Matt Pearce celebrated the end of 2020 by completing his final marathon of the year, bringing his 20 marathons in 2020 challenge to a close.
Certainly not for the faint hearted we asked Matt how he came to creating such a remarkable challenge,
“20 marathons in one year probably seems like a crazy challenge to most people. It all started over 10 years ago with a few small running and cycling races where I fundraised for different charities. My first big challenge was running the London Marathon in 2011. I was a Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat crew member by then, so I ran to raise funds for them. I can’t lie, it was hard, and it did hurt, but I felt great when I had completed it and fundraising just made it seem worthwhile. It obviously sowed an idea in my mind”.
This led Matt to continue fundraising and taking part in various events, gradually increasing the challenge and fundraising goal and he was soon thinking about the next big challenge to conquer. He tells us,
“I realised off in the future was the year 2020 and wondered what I could I do 20 of. It had to be a good fundraising challenge, one that would allow me to raise a lot of money and be a big challenge for me personally. Then I thought – 20 marathons, that’s it! With the challenge set firmly in my mind, 2019 arrived and suddenly it all felt real… Oh heck, it’s next year! It was time to finish planning and get those marathons booked”.
Matt began to book marathons in Boston, Chicago, London and others closer to home to allow his running schedule to fit into daily life. When it came to selecting a charity to support Matt explains,
“I wanted a charity that was close to my heart. My mother-in-law is living with dementia and it’s a daily struggle for her. She needs help in all sorts of ways, as does the rest of the family and my work had chosen Alzheimer Scotland as one of their charity partners for 2019/20. That’s it – decision made – I’d raise money for Alzheimer Scotland”.
Matt’s mother-in-law Peggy attends Alzheimer Scotland’s Dementia Café, along with her husband Jim. “They both think this service is excellent and it gives them something that they look forward to and get support from”, Matt told us.
Alzheimer Scotland’s Dementia Cafes offers support and information in a relaxed environment, whilst giving people the chance to meet others dealing with the same experiences. The cafés aim to be a friendly and welcoming place for people with dementia, their families and friends to meet up for a coffee and a chat. To continue providing a place to connect during lockdown restrictions many cafés have moved to a virtual drop-in service which many have seen as a lifeline. All services available are searchable by location on the Alzheimer Scotland website.
“As we progressed through the summer, more and more marathons were cancelled, I was still hanging on to some being able to take place right at the end of the year. Some event organisers did huge amounts of work to try to allow the races to take place. Alas it was not to be! So, in the end it was 5 real races and 15 virtual ones!
The downside of virtual races was that I couldn’t travel to all those different places, Chicago, Boston, London, Blackpool and even a big hill in the Yorkshire Dales! The definite upside was that the virtual events didn’t impact family life as much. I was only out of the house for a few hours and not days on end! Virtual events also meant that whilst running around my local community I received lots of support and people coming out into their gardens to cheer me on as I passed”.
Vanessa, Matt’s wife was a big support and took care of updating his routes and notifying friends and family on social media to drum up messages of support and donations. Not one to lack in determination, Matt carried on with his challenge. He tells us more,
“I must have thought that I was invincible and got over-excited with covid restrictions being relaxed. During that month I did 3 marathons (2 in the same week with a 5K race in between), some other sporting events and climbed 3 mountains”.
For Matt's final marathon, plans were again forced to change due to further lockdown restrictions.
“I had to run around my town, again! I got lots of local support though - my running club friends stepped in and they along with the local community support helped get me around”.
Matt also had support from afar as his friend Rick, originally due to run alongside him, ran his own marathon in Manchester and tracked the route via GPS to run in the formation of the number “20” in celebration of his friends achievements.
Including Gift Aid, Matt has raised over £7,000 for Alzheimer Scotland with every penny going towards supporting people living with dementia, their families and carers right now and in the future.