4 Marathons 4 Eilish Race Reports

  • 21st November 2015

Steve Mulholland writes:

On 24th October I ran the Snowdonia Marathon to complete my “4 marathon” challenge in memory of my daughter, Eilish, who died of cancer in October 2014 aged just 4 years old. The 4 marathons were London, Edinburgh, Reykjavik and Snowdonia.


The aim of the challenge was to raise money for the Beads of Courage programme which celebrates the huge bravery of child cancer sufferers by recognising each medical event and milestone by giving them a coloured bead. Yellows for overnight hospital stays, Blues for clinic visits, Reds for blood transfusions, White for Chemotherapy, Sparkly for Radiotherapy, Purple for Infusions, Starshaped for Surgeries etc. During her treatment Eilish collected over 1000 beads in just 51 weeks – an average of 3 a day. Eilish’s bead string tells her story. She loved collecting them and stringing them together and she knew what each one meant. For children in remission the beads give the children a way of telling their story, reflecting on their journey. For us, Eilish’s beads stand as a testament to her immense bravery. The final bead is a Butterfly which represents Eilish’s wings.


My challenge started in London with one of the Royston Runners London Marathon places. Mine was the last name out of the hat, receiving the “bonus place” the club got for helping with baggage the year before so it goes without saying that I am hugely grateful to anyone who helped back in 2014. As anyone who has run London will know it is immense. This year the weather was perfect. The early drizzle cleared by the start and I was in Starting Pen 4 and managed to cross the start line in just 3 minuets of the gun meaning I didn’t fall foul of the frustration and congestion that further back starting pens can result in. I had a solid race – managed a high-5 with Chairman Worsey just after Cutty Sark – and even though I had a “wobble” around mile 18/19 the sheer volume of support can’t help but lift you as you run the last 6 miles and I clocked a time of 3hrs24:51 which I was quite chuffed with as it was my first go at the marathon distance.

Edinburgh on May 31st was a whole different feel with heavy rain and high winds forecast. As it turned out the rain held off until after I had finished but the wind… well that was not so kind. The course is kind of in 3 parts. The first third of the race takes you from the top of the hill in the city down to Musslebrough. With a lot of down hill this third was fairly fast and I felt pretty good. The 2nd third takes you east from Musslebrough along the coast. This also felt comfortable but for all the wrong reasons as I could feel and increasingly strong wind on my back which was to become a massive problem when at 17.5 miles the course turns back on itself for the final third and you head back to Musslebrough for the finish. 8 miles of 40mph north sea gusts in my face saw my time slip away from looking like I was going to beat London to being a couple of minutes slower at 3hrs26:42.

And so my challenge led me to Reykjavik in August. Being halfway to America there were as may US and Canadian runners as Europeans which gave the race a much more international feel. The race sets off at the same time as the Half Marathon which gives the first 11 miles a big city marathon feel but also gives you the huge potential banana skin of getting too much into a Half Marathon groove as the runner ratio is about 8:1 for Half vs Full. I felt I controlled my pace well in this first half and stuck to my pace plan but seeing the majority of runners go straight on at the 11mile mark while what felt like just a small hand full of us peeled off to run another 15miles was mentally a huge challenge. The race changed to a club organised feel – now running on foot paths and not roads and the course also starts to undulate a lot more. By mile 20 my thighs felt like concrete and it became about survival and not time and I just about kept it together and post a time of 3hrs28:17. I’ll have to return one day as i’m sure I can run this one faster.

And then Snowdonia. What can I say? It is mental. Having studied the route map and elevation for hours on end in advance I felt that I knew what I was letting myself in for but my oh my, it is much better than you could possibly imagine. Everything about this race is everything that is good about running. Just 2000 runners so more of a club feel to it, chatting with other runners at the start and along the course, really well marshalled, loads of water stations, good baggage area in the scout hut, free tea and cake at the finish. This is brilliant. But it was also wet… very wet… in fact it rained for the first 22miles! But I didn’t care about that, all you had to do was look up at the most awesome scenery and you realised that you were doing something special. With a mental final 3mile climb from mile 21 to mile 24 I tried to keep something in reserve which was just as well as it really does take it out of you and so does the final decent into Llanberis as you struggle to keep your footing in places as it’s so steep but I really cannot state enough how satisfying this race is and I would recommend it to everyone. Oh yes, and I made it round in 3hrs46:09.

I have raised over £8500 for the Beads of Courage programme with this challenge which is fantastic and includes a wonderfully generous £250 from Royston Runners which the committee agreed recently so thank you to everyone for that. The other truth is that all this running has kept me sane this year which has not been easy and even though you guys don’t realise it, being able to turn up for club runs and just let off some steam and talk rubbish has been and still is a great help.

The just giving page is still active if anyone has a spare £1 or 2 https://www.justgiving.com/4marathons4eilish/ but I am also delighted to notice that the clubs chosen charity for the coming year is a charity raising money for Ward C2 at Addenbrookes which is the children’s cancer ward where Eilish and I spent many many nights in 2013 and 2014. The work the staff do there is just simply phenomenal.

The only other thing I’d like to say is please please consider giving blood if you don’t already. Over 60% of blood is used for Cancer Patients. It is vital to their treatments and we can all do our bit to keep stocks replenished.


Steve Mulholland.