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On Sunday, British comedian and light of my life Eddie Izzard completed not only a double marathon, but his 27th marathon in 27 days. The challenge, which ended in Johannesburg, was structured in honor of South African President Nelson Mandela, with the 27 marathons standing for the 27 years Mandela was imprisoned.
Through the challenge, Eddie raised over 1.35 million pounds for Sport Relief, a charitable organization that provides support to poor communities around the world through vaccines, education, and other social betterment programs.
After completing this feat of superhuman endurance at the feet of a very large Nelson Mandela, a tearful and tired Izzard thanked everyone who donated and supported him, before describing the challenge as the hardest thing he'd ever done and taking a celebratory gulp of sparkling wine.
There are a lot of things about this that I cannot wrap my mind grapes around, the main one being "HOW." Running is hard. Running a marathon is very hard. Running two marathons in one day is extremely hard, but there are people who are really into that kind of thing. Running 27 whole marathons — that's 707.4 miles — in 27 days is frankly unfathomable to me. (I couldn't even eat a burrito after slogging through my half, much less get up the next day and run again.) I know there are ultra-runners and athletes who could probably complete this challenge without too much trouble, but Izzard isn't a professional athlete.
A challenge like this isn't purely physical; the mental and emotional component of something like this is huge and, though Izzard doesn't necessarily make it look easy, he keeps his humor and even takes time to talk to press, fans, and the people who run various social betterment programs.
This wasn't Izzard's first attempt at the challenge. As he explains in the below video, tried it back in 2012, but withdrew due to health concerns.
(I will say that my favorite part of the above video is the bit about the flag, mostly because it reminds me of the best bit of flag-centric comedy ever performed. Honestly, just hearing him say the word "flag" makes me giggle.)
Excellent flag jokes aside, I'm always impressed with what a thoughtful, warm, and compassionate person Izzard seems to be. That much running would surely turn a lesser person (such as myself) into a feral monster bereft of manners, but Eddie keeps it together. Amidst all the running around and raising money for a good cause, Izzard took a break get his nails done, discuss coming out as transgender, and explain how painting his nails functions as "a badge of identity."
In terms of recovery, Peter Jones, head of Staffordshire University's school for psychology, sport and exercise, told the BBC that Izzard's recovery "should take about a month and involve plenty of low-impact, low-intensity training, such as swimming, plus stretching exercises," and that he "should be back to normal after a few weeks, so long as he hasn't done any major damage to his body."
You can watch recaps from each day of the challenge on the BBC website, as well as weekly highlight reels. Even though the challenge is over, you can still make a donation to sponsor Izzard via Sports Relief.