Cumbria’s ‘Marathon Man’ Takes On New Charity Running Challenge

By Rachael Grealish

Cumbria’s very own Marathon Man has taken up a new challenge to run 110 marathons in 110 days.

Starting February 1, 2021 Gary McKee will be taking on yet another monumental challenge to raise money for Macmillan and, this time, Hospice at Home West Cumbria too, with a target to raise £10,000.

Gary McKee during his 100 marathons challenge. Image by Mike McKenzie.

Back in 2017 the 51-year-old from Cleator Moor ran 26.2 miles every day for 100 days – during which he raised £120,000 for Macmillan, inspired a community and even had a beer named after him.

But, what posses a man to take on an even tougher challenge than that?

Speaking to The Herdwick News Gary said: “It’s nice to be able to help people and if that means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone then do it. There’s enough challenges in life, sometimes we don’t like pushing ourselves too hard but I think I’m the opposite and like to do as much as I can.”

Four years on Gary isn’t only hoping to raise money for Macmillan – which celebrates it’s 110th birthday this year and is the reason he’s chosen to run 110 marathons – but is putting his running trainers on for two charities after seeing the devastating effects COVID-19 had on charity fundraising in 2020.

“I’ve always been a Macmillan supporter and people are being diagnosed with cancer everyday and I hope that the money we raise will help those being told that devastating news. I also chose Hospice at Home because COVID has absolutely devastated charities and being a local charity provides palliative and end of life care for local people so I just thought maybe now is the time to do something a bit closer to home,” he explained.

Gary added: “I know Macmillan are a national charity, but everything I’ve done for them has been for the Cumbria appeal so I just think the two work for me and we all know someone who’s had cancer and we’re all local people who, god forbid, if anything happened to any of us you’d like to think Hospice at Home would be there to help them as well.

“And they just can’t survive without people fundraising for them and with COVID it’s floored lots of charities as fundraising hasn’t happened as before – like you can’t get outdoors or you can’t do stuff on the scale you normally would so I just thought now’s the time to help out with them.”

During his last challenge Gary completed the it by crossing the finish line of the London Marathon, but with the restrictions of COVID-19 Gary will be sticking to his home county.

This Gary won’t have the same running experience as he did in 2017 where people joined in his efforts in their masses.

He explained: “Last time when I did the 100 there was people coming with me who’d never run before and were running six miles, pushing themselves to do half marathons and then going to work and telling all their friends and their friends were getting on board.

“I think it was quite contagious and galvanised people in the community together and people got behind me and even some people did their own fundraising. It did provoke a lot of interest and people doing things that helped put money into the pot.

“During this lockdown, obviously, things will be different with regards to me being only allowed to run with one person or it’ll be my family who come with me – the kids will go on their bikes on whatever. But it’ll certainly be different to the hoards that were with me last time unless things change significantly.”

There are people who have expressed interest in covering some days with the Marathon Man, but the fundraiser stressed he will be sticking to the regulations and running local to his home.

“We’ll just be sticking to the local routes, we won’t travel out of the area, every run will be run from my home,” he said.

“There are options even with restrictions. But the one thing I want to stress is we will be sticking to the rules and whoever I run with we will be social distancing and there’ll be times I do run on my own.”

Running one marathon is an tough challenge for anyone, and can take its toll physically and mentally, but running 110 consecutively is a whole other league and Gary must really keep a strong routine of taking care of his body and mind.

He said: “When you take on challenges of this size if you think you can do it you have a good chance, if you think you can’t it’s pointless even putting your trainers on so you’ve got to believe in yourself and your own abilities and I’m a good believer in myself.

“The last one was four years ago now and I learnt a lot from that. It’s only on reflection when you do look back and you see what went well and what didn’t go as well and what you could do differently.”

The charity runner explained he just tries to think of the challenge as ‘four hours running a day’ – something he can do if he prepares well, completes it, refuels and continues to learn from his success and mistakes of his last challenges.

As Gary isn’t a professional runner he will be completing a marathon and continuing to head into his job, daily.

“I believe I can do 110 based on my past performances – but again, past performances aren’t future guarantees,” he explained, “So I will still have to work on it, get up every morning and prepare myself and look after myself. Everyday is as important as the next and every marathon is as important as the next. So you’ve got to work yourself through them. Not go too hard, make sure that you do refuel and look after your body but don’t take on too much.”

Gary isn’t alone in his monumental feat, he’s putting together a team to help him manage the fundraising and social media.

As with his ‘100 in 100’ he’s asking people to not only sponsor him, but sponsor his vests again – either for a company or person – for £100.

This isn’t the first or second time Gary has put himself to the test to raise money for charity in the past the Marathon man raised nearly £100,000 trekking across New Zealand, cycling through Brazil and even running the 350 plus miles from Whitehaven to London – finishing off with the London Marathon in 2015, of course.

Gary was inspired to start fundraising in memory of his father who, in 1998, was diagnosed with cancer. His father died of an unrelated illness six years later.

Gary said: “My dad got diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and it was a devastating time for us all and when he died I wanted to do some fundraising in his memory so I thought of the day we were told he had cancer and of all the other people who have had or will have that news and it inspired me to start fundraising for Macmillan.”

Since then Gary has raised around £400,000 in total for the charity, inspired his children to do their own fundraising – his 13-year-old son Beau ran for 501 consecutive days in 2018 and raised £35,000 – and has received several recognition awards including a Pride of Britain award and the ‘Freedom of the Borough’ award in Copeland.

“It isn’t about awards for me – I was awarded the freedom of the borough and think I’m only person to be awarded it this century and that in itself, but it’s recognition from people in the area who know you and who are proud of what you’ve done and that’s all you want to do is make people proud and happy,” he humbly explained.

Gary’s 110 marathons in 110 days starts February 1, 2021. To sponsor Cumbria’s Marathon Man click HERE.