By Kirsty Smyth
Berwickshire’s inspirational Active Schools co-ordinator is setting an example to the kids - by running 44 marathons in 51 days.
Paddy Dearlove is tackling the mammoth task in a bid to raise £100,000 for the Sick Kids Friends Foundation, the charity which supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, and Comic Relief.
“I have never ran a marathon before,” admits the 36-year-old, just one week before embarking on his extraordinary challenge.
“I’ve never ran a half marathon, a 10K, or even a 5K,” he adds. “I played sport at school and college but never ran too far, just short distances in training.”
The super-fit dad will kick off his fundraising efforts from the Edinburgh hospital on Sunday (May 1), before running 44 marathons around the UK in seven weeks – a feat inspired by comedian Eddie Izzard, who famously ran 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief in 2009.
Paddy will attempt to run one more marathon than Izzard in the same amount of time, but insists it wasn’t to beat the comedian.
“I’m going round Britain and there were certain places I wanted to include. It had to be 44 to make it all fit,” he explains.
In his role as active schools coordinator for Berwickshire, Paddy encourages children to get fit - and by attempting the gruelling 1,153 mile challenge he’s leading by example. “My job is to help get kids excited about living healthily and getting enough exercise, hopefully this will be a good tool to help inspire them to do that,” he says.
“I’ve tried to involve the kids as much as possible. I’ll be going by some of the schools and running round the school fields with the kids as part of one of the marathons.”
Having never before ran an official marathon, Paddy’s mammoth challenge will undoubtedly be, well, a challenge. He explains how it came about, and cites “massive motivation factors” as his three young sons - Isaac, 6, Jared, 4, and one-year-old Luca.
“My wife and I separated at the beginning of 2010 which meant my sons were living 30 miles away and I wasn’t able to see them everyday, which was heart-breaking,” he says. “I started thinking of ways to positively influence them because I wasn’t going to be seeing them every day. My children are so important in my life.
“Emotionally I hit rock bottom but instead of dwelling on it I decided to try to turn it into a positive. The longer I spent away from the kids the more I thought about how I could be the best possible dad to them.
“I wanted to leave a legacy with them and teach them some very basic lessons in life - aim high, dream big and work hard to meet your goals head on - it was at that time I saw the Eddie Izzard documentary. I thought ‘I’m going to do something like that!’
“I don’t think my friends believed it at first, but when I sent a letter asking for the time off work they realised I was serious!”
By attempting the remarkable marathon tour of the UK, Paddy hopes to raise one hundred thousand pounds for his chosen charities.
“He chose the Sick Kids Friends Foundation as one of them because of his own family’s experience of the hospital - Isaac was rushed there suffering from mini fits when he was just six months old. “It was one of the scariest times of my life,” Paddy admits. “I’ll never forget it.”
Luckily the condition was treatable but Isaac was eventually diagnosed with reflux to the kidneys, and the family made regular visits to the hospital over the next few years for more tests and treatments.
“I thought it was time to give something back,” explains Paddy. “Over the years my three sons have each received treatment at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and each time the staff have been magnificent.”
Now, after more than a year in the planning, Paddy’s marathon UK tour is about to begin. And although he’s raring to go, just getting to the start line has been a slog.
He says: “When I first decided I was going to do this I tried to do too much too quickly, and I got a calf strain in each calf. Then, a couple of months ago, I had a niggling foot injury. But I’m up and running again now and I have massive motivation.”
He hopes the experience will help inspire not only his own kids but schoolchildren across the country as well as he takes part in marathons throughout the UK.
He insists: “Apart from my leg hanging off, by hook or by crook I will finish it!”
To find out more about Paddy’s challenge or to donate visit www.run4thekids.co.uk or follow his progress on twitter @run_4_the_kids or search ‘Run4theKids’ on facebook.