This article about two female marathon record breakers from Aberdeenshire appeared in the Scots Magazine. If you like this article why not buy a subscription?
100 marathons day after day
Two women from Aberdeenshire ran into the world record books earlier this summer when they completed 96 marathons day after day.
But Fay Cunningham and Emma Petrie didn’t stop there. Having completed a daily 26.2 miles on foot between February 19 and May 25, they chose to carry on.
The couple, from Aboyne, kept on running until they reached 100 consecutive daily marathons, which they celebrated at the Edinburgh Marathon on May 29.
Even then they didn’t stop the daily miles. In the end, Fay and Emma completed 106 marathons together before each hanging up their seventh pair of running shoes. The total tally was 2777 miles, which is the same as running from Aberdeen to London more than five times.
Although they will need to wait for official verification from Guinness World Records, the couple are confident they have surpassed all other records and record attempts.
Fay, 36, says: “It has been an amazing experience and so much more enjoyable than we thought it would be.
“It feels a bit surreal to be honest. I always thought I would do it but you never really know what will happen when you set out.
“In the early days, I did get anxious about my leg muscles and a sore knee but after about day 15, my body just seemed to adjust and from then I felt good.”
Meanwhile, Emma confesses she had been less confident about the record-breaking challenge, although she reveals she was surprised by how well it went.
The 26-year-old says: “It has been really good and different to what I had expected. I was worried about getting injured and in the early days I did suffer with blistered and swollen feet. That is when doubts crept in.
“But now we have finished it feels amazing. I can’t believe we have done it.”
The marathon record holders
The previous world record of 95 daily marathons was set by Alyssa Clark in 2020. The teacher and professional runner was named the women’s Guinness World Record holder for most consecutive days to run a marathon distance in August 2021, a title previously held by UK runner Alice Birch with 60 marathons.
Initially, Fay and Emma, who run a personal training business Match My Workout together, set a target of 100 marathons.
Guinness World Records list the men’s record as 59 days by Italian Enzo Caporaso, although a Spanish runner, Ricardo Abad, claims to have run more than 600 consecutive marathons.
Fay says: “The aim of 100 marathons felt like a good target and we knew it would be five more marathons that the previous female record. Also, we planned to finish with the Edinburgh Marathon.
“We have been supporting some of our clients to reach goals of a half marathon or marathon at the same event so it seemed like the perfect way to finish our challenge, too.”
However, in April, Fay and Emma received the news that British runner Kate Jayden had set a new unofficial record of 101 marathons in 101 days. Then, later the same month, South African runner Jacky Hunt-Broersma, who lost her lower left leg to cancer in 2001, ran 104 marathons in 104 days.
Fay says: “We didn’t know if the records would be verified officially because some of the marathons run by these women were on treadmills. We believe the record stands only if you run all the marathons outdoors.
“But we decided then that we would run on past our original goal. We chose 106 marathons because we would end on a Saturday and that through that would be the perfect day for a celebratory party.”
Fay and Emma say they have spoken with UK-based Guinness World Records and while it can take up to a year to verify new claims, they believe they will be successful.
Fay adds: “Completing 96 marathons felt amazing and we believe that was when we set a new record. But now we have run 106 marathons in a row we have definitely secured the world record. It’s such an incredible feeling.”
‘Friends helped us set a record’
The couple reveal it would have been a much harder challenge without the support of other people.
Emma says: “It has been awesome to have so many people involved. Meeting and running with new people and also our friends has helped the days to pass. We’ve run so many miles with people.
“I think that having so much support around us and from people who believe in you has really helped me to believe in myself.”
Fay adds: “There were only about five days when we didn’t run with someone else. It has been unexpected highlight of the marathons record to run and get to know so many people.”
They also believe that pacing and careful daily recovery have been key to success. Fay says: “We ran each marathon at a conservative pace, finishing between five hours and five-and-a-half hours each day.
“We varied where and when we ran as well, often to take into account the weather. There has been a lot of wind to deal with, as well as rain and even snow.
“Although almost all of the marathons were run quite close to our home because it meant we didn’t need to go far to start our recovery routine.
“Good recovery has proved to be very important. We went straight from each marathon to an ice bath for two minutes. Then we either headed to our chiropractor or massage therapist, who have both helped massively with the physical recovery each day.
“We also made sure we refuelled with plenty of calories and good food. We needed to eat an extra 4000 calories each day although I don’t think we quite managed that. It’s a lot of extra food to consume and we both inevitably lost weight – about 11lbs.
“Plus we slept a lot. We were in bed by 9.30pm and not up until 7am. The recovery has been a major reason why we have managed to keep going and mainly pain-free.”
When the final marathon came emotions were high. Emma says: “I was buzzing. I was very happy to finish although it had been such an amazing experience.”
Fay adds: “It was such an enjoyable thing to do and it is crazy how well the body can adjust to this sort of challenge. Afterwards, it felt very strange not to be running a marathon every day but it was also a relief.
“We had spent so much time focused on one thing and making sure we were eating enough and getting enough rest. We were tired although out bodies felt fine.
“I am looking forward to getting back to running just because I fancy going out for a run – and whatever distance but not another marathon just now.”
Fund raiser for charity
The marathons challenge saw Fay and Emma raising £21,000 for two charities close to their hearts, the The Motor Neurone Disease Association and Macmillan Cancer Support. Fay’s dad passed away with motor neurone disease just before the challenge, while Emma lost her mum to cancer two years ago.
Fay says: “Motor neurone is a debilitating disease that stops you doing lots of things and my dad was a big inspiration to me through my life and encouraged me to do sport. He got me into running and I thought that while I still can run, I want to a challenge.”
Emma adds: “My mum obviously had her ability to be active taken away from her. Her memory is a driving force for me.
“Fay and I decided we wanted to test ourselves and push our limits, while also raising money for charity.”