28 countries in the EU, it seemed like a manageable amount and the challenge was set. I then told a load of people and then of course, I had to do it! The challenge is going to take 5 years or so and could cost a fair bit, but I’m not a quitter. I know I have the determination and amazing support to complete this challenge.
What do you hope that this challenge accomplishes? What’s your big dream for all of this?
I want to spread the message of the great work that the people at Invest In ME are doing. I hope that I can inspire people to pick ME charities for their challenges so we can raise more money, awareness, and pressure governments into supporting medical research.
What was the most surprising thing you’ve learned about ME through this challenge and/or your stadium challenge?
Just how many people know someone who has ME. I think we’ve all been really surprised at how many people can have such a dreadful illness and so little is known about the cause or cure. It can affect anyone! This has been going on for years and years. I still can’t understand why it gets so little support and media attention. The ME community are such a nice bunch of people and have gotten behind everything I’ve done so far with so much enthusiasm. Receiving so many positive messages makes it easy for me to keep going.
If you could say one thing to all the healthy allies out there reading this, what would it be?
Come on folks, make your next challenge for ME research. Support, share, campaign, donate; people are suffering and this is how we can help.
If you could say one thing to all the patients out there reading this, what would it be?
Thanks for all your support so far! Please keep sharing. Please don’t lose hope, there are people out there really trying to help find a cure. We will get there.