MARCUS SMITH – ENDURANCE ATHLETE
The man who ran 30 marathons in 30 days: Interview by Diane Vilarem
The man who ran 30 marathons in 30 days: Interview by Diane Vilarem
Some people are just inspirational. Marcus Smith is one such person. This amazing athlete ran 30 marathons in 30 days, came back from near death and still competes. Being a good friend of Marcus, Diane decided to have a chat with Marcus and to find out more…
1. Please introduce yourself to our audience!
My name is Marcus Smith, I’m 42 years old. I’m an Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker, Extreme Athlete and Coach. I’m based in Dubai, which has been my home for the last 38 years.
2. You are an endurance athlete, with a focus on running, is that correct? What is your background?
I have done a lot endurance sports when I was in school, mostly running. Then I played Rugby for several years (Marcus was a professional rugby player…). The first thing I did when I stopped playing Rugby was to run a Marathon. Also, mountain biking was a big part of my youth, therefore I was heavily into cycling.
3. When did you start riding?
I retook cycling again in 2013.
4. Favorite climb?
Mont Ventoux. I have done this climb several times, and I absolutely love it. Once I did all three climbs in one ride; Les Cingles du Mont Ventoux, which was absolutely amazing! I love riding my bike in France and I also spent some time in the Dolomites in Italy. I did a race there once, Maratona dles Dolomites, that was absolutely fantastic as well.
5. Favorite café in Dubai?
It’s gonna open soon, and it’s called Smith ST Café! It is located above Innerfight (the Gym) in studio city (Dubai) serving the best coffee in the universe, as well as smoothies and other things, all super nice and healthy!
6. Tell us a bit more about Innerfight. How did you come up with the name?
Actually, I was thinking about what was really important and Innerfight is the battle within the mind. Lots of people think it’s related to MMA, but it’s not. It describes quite well that we can do a number of things in life if we are able to win the fight within our mind.
7. Favorite workout session or training ride?
This is a good question, and my answer is quite easy. My favorite training ride is very simple, its 1min full hard effort and 1 minute rest for 20 sets. It’s a 40 min workout. The objective is to stay consistent through the 20 sets. It sounds very simple and straight forward – but it’s quite challenging.
8. Favorite podcast?
My favorite podcast is obviously Innerfight podcast – which is mine, haha. Outside of that, I sort of dip from podcast to podcast, depending on who the guests are. Modern Wisdom is a really nice podcast, the James Altitude Show I also like a lot. I like Joe Rogan when he has certain guests on, but I don’t listen to him all the time.
9. Top 5 bucket list races?
To be honest, I don’t really have a bucket list. However, I wanted to do Marathon Des Sables, and that was something I completed in 2015. In 2019 I got an opportunity to run the Beyond the Ultimate in Kenya, which is a 250km (running) race through the Kenyan nature reserves which is absolutely incredible. Things that I probably want to do, hmmm, maybe some good races in Europe. I think for a single stage race, the UTMB is an incredible race. Even just running the route (if I can’t get into the race) would be amazing. Another race that I am looking forward to is the Ultra X World Championship (which I qualified for) held in Slovenia this year (I have a friend from there who says it’s really beautiful). I’m really looking forward to that! Also, I wouldn’t say there’s a particular race, but there is definitely something about all the races in America; look at Western States, Leadville, Badwater and all other big trail traces over there, they have such beautiful nature and landscape.
10. In 2018 you ran 30 marathons in 30 days during the Dubai Fitness challenge, and in 2019 you ran 206.9km around a 400m track (!), tell us a bit about those challenges and how do you motivate yourself when things turn dark?
I think these two challenges were amazing, lots of highs and lows. When you go into these kind of challenges you already know that there will be lots of highs and lows, so they don’t really come as a surprise. That’s actually a part of the reason I want to do a race/challenge, because that’s when you learn an incredible amount about yourself. You also learn an incredible amount when things go right, but you learn an equal amount, if not more, when things go wrong. That’s what’s quite exciting! When things go dark a bit, I tell myself; I chose to be here, and this is part of the challenge, and part of the reason we do these things.
11. Do you have any challenges planned for 2021?
Yes I do! I want to complete a 300km (running) race. Well, actually not a race, we made the route ourselves. It’s from the highest point in the UAE (Jebel Jais, 1,934m a.s.l) back to my gym (Innerfight). That’s my number one priority this year, because I’m just not sure what races are actually gonna happen this year. Obviously, if the UltraX in Slovenia goes ahead then I’m super excited for that! 250km over 5 stages
12. In 2018 you had a very bad accident on the bike, and you managed to bounce back from that even stronger. What happened, and how did you find motivation in that difficult moment?
I was hit by a truck and I hit a brick wall at 54km/h. On the impact I broke my left shoulder, and I also broke 7 ribs which was quite painful, but not life threatening. What was life threatening was that I punctured my left lung, and, I actually had an incredible moment of clarity. I had a split second, or maybe longer with no pain at all, where I had a quite reasonable conversation with myself where I told myself that there’s only two real outcomes here: If I don’t fight for every breath, then I’ll die. Therefore, all that was left was to fight for every breath, because I wanted to live more than I wanted to die! That was really the motivation. And honestly, that motivation continues pretty much every day, I just want to live.
13. Do you practice Yoga? If so, favorite Yoga pose?
I’ve practiced Yoga, on and off really, since returning from my accident in 2018, and of course inversions are fantastic. I think one of the best poses in Yoga, and I don’t want to upset anyone here as it’s not very exciting, is the Downward Dog. Most of the classes I’ve been in which has the downward dog in I’ve felt really good by the end of them so, yeah, that’s my favorite.
14. Do you follow a specific diet?
I guess I do, and I don’t. I eat a Paleo diet, or you could say that I eat based on Paleo eating habits. No sugar, no processed food, no dairy, everything is fresh all the time. And that works super well for me and for my wife Holly. It has cured several issues we had 10-15 years ago.
15. Your wife, Holly, is a champion Paleo chef, frequently featured in your Instagram stories. How do you find balance in working/training so close together?
Yeah, she’s amazing! It’s very tough, I’ll be honest. Working together, training together, means you’re together 100% of the time (compared to when she used to be an air hostess and away 50% of the time), naturally brings out challenges, not only when business is going bad, but also when it’s going good. There’s a lot of emotions creeping in, and I would say it’s a constant learning curve, but what we try to do is to make sure that we travel and have quality downtime together. To be home, be present and just enjoy each other’s company… and obviously her cooking as well
16. In 2010 you told a reporter that “It was rewarding, but I don’t think I’ll be doing another one” when asked about your first Marathon… 8 years later you ran 30 marathons in 30 days. What will you be doing in 2024?
Haha brilliant question ! I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 2024, I don’t really have bucket lists…sometimes things just happen. For example, when I started training for ultra-cycling in 2017, I got a call from a crazy Swedish guy (who happened to call me from some remote location in Pakistan) and he just told me all these things about ultra-cycling, and the conversation just flowed, and I just felt like “this just sounds like a really good idea”. So, I go a lot on my gut feeling how I feel about things, when someone sends me an idea or talks to me about something. I’m fortunate to have a lot of people around me that send me different ideas and I expect someone to send me something in 2023 or 2024 and I might do it. It may be running or cycling, I’m not sure. Should be good fun though, I’m already excited about it.
17. Finally, tell us something we cannot find on google.
I think, the thing that always makes me smile, and makes a lot of people laugh is that, well there’s actually two things: 1) when I was younger, I was quite good at running. However, now, I’m 187cm tall and 90kg, which makes me quite big for an endurance athlete…but I wasn’t always big. I used to be incredibly thin, and very small as a runner at school! I used to get laughed at a lot for my short shorts, haha. Secondly, I always got treated a little bit differently, as I represented my school and had trials for England which led me to being granted the privilege of going out in the forest running on my own early mornings (outside school campus), in January and February when it was pitch black. That was something that pushed me a lot, it was a special privilege that I really really enjoyed, even though I was absolutely terrified doing it, ha!