AARON ROBINSON – daily marathon runner – Runner’s World, March 2024

‘There was a time when I thought about becoming a monk,’ says Aaron Robinson. ‘I’d love to be on my own in my little cell. That’s who I am, basically.’

What the 40-year-old Londoner is doing with his days instead is not exactly the next best thing, but it definitely qualifies as an ascetic lifestyle. Bed at 7pm, up at 3am, when he’ll have a bagel and a protein shake, run a marathon around Wanstead and then sit down to a full day’s homeworking as an internal communications manager at the human trafficking charity Hope for Justice. ‘In a strange kind of way, I’m enjoying it,’ he says. ‘I like being by myself, just running and seeing the sun come up. It’s a beautiful part of the day for me.’

This has been his routine since 18 December 2022, when he set out in the east London snow with his two border collies, Inca and River, and announced he was aiming to break the world record for the most consecutive daily marathons. Whether he does it or not is a complicated thing. The official Guinness record for a man is 82 days, set by Devdutt Sharma of India when he finished in October 2022. In January 2023 Australia’s Erchana Murray-Bartlett set an official women’s record of 150 days. However, in March 2023 an American pastor called Malachi O’Brien stopped at an unofficial 153 days, and between 2010 and 2012 the Spanish ultrarunner Ricardo Abad, again unrecognised by Guinness, completed an extraordinary 607 consecutive marathons.

At the time of writing Aaron was on his 335th marathon, but has also accepted that even if he gets into the 600s, it won’t be certified. Three of his runs have been in canicross races, where you’re attached to your dogs, so they would count as “assisted”. He also tried to get the Guinness people to certify Inca and River as record breaking marathon dogs, but they wouldn’t bite. ‘I think the official line was that they couldn’t ascertain whether the dogs were doing it of their own free will, which is ironic as it was the dogs who actually submitted the application,’ he jokes. ‘They were also concerned that more people would try to do this with their dogs, and they didn’t want to encourage it.’

He has received a bit of criticism online for covering such distances with his pets, who are both two years old, but insists he is still a long way from finding their limits. ‘If you know these working breeds, they never get tired. When we get back they don’t sleep, they still want me to play with them. And while I’m doing a marathon, they’re doing an ultramarathon every day because they’ve sprinting back and forth, fetching sticks and balls along the way.’ River, the black and white one, is more of a zig-zagger, while Inca, the grey one with David Bowie eyes, occupies himself by finding things.

Aaron, despite having half as many legs, seems similarly unstoppable. He’s highly motivated by his goal of raising £50,000 for Hope for Justice: ‘There are 50 million people trapped in modern slavery, being sexually exploited or forced to work for little or no money, not being able to go home, having their passports confiscated,’ he says. ‘And this isn’t happening in some far away corner of the world. It’s happening everywhere – including the UK.’ 

He has also got away with remarkably few physical issues. Sure, there were stomach problems for the first 100 days or so, and one day with food poisoning where he did a six-hour semi-walked marathon while vomiting along the way. But he doesn’t stretch, or get massages, and has stayed injury-free. He does think his immune system has been weakened, and he’s felt ill more times than usual this past year due to the lack of recovery time. But aside from missing packages at his door because he takes too long to get down the stairs, he hasn’t suffered as much as he might.

Ask for some fun memories and he struggles a bit. He would have liked to enter more weekend races to mix things up a bit, but he insists on running with the dogs which rules him out of most events. Other runners undertaking epic challenges might travel the length of a country, or share a tracker so that dozens of supporters can join them every day. Aaron is tied to his home circuit due to having to keep working, and sets out so early that no one sensible would care to join him – not that he’d want them to: ‘I’m a massive introvert. I wouldn’t like to be the Forrest Gump type, running with a crowd. I like the time by myself to think about things.’

How will he know when to stop? He says that if one of the dogs gets injured, he’ll call it quits. ‘I feel like I’ve done too many now to stop. At this stage it will take an awful lot for me not to do it.’ He admits that he did quit once, on day 170. He did five miles and went back to bed. ‘But my dogs said, “What are you doing?” They told me off. And we went back out again. Now when I think about stopping, I remember that when I did stop, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Stopping is overrated.’