A bus driver who set out to run 50 marathons in a year will complete the incredible feat on his 50th birthday on Thursday.
Oxford Bus Company employee Mark Temple had only ever run one marathon before embarking on the challenge 365 days ago.
The dad of three wanted to complete 50 marathons before his 50th birthday.
He is set to raise at least £3,000 for Sobell House Hospice, where his late father Patrick was treated in 2012.
“It’s been much, much tougher than I ever thought it would be,” said the Barns Road, Cowley, resident who only took up running seriously four years ago.
“I had done one marathon before this, the Abingdon one in 2017, and after that I said I never, ever want to do another one again.”
Mr Temple’s early fastest marathons were completed in three hours and 27 minutes, but his more recent average has been three hours and 50 minutes.
“Normally when you run it gets easier and you get quicker, but it’s been the total opposite for me. Thankfully I’ve been very lucky with injuries. Initially I was doing two marathons a week, trying to get ahead to allow for any injuries or illness, but I’m so fortunate that I haven’t had any problems.”
Thursday’s final 26-miler will be completed with fellow Oxford Bus Company driver Arif Khan and former rugby player Andy Dalgleish, who read about Mr Temple’s exploits and wanted to lend support.
The Oxford Bus Company have laid on a bus for family and friends to offer encouragement along the route, which will end at Sobell House at 11am.
It will be later-than-usual finish for Mr Temple, who normally begins his runs at 4.30am on his days off.
“You get to see Oxford as it’s waking up,” said Mr Temple, who drives the Brookes Bus service. “It’s been beautiful to see the city centre before it gets busy. I have seen a lot of drunk people stumbling home, but also lots of wildlife like deer, foxes and badgers.
“I generally run along bus routes, and the drivers will give me a wave and shout out encouragement when they see me. My favourite route is from Cowley to Woodstock, which covers quite a few bus routes and is 13.2 miles one way.
“I recently ran to Cumnor and around Farmoor Reservoir three times, which was great.
He added: “The Oxford Bus Company have been absolutely great. They have donated £1,000 and put posters up about it at work to raise awareness. I recently had one driver hand me £262, which is a pound for the 26.2 miles, and others have put a pound in for every marathon I do.”
Despite the backing, the slog of regular long-distance running has been mentally tough at times.
“From about marathon 13 to 26 was, without a shadow of doubt, the hardest time for me,” he said. “It was just me on my own every morning in the heatwave last summer. It didn’t seem like I was getting anywhere.
“But after marathon 26, when I was over halfway there it’s been so much better. It still didn’t dawn on me that I was going to complete it until after marathon 40.
“I’m really looking forward to completing the 50th one. I’ve spent all these weeks thinking I would never finish it.”
Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director said: “Mark’s determination and passion for this incredible challenge has been an inspiration. We are in awe of what he’s achieved and the money he has raised for a cause close to his heart, and proud of the support he’s received from his colleagues.
“Oxford Bus Company is part of the Sobell 40 Club and has made a commitment to raise a minimum of £10,000 for the charity over four years, so it’s a good-cause that is close to our hearts.”
Sobell House community fundraiser Bert Corbyn-Smith said: “We couldn’t quite believe it when Mark first got in touch to tell us what he was planning, and now, nearly a year later, that sense of awe hasn’t gone away – completing 50 marathons in a year is such an astonishing feat. We can’t wait to cheer him on as he crosses the finish line.
“We’re also very grateful to everyone who has supported Mark, and are delighted to see that between Mark’s JustGiving page, and his employer Oxford Bus Company’s generous contribution of £1,000, he’s on track to raise thousands of pounds to support our work and enable us to continue providing specialist end-of-life care to the people of Oxfordshire.”
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