Nick Butter is the first and only person to have run a marathon in all 196 countries in the world, doing so in just 674 days. Hot on the heels of Running The World, on April 17th, he’ll set out on another record-breaking expedition — circumnavigating Britain. In collaboration with Supersapiens, Nick will run a double marathon every day for a 100-day span. Just a few days before hitting the start line, Nick shared his approach to preparation, mindset, and how it’s the small things that give him anxiety.
I’M JUST MORE STUBBORN
There’s a perception that I’m this ultra-fit athlete, but I don’t think I am. If you put me on a soccer pitch and asked me to play for an hour, I’d be huffing and puffing and have to sit down. I wouldn’t be able to do it. But if you put me on a road and asked me to run slowly for fourteen hours, I can do that. So, I’m probably averagely fit, but I’m just more stubborn.
Like most things, it’s about practice and gathering experience. The last two expeditions I've done, I was hit by a car both times. I've been shot at. I’ve been attacked. When you’ve suffered and persevered, or broken a bone and gotten yourself up and through the finish line, you now know you can do that type of thing again and again. You set new limits for yourself. I’ve run thousands and thousands of miles, and it’s that experience that helps me get to the end of these types of adventures.
There’s definitely going to be times where things won’t go to plan, and I try to embrace it. After all, if you’re on a sinking ship, there’s not much point going down with the ship. The most sensible thing to do is to get off and try to get on another ship. To get through adversity, you have to calm yourself down and surround yourself with positivity. If I’m struggling in a day, I don’t put on up-tempo music to motivate myself. Quite the opposite, actually. I want to listen to the classics to get everything nice and calm so I can refocus myself. Then, I can push forward.
INJURY IS MY BIGGEST FEAR
I’m nervous about Run Britain because it was a bit of a last minute decision to do it. I am 100% undertrained. If I’d had a proper lead up, I would have run—without exaggerating—thousands of more training miles. I don’t know the state of my bone density, and I don’t know the states of my lactate or vitamin B… there’s a lot of unknowns. As I get ready to embark, though, there’s nothing more I can do to improve my fitness. From here, it’s about making sure that I’m rested, focused, and properly fuelled.
You can have all the willpower in the world, you can spend thousands of pounds on preparation, you can have done everything possible to get ready, and you can still go over on an ankle at any time. That’s why injuries are always a bit of a fear. If I can get through the first two weeks of this expedition without an injury, then that will give me a big psychological boost. It will help me deal with some of that anxiety and know that my body is ready for the challenge ahead.
THE PEOPLE AROUND ME ARE WHAT’S MOST IMPRESSIVE
Whenever I do these expeditions, people tend to focus on the running, which can be inspiring. But to me the most impressive part of it all is everything around the edges. The energy and effort that go into making sure I can even get to the start line is incredible. From finding funding to finding people I can trust, so much selflessness goes into it to allow me to be selfish and just focus on the running. There’s so many small things, like picking out the right fuel and getting the grocery orders right, that contribute to getting to the finish line. I’m so thankful for the people around me that do what they do. I couldn’t do it without them.
Even with an exceptional team around me, I still get stressed and anxious. I’m not generally an anxious person, and I’m not scared in the slightest of the distances or the challenge ahead. So, I guess my anxiety is from a bigger picture perspective. The things other than running that are harder to control.
At the same time, I’m conscious of finding a balance because my role right now needs to be to relax and chill out. I’ve learned that from previous expeditions, where I didn’t enjoy the lead up and regretted all of the pre-run stress. Right now I need to enjoy being able to get up and not go for a run, and having freedom of what I do in the day. Because as soon as that hundred days starts, there’s no freedom, no choices.
ON HOME SOIL
This run feels different because it’s going to be on home soil for me. It takes a lot of the stress out of the expedition, actually. Unlike previous adventures, I know if I don’t have something with me, I can get it delivered to me. My phone signal shouldn’t go down. And I don’t need to think about downloading a load of audio books in advance. That kind of thing.
The downside, if anything, is that I know what British weather is like. I love running in the heat, and during Running The World I was able to pick and choose the weather in most places. But in the UK it will generally rain, even in the summer months. It snowed on one of my last training runs! It doesn’t sound like something to be terribly concerned about, but if you’re waking up to rain every day, that’s not too bright. I hope the weather is kind to me, especially in the beginning, as it will be a huge boost to me and my spirits.
GETTING IN THE PERFORMANCE ZONE
For one hundred days I have one job: get out of bed and run 52.4 miles in every twenty-four hour period. That’s all I have to do.
I'm very regimented, even now in preparation. I'm very disciplined with my day, and am already getting up at exactly the same time every day, and making sure I’m eating at exactly the right times (thanks to this cool new device on my arm). I already have my daily supplements laid out in little sealed bags. It’s like the adage about executives who only have one colour of suit so they can reduce decision fatigue in the morning—it’s the same thing with running. The only deviation in my day is the weather and the route. Otherwise I’ll be lacing up and doing 84,000 steps each day.
I become very single-minded, and I’m a big believer in keeping the finish line in focus. The way I describe it is that I’m running in a pitch black tunnel, looking towards the light at the end of that tunnel, even though the light isn’t there yet. Some people use mantras like ‘one step at a time’ and ‘take every day as it comes’, and that’s fine, but if you’re hurting every day you can forget that it’s going to be over soon. In the spirit of positivity, I can’t lose sight of the fact that as every day goes by, I’m one day closer to the finish line.
For me, it’s all about focus, energy, and discipline. Let’s do this.
Follow Nick's journey on Supersapiens Instagram.