Running 366 marathons in 365 days – including a double run on the last day. That’s exactly what a Danish woman did, from 15 July 2012 to 14 July 2013.
And none of her 366 daily marathons were training runs. They were all organized ones, with at least three participants taking part.
It is hard to believe that 42-year-old life coach, Annette Fredskov (from Naestved, in Denmark) has achieved this feat, for she had even been diagnosed earlier with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This condition attacks the central nervous system and causes numbness in the limbs or even paralysis. She took up marathon running after the diagnosis, and strongly believes that it has helped to “cure” her of the MS.
The runner is a mother of two children, aged 10 and 12. She is married to Ulrich Fredskov, a non-runner.
I recently Skyped with Annette on her amazing feat. Her husband was with her for part of the interview – offering moral support. Here is what the marathoner said.
Annette, I understand that you ran 366 marathons in 365 days. How did you get the idea to do this?
Actually I think the marathon idea started with a thought. One day, I said aloud to my husband, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could run a marathon each day for a year? Instead of laughing and saying, you can’t do that, he said, well, if anyone can do that, it’s you.
Anyway, I was really curious about what we could do when our mind and body are working together. And I am in love with running the marathon because it’s just so magical. One day, I started to run and I thought that it would be great if I could run a marathon instead of going to work. So I didn’t work for a whole year – I ran, instead.
How did your family and friends react to this idea?
They have been supportive all the way and I couldn’t have done it without them.
Some friends thought that I was crazy but they actually found the marathon idea very exciting. My husband was the one person who had faith in me, though. He believed in me and when I said that I wanted to do the 366 marathons, I think he was the one person who thought I would get to the finishing line.
Ulrich, what did you think when your wife brought up the idea of running 366 marathons?
I thought that if anyone could do this, it was Annette and nobody else. She has the right motivation, the passion for running and the determination to do what she wants. For Annette, quitting is not an option. She has a very strong will and determination to reach her goal. She is a power woman, I would say!
Annette, was there a specific time frame that you wanted to complete each marathon in?
Well, I looked around at the big marathons and many of them allowed eight hours to finish, so that was my goal. But I never intended to take eight hours. It was just in case something happened. So usually, I tried to complete each marathon within five hours – that was my usual time.
Did you sometimes skip a run and then make up for it the next day?
No I didn’t. Every day I got up and ran a marathon. It was a tough winter and we had several months with snow and very cold weather – that was challenging. But I never gave myself an option to quit. I didn’t get up in the morning and thought, should I do it or not?
So even when it was raining or we were having hailstorms, I still went out to run and tried to find something positive to think about. And when it was snowing, I would say to myself, well, at the next petrol station I will get something to drink and I can warm my hands – small things like that helped!
Did you have any injuries during your year of marathon running everyday?
I had two weeks when I could not run because I had a shin splint. So every day for these two weeks, I would power walk a marathon, which I usually completed in about 5.5 to 6 hours.
Did you ever think of giving up?
Not really. But I had days when I was so tired that I just could not think. So I would go to bed and get some sleep – which always helped. And then I would wake up and run.
I also had days when I called a family meeting with my husband and kids, and they would ask me, do you still want to do this? They knew it was tough and that I was tired but they would always tell me, we want you to do this, we don’t want you to quit.
My husband and kids gave me motivation and they never let me quit. It was important to them too. It was my project but it became a family project. They helped me to stay motivated – especially on the days when I was having a tough time.
What was your most memorable moment during the 365 days?
There were so many. But if I had to pick one, it would definitely be the last day. I have no words for it – it was simply amazing.
The last day was memorable because there were a lot of people around me and everyone was being so supportive and cheering for me. It was my goal and I did it. I was standing at the finish line and there was just two words in my head, thank you. I had wanted to thank everyone, for helping me achieve this. I felt, yeah I did it, we did it all together.
What would you say was the most challenging aspect of doing your 366 marathons?
I think it was getting up everyday to run and not having a day off. That was really hard to do for a whole year. I also missed not having a day off with the family, just being lazy and not doing anything taxing.
How many people ran with you on the final day?
Well, we had two marathons on the final day and there were 100 people running each race. 52 of them ran both races with me.
Did you go on vacation during that year?
No, and we never went out of the country during that period because that wasn’t possible with the logistics. So we stayed in Denmark that whole year. But I had a summer vacation before I started the project and had another summer vacation afterwards. So it was a really fantastic reward for me at the end!
So what is the next project that you have lined up for yourself?
Well, I am trying to run ultra races. I just ran my first 100km ultra a couple of weekends ago. The next one though, is crazy. I will run five marathons in 48 hours in a month’s time. I think it will be challenging and is another way of pushing body and mind. But it will be another type of fun, I think.
You had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). How did this have an effect on your running?
Yes, I was diagnosed with MS, but actually, I do not have any symptoms now and I have not had symptoms for three or four years. I began running a lot and I also started working with my mind to focus on the positive things instead of being a victim of MS. And taking responsibility for my life and saying, well I have this diagnosis and I am in charge, but I will decide what I am going to do now – made a huge difference.
How did your doctors react to your 366-marathon goal?
I never discussed it with the doctors and I didn’t ask them for permission – because they would probably have just said that it wouldn’t be good for me.
Before starting on the marathons though, I went to the state hospital to get tests done so I could get a clean bill of health. I told the doctors at the state hospital that I was going to do this, and to check that my health was ok. They told me I was crazy to run so much, but they said that they would help me.
I took responsibility and decided what I wanted to do with my life. And when I ran, I could feel my body getting stronger and recovering from the MS – so running was a good choice!
How long do you plan to carry on with marathon running?
Marathon running is a gift to me. I want to do it for the rest of my life.
Actually, I am planning to run a marathon when I am 100 and I was joking with my children that when I am 100, they will run with me – when they are respectively, 70 and 68 years old. They think I am crazy! But that is something to smile about – for now.
Do you have any tips on marathon running?
I think the mental aspect is more important than the physical part. When you are actually running a marathon and pushing yourself – that is all in the mind. You will feel tired and your legs will hurt but if you believe that your body can do this, you will. And don’t forget to say thank you to your body! This really works.
Apart from this positive mental training, you still have to train for it though – and be physically ready.
Is there any other advice that you would like to give to aspiring runners?
Enjoy it. When you are out there, enjoy how your body and mind are working together. And if you are running a race, say hi to people along the way. That gives you energy. And just enjoy your running and have a smile on your face.
I also think that if we have dreams, we should say them aloud because it won’t become a reality if we don’t. And I think that we should go for our dreams. Go for them because they are possible if you really want them – no matter how crazy they may sound. Just do it and go ahead while you still can.
I live an ordinary life and have no special qualifications and I don’t have a lot of money. But I did an amazing thing so anyone can do that. You just have to be passionate about it.
Annette has also written a e-book on her 366 marathon project and it is available on Amazon and iTunes. To be inspired by her book, click here.
Other Blog Posts
- Click here to read about an Austrian who has run 170+ marathons to date.
- Click here to read about a marathon organised on a cruise ship.
- Click here to read about a Singaporean who has completed 31 marathons in 31 days… for the Bone Marrow Donor Programme.
- Click here to read about a Singaporean man who runs marathons… while dragging a car tyre behind him.