Ross Edgley is a fitness expert, sports scientist and founder of the sports nutrition company The Protein Works – he’s also run a marathon whilst pulling a 1,400kg MINI Countryman behind him.
Ross trained for eight months and up to 16 hours a day for the #WorldsStrongestMarathon. It took him 19 hours, 36 minutes and 43 seconds to lug the car around Silverstone Race Circuit. His hard work paid off though! Ross was raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, Children With Cancer, SportsAid and United Through Sport and made over £2000.
For mere mortals a marathon is a challenge so we wanted to find out what makes Ross tick. From eating 6,000 calories to how to get a ripped bod, Ross tells all...
How did the #WorldsStrongestMarathon come about?
I do a lot of obstacle racing and I was sitting down with a few of my friends talking about ways to raise money for charity. Everyone said "why don’t you run a marathon" and someone jokingly said "why don’t you pull a car?" Turns out it wasn’t such a bad idea! My inability to say no leads to me these stupid things!
Did you have any experience of this sort of challenge?
I used to play water polo and swim for Great Britain but I’m built like a hobbit! I’m 5ft10 on a good day so my coach was like: "Look Ross, unless you grow another foot you’re not going to the Olympics" – which was fair enough! I started weight training because I needed to get a little bit bigger for water polo.
Now, at the grand old age of 30, I’ve long hung up my Speedos and wondered what else is there to do? I’ve always been quite strong but also because of my swimming background I’ve got quite good endurance so I thought it would be cool to try and fuse the two.
Too many people think endurance athletes like triathletes exist on one side of the gym and the strength athletes on the other – and never will the two meet. I thought it would be cool to combine both disciplines.
That’s what’s so cool about the #WorldsStrongestMarathon trending for 18 hours. We had strong men jumping into the conversation on Twitter as well as triathletes!
You encountered some pretty shocking weather…
It was awful! My older brother, bless him, took a day off work and covered about 10 miles with an umbrella right in front of me because I was getting drenched. Brother of the year award definitely.
How did you train for it? I mean you look a little scrawny…
Ha! I was lucky enough to train with Geoff Capes, former World’s Strongest Man, Linford Christie, 100m Olympic champion, and Andy Bolton – the first human to ever deadlift a 1000 pounds – so I took principles from all of them and they helped so much. Like for Red Bull athletes too, at some point you just have to see what happens and head out into the unknown.
For all the marathon running and weightlifting you can do the only way to train for this sort of thing is to actually attach a car to your back and run with it. It was just hours and hours – sometimes 16 hours a day.
Why a MINI?
I was doing the challenge at Silverstone and MINI is very British, it just felt right. However, the MINI Countryman was a lot bigger than I expected though – it was 1.4 tonnes! In retrospect I wish I picked a smaller MINI...
How did you attach yourself to the car?
I went through about four different harnesses before I found one that fitted like a glove. Some wore out, and some gave me unholy amounts of chafing. It was terrible! The harness has a towbar which you attach. I wish I’d videoed the guy’s face when I went into the outdoor adventure shop asking how I could attach a MINI to my back whilst running a marathon and what rope would he suggest? The poor guy looked like it was his first week and said ‘I’ll get the manager!’ and ran away.
How was the chaffing?
TLC was required. I applied all sorts of ointments!
What was your biggest challenge during the marathon?
Physically I’d done all I could for eight months. However, on the day one of the hardest things was staying awake and staying motivated. I drank a lot of Red Bull!
How were your legs after the event? Have you fully recovered?
They were surprisingly good. I went for a run a few days after and it turns out I’m quite quick without a MINI strapped to my back. It was such a weird sensation. For about two days afterwards it felt like I still had the straps on – it bruised quite badly.
I think science sometimes underappreciates how durable and infinitely powerful the human body really is.
So many people talk about “rest days” and “doing less” but ultimately you have to train more and improve your body’s ability to combat the workload. Because I’d trained so much up until the day afterwards it honestly took me a day or two to bounce back! I think science sometimes underappreciates how durable and infinitely powerful the human body really is. I think if you really push it and do something so obscene like this you start to tap into the potential a little bit more and think ‘actually that was alright - maybe I could do a bit more’…
How do you cope mentally when you hit a wall and realise you have a MINI strapped to your back?
I started the challenge at midnight and at 7am it was cold and wet and I was slipping up the slight gradient in Silverstone. At one point, I was just slipping down and losing about 10m at a time. Slowly I managed to get up the hill. I must have hit the wall about the seven to 10 mile mark. I was just trying to take on all the fluids that I could. I was having everything from carbohydrate to fat formula, I took a dual fuel source approach. If I didn’t my body would have run out of muscle glycogen so quickly.
How many calories did you take on for this?
I ate around 6,000 calories. I was going through almond butter like it was yoghurt. I was literally spooning it in! If almond butter wasn’t calorie dense enough I was adding coconut oil to that as well.
You’re in pretty great shape. How do you get a body like that?
A lot of people message me and say that their legs won’t grow, or they want stronger legs – if you just strap a MINI to your back they honestly will get bigger, it’s just the law of adaption.
There is such a trend towards aesthetics in fitness and people are bicep curling before they can deadlift. If you look at the athletes back in the Soviet Union they were far and away beyond where we are now. Their understanding of strength and conditioning was so advanced, there was a real emphasis on running, jumping, throwing, pulling, pushing – there were no bicep curls or “beach weights”.
Just go back to basics. Do lots of tyre drags, sled pulls, bench-squats, deadlifts and do those big, functional compound movements.
If you train to be a functional athlete, like Red Bull athletes, the aesthetics will almost come as a by-product. If you are a good snowboarder you will have a good core and a good six-pack because you won’t be able to do the moves otherwise. Pursue your functional athletic passion and the body will come!
Ross Edgley specialises in pushing the boundaries of human physical potential and exploring uncharted territory in the world of sports science, fitness and nutrition.
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