The 30 in 3 Challenge Update

An update from Christopher Smith on his recent ’30 in 3 Challenge’ this week.

“The 30 in 3 Challenge was an idea that came to my mind following the cancellations of all public marathons across the UK, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

I was still eager to train towards something like a marathon (26.2 miles) but wanted to involve some charities and add a bit of a twist, so decided to round it up to 30 miles! Whilst a 3-hour marathon alone is an astonishing human achievement, I wanted to break the 3-hour barrier for 30 miles. I wanted to represent multiple charities of different causes because they all will have been impacted by the fewer fundraising opportunities throughout this year. So then came “The 30 in 3 Challenge”, 30 miles in 3 hours for 3 Charities:

  • Liam Fairhurst Foundation
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK
  • East Anglian Air Ambulance Charity

I had a go at a half marathon in 2019 (75 minutes) and then a full marathon a few weeks later which, despite running 2hr 56min, I didn’t fare too well because I did not have the best preparation and I really suffered in the last half and for the days that followed. Before the COVID-19 restrictions came about I had signed up to a marathon for redemption, which may sound a bit crazy to some as a sub-3hour marathon is not something to be frowned upon. I was disappointed however and the competitive side of me wanted to see what I could do if I prepare well. As it happened, a close family friend Steve got in touch.

Steve coached my siblings and me during our years in athletics when I was aged 10-14 years old and we had since stayed in touch occasionally over the years. My father and I met with Steve after a local Frostbite Friendly League race last November for a catchup and to discuss my marathon plans. Steve provided me with a custom training plan that was flexible around working life and was more quality focused but with enough quantity to gain marathon fitness.

I was unfortunately struck with injury during February, but the April-scheduled marathon was soon moved to September amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Before summer it was clear that all public marathons were to be cancelled for the rest of the year, prompting The 30 in 3 Challenge.

I measured out a 30.1 mile course ( and restarted the marathon training plan with a few minor tweaks: adding a couple of miles here and there onto the long runs!

The original plan was to attempt the 30 mile run (starting and finishing at Littleport Leisure Centre) in late November. The run was postponed to December 22nd after we all entered a second nation-wide lockdown in November.

December 22nd was a special date for reasons within my family, but it was also the day Liam Fairhurst completed his sponsored 1-mile swim in 2006.

I was extremely nervous in the week leading up to December 22nd, but on the day recalled doing a 2hr 40 marathon training run 2 weeks prior, which felt “comfortable-hard” (a well-known running term!). This gave me the confidence to trust in the training and that I was in great shape.

Onto December 22nd, fate had it that the weather conditions on the day would be pretty good for ultra running; cool temperature, low winds and no rain. I needed to stick to sub 6-minute miling (or sub 3:44/km) for 3 hours, which would take me through the marathon distance at ~2hr 36min and then to 30 miles in 2hr 59.

I had my family, friends and the Fairhurst’s all supporting me at different parts of the route, and I was accompanied the whole way by four cyclists (James, Lauren, Melissa and Simon), as well as rolling in pacemakers for each of the large loops (Paul, Ali and Alex). I felt comfortable for the first 25 miles and was ahead of pace by close to 1 minute. But then going up the hill between Pymoor and Little Downham for the third and last time took it out of my legs, and the last few miles would become the real test.
I needed to get to the finish line at Littleport Leisure via Black Bank Road. Black Bank is a straight 2-mile road, which felt like 5 miles. The cyclists were encouraging me to keep pushing on. Cars were going by, beeping their horns in support.

I got back into Littleport and saw my brother (Michael) waiting to help pace me over the last mile. My legs at this point were extremely heavy and cramp was beyond looming but we kept moving forward and got to the finish line of the 30.1 miles course in 2:59:50, with just 10 seconds to spare!

I loved every minute, the good the bad and the very very painful! And I’m so pleased to announce that we’ve so far raised over £4,000 (including online and offline). I’m very thankful to everyone that has sponsored and the reaction received from friends and members of the public has been very positive.

If you have just learnt about the 30 in 3 Challenge and would like to contribute, please donate to these 3 brilliant charities:

The fundraising page will be kept open until Friday 8th January 2021″.

Written by Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith The 30 in 3 Challenge
Christopher Smith The 30 in 3 Challenge
Christopher Smith The 30 in 3 Challenge
Family and friends supporting Christopher
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