Marathon man

One man. Twelve months. Six marathons. Three continents. Supporter goes for the ‘big six’ races – Tearfund wins.       

Andrew Blair from South Wales loves a challenge. However in 2018 he really upped the stakes.        

‘I enjoy running and I’d always wanted to run the “big six” marathons,’ remembers Andrew, a GP.       

The ‘big six’, also known as the The Abbott World Marathon Majors, is a series of the largest and most prestigious marathons in the world. Along with the London Marathon there are races in Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York.          

For most people, to do one of these would be a big tick on the ‘bucket list’. But this clearly wasn’t going to be enough for Andrew.         

Going the extra 256 miles...        

‘I thought, if I’m going to do them, why don’t I set myself the challenge of doing all six in one year? And also, I wanted to run them all in under three hours…’         

By Andrew’s own admission, a three hour marathon time is ‘the holy grail for club runners.’ He was going for six of them. As they say, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’.

L-R: Andrew smashes the Tokyo Marathon, shows off his medal for completing the 'big six'.

Andrew got the running bug in his forties and has done the London Marathon a handful of times. Now with his children grown up, he was able to cut down those notoriously long GP hours and really get stuck in.        

Andrew took the training up a notch, keeping the sort of diet and healthy lifestyle that any good doctor would recommend to others.        

It paid off in February, when he smashed the first of the ‘big six’ runs, Tokyo, in 2 hours 56 minutes. Then things turned tricky, with marathon number two in Boston.          

Out of the refrigerator         

‘There was some of the most brutal weather of the last 30 years during my run. It was cold and wet and we were constantly running into a freezing cold headwind – it was gale force and blowing direct into our faces.’         

Considering everything, his time of 3 hours 10 minutes sounds more than respectable. He then had six days to recover before the London Marathon. With his legs still aching, he set off on the hottest London Marathon on record.            

It was his slowest time of 3 hours 18 minutes. However, he says it was his favourite run.           

‘The support is phenomenal. You get cheered on all the way. It’s phenomenal and keeps you going. When you hit the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, it’s like a cauldron of noise.’

‘I think you can feel closer to God. Whenever I run, it’s just me, nature and God.'

Andrew Blair

After a six month break, the final three marathons were much smoother and three more ‘holy grails’ were comfortably accrued. New York was a fitting send-off:       

‘You could see Manhattan, with all the skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty in the background. It was amazing.’       

Running the good race       

The big six was a personal labour of love, but Andrew was keen for others to benefit, sharing the money he raised between Tearfund and Alzheimers Society.        

‘I’ve always felt an affinity to Tearfund. Being a doctor, it’s so important that people have the basic living conditions and nutritious food to eat.’        

As a lifelong Christian, he’s familiar with the apostle Paul’s talk of ‘running the race’. For him, running can be a spiritual activity.        

‘I think you can feel closer to God. I live in South Wales and whenever I run, it’s just me, nature and God. A lot of people listen to music but I don’t want the distraction.’            

Oh, and, after a short break, he’s booked for another London Marathon in April…           

Turn your big ambition into a reality (and end extreme poverty at the same time). Find out how you can fundraise for Tearfund.

Ben Cohen
Ben is Web Editor for Tearfund. This can sometimes feel a bit like being ‘senior hairstylist for Bigfoot’ but he does his best. He writes a bunch of stories for the website, regular emails to supporters and much more besides.