Interview with Rory – Returning from illness and working towards the 1000 marathon goal

After my sixth marathon In Berlin 2010 I was frustrated that I hadn’t broken a sub four hour marathon, and I didn’t see myself as a “proper runner”. My weight never dropped below 91kg and I felt I needed help. Frustrated, I wanted to make a change so I (MM) worked with Rory (RC) a performance coach in 2011. One of the first things he made me do was to look into the mirror and tell myself that I was as an athlete. I learnt from that day that self belief is the base, from which you have to work from. Under his training I lost weight and started to see my potential as a “proper runner” with my times improving.

As of the date of publishing this blog Rory has completed, 976 Marathons, 241 ULTRA-marathons, 9 Guinness World Records and 13 Marathon des Sables (MdS).

Rory was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) in May 2016, it’s a rare and serious disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. Rory was warned he may never walk again just four weeks after running 156 miles (250km) across the Sahara Desert in the Marathon des Sables race in Morocco. 

From being active and independent, GBS ensured that Rory was unable to walk. However Rory has been making steady progress and was recently discharged from the rehabilitation unit at Cardiff’s Rookwood Hospital. Recently he has set his sights on the Cardiff Half Marathon on October 2 2016. Like many who know Rory, I am really inspired by his journey and how he is progressing to achieve his goals, despite the effect of this serious illness.

MB: What’s the most challenging thing that you’ve experienced during MdS or a Marathon, and how as it helped you now during your recovery from the Guillain-Barré Syndrome virus? 

RC: I’m lucky enough to have run in some amazing places and races sometimes in a whole world of pain. Being able to cope with the extreme pain and discomfort that accompanies Guillain-Barré Syndrome has definitely helped me during my recovery plus some encouraging words from Sir Ranulph Fiennes who told me that pain doesn’t last forever and comfort comes from knowing that at some time in the future my pain would stop.

Marathon des Sables with Ranulph Fiennes – 2015

MB: Although people may see running as a solo act, I’ve found the case that wider support is key. During this challenging period of recovery from the virus, you speak really highly of your wife and family, how important have they been during this recovery period?

RC: Historically I’ve always been terrible at asking people for help as I’m a very proud person. I’ve always seen needing help as being a sign of weakness and have taken pleasure from being very self-sufficient in my work, home and running life. Having GBS takes all that Pride and turns it to dust as literally there is nothing you can do for yourself. It’s really degrading and yet humbling as I found out that people really love to help when the chips are down and sharing those moments with your nearest and dearest or even a perfect stranger can make light of any situation and helping the recovery process along.

Flora London Marathon – 1997

MB: What mental techniques do you use to start the day in the right way, whilst recovering from the virus?

RC: Every day I think ‘What difference can I make to my recovery today?’ One weekend I spent the whole day standing up, listening to a song on my iPhone and then sitting down again for a well-earned rest grabbing on for dear life to a Zimmer-Frame. It was incredibly tiring and not all that interesting if I’m being honest but I knew it would make a huge difference to my strength. I stuck to a rigid time-table which luckily is how the hospital operates and I fitted all my rehabilitation around Sleeping, Doctors’ Rounds and Meal-Times.

Marathon des Sables – 2011

MB: With running I know that many people feel that it is an important part of their life’s, and once injured, it feels as if a major part of them has been taken from them. With your experience what advice would you give to people dealing with injury to ground themselves?

RC: Being injured or in my case seriously ill can make even the mildest mannered of folk pretty angry. I fought everything and everyone for the first month of being ill as I couldn’t accept that my whole identity as a person and a runner was being destroyed, right in front of my eyes. Accepting that I was ill, seriously and life-threateningly ill, finally got me on the road to recovery and gave me a base to work from. Setting weekly goals and a target goal of walking again meant that anything more I achieve a bonus.

Stoptober, Trafalgar Square – 2013

MB: You have run 976 marathons and are working hard to completing your 1000 marathon target. You have written in your blog recently about a recent parkrun you took part in. I can’t fully imagine how much pain you experienced completing it, but it demonstrates your extraordinary will. Despite this what is your ‘why’ to keep going?

RC: Running marathons is what I do, it’s what I’m known for and it’s whom I am…so why shouldn’t I carry on where I left off. Running parkrun was like going for my first run on 5th January 1994 and I loved every step of it. I wasn’t last either!

Middlekerke Marathon – 1997







  1. Great article. My dad had GBS many years ago and I know how unpleasant and debilitating it is. I wish Rory continued success in his recovery, and his incredible goal of running 1000 marathons!

    Liked by 1 person

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