When active schools co-ordinator and super-fit dad Paddy Dearlove set out eight weeks ago on a journey of a life time - to complete 44 marathons across Britain in just 51 days - he was determined to reach the finish line, but he admits the enormity and reality of the plan proved daunting in the days leading up to the start.
“Everyone was saying ‘I’ve done a marathon and the next day I couldn’t walk!’ so there were doubts there but I just did everything I could to prepare, cold baths, stretching and everything,” Paddy told the Berwickshire News a week after completing his incredible challenge.
“Then, once I’d got through the first couple of weeks I thought, if I can do two weeks, why can’t I do three? I started to think I’m supposed to do this, I’m not supposed to fail.”
The 36-year-old covered more than 1,100 miles in his trusty trainers in the seven weeks, starting and finishing at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh.
Inspired by comic Eddie Izzard, who did 43 marathons in 51 days in 2009, Paddy set out to raise money for Comic Relief and the Sick Kids Friends Foundation.
He said he had wanted to give something back to the hospital, where his three young sons Isaac, Jared and Luca have been treated at different times, as well as to inspire his boys.
And although Paddy has now reached the end, having completed every one of the 1,153 miles and more (thanks to taking the odd wrong turn along the way), he says there were definitely hard times along the way.
His worst day came about a third of the way through the challenge, in his native Yorkshire.
Full of a cold with a potential chest infection to boot, he was forced to make a pit-stop at a GP’s five miles into the run, before coming out and carrying on in torrential downpours and gale-force winds, running up the seemingly endless hills of the Yorkshire Dales.
“That was as bad as it got,” he said.
“Being ill, the weather, then something happened to my right shin, I couldn’t put any weight on my right leg, I finished the last mile doing some random hobble.
“I went to bed that night thinking it was out of my hands and I woke up the next morning still not sure if I’d be able to run. But when I did it didn’t bother me at all.”
There were more effects of pushing his body through such a punishing schedule.
Paddy explained: “When people were giving me directions, I wasn’t really taking it in, it was almost like they were talking to me but my brain just wasn’t there.”
He adopted his own, unique strategy to get through the challenge week by week, day by day. “There were times when I lost it a bit,” he admitted.
“In one of the early ones I was talking to animals and things, singing ‘ba ba black sheep’ to the sheep and I complimented the blue bells on how they were looking.
“I went round a corner and saw some hills that went on for ever, so I told them that I loved hills. I did actually probably go mad for three miles.”
After covering the equivalent on foot of Edinburgh to London and back - twice, in just over seven weeks, Paddy said it felt a bit strange at first not getting into his running gear every day.
“By that point it was just something I did when I woke up,” he said.
Paddy eventually crossed the finish line on fathers’ day, to a hero’s welcome from his sons.
But despite having finally completed a challenge that had been more than a year in the planning, that makes most of us feel tired just thinking about, and raising thousands of pounds for charity in the process, Paddy says he’s feeling fairly ‘normal’.
“I don’t know if it just hasn’t sunk in yet, but I don’t really feel like anything major has happened,” he said. “It’s just something I did.”
And although Paddy’s staggering challenge is now over, he certainly isn’t standing still. “I finished the last marathon at 3.15pm on the Sunday and started a new job at 8.30am on the Monday, so it’s been a busy time,” he explained.
With the pot currently standing at around £11,500 the money is still coming in. Likely to reach the £15,000 mark, it will be split between the Edinburgh Sick Kids Friends Foundation and Comic Relief. Paddy says it makes his mammoth challenge feel worthwhile.
“Strangers saw the bus and would pull over by the side of the road and give 20 quid or something - things like that give you a lift,” he said.
On June 19 at the finish line, the Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital where a crowd had waved him off on his incredible journey just seven weeks earlier, Paddy’s friends, family, and of course his inspiration and motivation - Isaac, Jared and Luca, were eagerly anticipating his arrival.
“The best moment was finishing and seeing the boys,” Paddy said.
“At the hardest times that was the kind of thing I’d focus on. Your body’s screaming to stop, your mind’s thinking ‘how about stopping?’, so it’s having something to draw on, and for me that was always getting to the finish and the boys being there. I thought about it every single day.
“I kept it together towards the end, then I came round the final corner and the boys ran to me and my grandma was there as well. She gave me a massive hug and wouldn’t let me go. That was a bit teary - it was quite emotional really!,” he said.
Looking to the future, Paddy said he wouldn’t rule out taking on a new challenge.
“I’ve learnt that you can achieve what ever you want,” he added.