Eddie Izzard, 54, completes 27 marathons in 27 days: admirable or nuts?


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54 year-old comedian Eddie Izzard has just completed 27 marathons in 27 days, raising almost $2 million for Sports Relief. He designed his South African challenge as a tribute to President Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in jail. Eddie, who has a new cop show in the works, ran despite heat exhaustion, dehydration and sunstroke. This marks his second Sports Relief, which is a biennial fundraiser for Comedy Relief. In 2009 he completed the equivalent of 43 marathons in 52 days. Eddie originally attempted the 27/27 challenge in 2012 but had to pull out due to health reasons. Just five days in to this latest endeavor, Eddie was medically advised to rest. That rest day left him to run a double marathon on Day 27, which he did last Sunday.

On Sunday, British comedian Eddie Izzard finished a double marathon in Johannesburg, South Africa – a great feat on its own, but those races completed a larger charity challenge in which he ran 27 marathons in 27 days.

Izzard, 54, completed his final 26.2-mile run at the feet of a large statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela, in whose honor the challenge is structured. (He ran one marathon each day for every year Mandela was imprisoned.)

Izzard’s efforts raised more than $1 million for this year’s Sport Relief, according to the BBC, a biennial charity effort.

At the run’s end, Izzard was at a literal loss for words (and almost out of breath) as he spoke to the BBC, at one point breaking into tears.

“Thank you. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m very tired,” he said. “So thank you for everyone who’s donated. This was tough. So don’t do this at home. I don’t know if I can say much more.”

[From People]

Side note: Eddie was not racing. He executed each marathon as his body allowed, which included walking or slow jogging at times. This is a good article that talks about the physical toll and what his recovery is expected to be.

Eddie’s passion has always fueled him. He is known as a strong voice for transvestism, stepping on stage in a dress before his cross-dressing could be leaked in a lurid manner. The film Believe documents Eddie’s determined comeback to regain his confidence after being accused of fraud for recycling material in 2000. Long vocal about politics, he has declared he will run for mayor of London in 2019 unless a strong Labour candidate runs, in which case he will run for Parliament. Eddie loves to set goals for himself and doesn’t stop until he meets them. When John Cleese calls you “the lost Python,” you would likely be allowed to rest on your laurels. Not Eddie, he looks for the next Brass Ring to grab and I respect the hell out of his determination.

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Photo Credit: WENN Photos and Getty Images

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84 Responses to “Eddie Izzard, 54, completes 27 marathons in 27 days: admirable or nuts?”

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  1. Sixer says:

    I saw him interviewed yesterday and the poor sod looked half dead. Still had his nail varnish on, though!

    I love Eddie. And I love his internationalism. He’s done stand-up in about six languages.

  2. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    Well intentioned. I not sure if I think it’s a great example. What’s next – hunger strike for charity? It’s too extreme for me, but I know he meant well.

  3. Kate says:

    I’ve never understood the drive to completely destroy your body to achieve a ridiculous goal. This is actually pulling focus away from his cause because no one is talking about that. Actually, what is the cause exactly?

  4. Lynnie says:

    In this case that’s definitely admirable!

  5. Lucy2 says:

    That’s amazing and awesome that he does it for charity, but it’s also nuts. I can’t imagine the damage he does to his body doing that day after day.

    • Size Does Matter says:

      Yeah, I’m going with admirable and also nuts. Plus the hours and hours of training? It makes me hurt just thinking about it.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I read that doing one marathon often causes internal bleeding. I’ve never understood why people think it’s good for you.

      • Arlene says:

        I’ve done countless marathons and have never suffered any kind of injury bar being a bit stiff the next day and losing the occasional toenail. I understand if a person doesn’t like long distance running, but it’s not as scary as you might think, plus the sense of achievement at the end is ridiculous, even if like me you’re not a particularly good runner. Plus there’s usually margaritas and Mexican food afterwards. Win win :)

      • lilacflowers says:

        I have walked the Boston Marathon over a dozen times to raise money for cancer research. Same pounding over a longer time as running. Stiff back, a few lost toe nails, and some blisters on hot days. Nothing a good soak and a good night’s sleep doesn’t put right.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        Good to hear. Still wouldn’t do it.

      • Pepper says:

        Doing pretty much anything at the level of an elite athlete is bad for you. But most people don’t do that. If you really run a marathon trying to be one of the first across the finish line, yeah, you’re probably going to be pretty messed up afterwards, even if it’s literally your job. If you run it at a ‘regular person’ pace, jog a bit of it, walk if you need to, it is a pretty healthy pursuit, assuming you aren’t just jumping into physical activity by starting with a marathon.

        Eddie just completed the marathons, it’s not like he was racing to win. He’ll be very tired and sore, but won’t have done himself any damage.

      • PinaColada says:

        I agree, GNAT. My dad was big into Marathons for years and years so I’m familiar with it of course (watching him train, running with him sometimes, cheering him on). I know people do it to be healthy and enjoyment, but I’ve read that it’s very bad for your heart long-term. I don’t know if I can link but just look up long distance running heart damage. I run, in 30-45 minute stretches 4x/week (or bike or some other cardio) but distance running scares me personally because I have such a strong family history for heart disease and stroke (and my super-fit, high school and college athlete marathon dad had a heart attack at 42).

      • PinaColada says:

        Btw I hope no one goes after me (conflict= run and hide for me). Anyone can do as they wish, I have tons id friends who run marathons, and I’m not a doctor. I’m just super focused on heart health so I try to ask my doctor lots of things and change course accordingly. I also have a much higher risk than the average person, so I’m just speaking for myself.

      • PennyLane says:

        Marathons are not good for you, but for some reason the running addicts have taken over this discourse so we’re not supposed to say it. Don’t forget, in the origin myth for marathons, the runner dropped dead at the end of it!

        My sister’s husband is an orthopedic surgeon, and you cannot say the word marathon around him – he will start ranting about all the people with running addictions who come to him with almost no cartilage left in their knees, and who refuse to do anything but keep running even after being told by him, their doctor, to stop. Also it takes a month for a healthy person to recover from a single marathon, so there’s that as well.

        I’m glad Eddie Izzard fulfilled his dream and raised a bunch of money for charity, but I’m going to guess that this guy has a long history of addictions, and this is really just the latest one for him.

      • Bridget says:

        Um, what planet are you people on? Aside from Pinacolada, which I can understand (heart health is important, and you know what’s right for you and your body) you guys are repeating fallacies and incomplete information. Running is great for you. Not hard on the knees (impact exercise in fact helps the body improve bone density, and of course as you lose weight your joints are under less stress) , and is in fact a pretty healthy habit. It’s not for everyone, and that’s cool – different things inspire different people. But just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you.

      • Esmom says:

        Bridget, I don’t think anyone’s saying running is bad for you, just that marathons are. That might be debatable (one in a lifetime was enough for me, but I still run five days a week going on 30 years now) but it seems clear that 27 marathons in 27 days is cannot be healthy.

      • Bridget says:

        No, my point was about marathons. The evidence that people are giving is purely anecdotal, and even then along the lines of “I heard this thing”. Distance running is NOT inherently bad for you. If you have an underlying heart condition that’s a different story, but it doesn’t make you bleed internally, it doesn’t trash the cartilage in your knees (in fact, runners are less likely to develop arthritis), and it’s not bad for your heart. It’s hard as hell, and you have to train to get your body ready for it, but it’s not unhealthy.

        And 27 marathons in 27 days is extreme, but again: not unhealthy (and even so, if 27 marathons is bad, that doens’t mean that 1 marathon is bad). The human body is meant to move. I’m not suggesting that anyone just get up and go jog all day every day for the next month, but we’re talking about trained endurance athletes who perform these feats – this isn’t the first time Izzard has taken on a challenge like this.

        Again, you don’t have to get it or want to run a marathon yourself, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you.

      • Kitten says:

        “Now, if you wanted to substitute ‘unpleasant’ for ‘unhealthy’ then I’d agree with you.”

        LOL, THIS.
        And plus a million to everything else you said. I’m not mad though because I think races are getting entirely too big these days. I’d like more people think that running “destroys your body” or whatever, then maybe I can go back to finding a race that doesn’t have 8 billion participants.

        I wonder what will happen to the 30,000 people who run the Boston Marathon though? That’s a lot of people signing up to “destroy their bodies”. Hope they have good health insurance ;)

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        You pro-marathon people need to google “is marathon running bad for your body?” I don’t know how to link, and even if I did, there are so many reliable sources who say that the cons outweigh the pros of long distance running that I couldn’t begin to link them all. I don’t care if people want to run marathons, nor to I think it’s bad for every person in every case. But you can please not be so condescending. These opinions are not misinformation, nor are they baseless.

      • Magnoliarose says:

        My parents are runners and my mother still does marathons(half now) with her best friend and they are around 60 and 60+. There are loads of people who run marathons and are fine.
        I used to run marathons and will again and never had a problem. My physician gives me full work ups and nothing is amiss. I even ran decent distances while heavily pregnant with my doctors consent. Granted I wasn’t full on sprinting but I delivered healthy babies at normal weights.
        Maybe the people having problems are not training properly and have underlying heart conditions.
        Also proper nutrition is a component some people ignore and that can actually have some negative effects. Sports nutrition has improved a lot in the last 10 years.

  6. Nancy says:

    He is nuts but that is what makes him so frigging awesome. He’s the Man!

  7. lower-case deb says:

    ah the Star Wars Cantina.
    why hasn’t he had a cameo in Star Wars yet?
    he could totally be the pasta serving guy.

  8. InvaderTak says:

    Ah Izzahd how I love you. His marathons are nuts but as long as he’s taking doctors advice I think he’ll be fine. This is like when David wallaiams swam the channel. They should race for a poet* relief. Go Eddie!
    Edit: *sport but laughing at my own typo. Poets could probably use some relief too.

    • Sixer says:

      Didn’t Walliams get some awful stomach bug when he swam the length of the Thames for Comic Relief? My favourite effort was Helen Skelton kayaking the entire Amazon. Her tightrope walking Battersea Power Station wasn’t half bad either.

      American readers: British telethons always involve celebs and TV presenters performing nutso feats of endurance. That’s their USP.

      • Wren says:

        Honestly if they did that here I might watch. Here it’s usually boring concerts or people sweating under studio lights in their suits literally just asking for money.

      • Sixer says:

        They tend to get the presenters of the daily newsy/magazine shows and the popular children’s shows, and a few assorted celebs to do various challenges in the build-up to the day to get interest going and a headstart on the donations. So someone from the breakfast news show or someone from the early evening chat/magazine show will do it and they show a clip each day leading up to the actual telethon night.

        In addition to the above, we’ve had pedalling a rickshaw from Land’s End to John o’Groats, climbing Kilimanjaro, and all sorts of other stuff.

        It really is a feature of the telethon here. The actual night is always boring though, I think!

  9. Truthful says:

    BOTH! amazing and crazy!
    But the amazing overcomes the crazy because wow! and the back to thinking it’s crazy … a never-ending dance between these 2 feelings.

  10. Crumpet says:

    It’s really not so different from doing an ironman, so if you have trained for it you should be fine.

  11. cannibell says:

    To riff off of Wilbur’s tribute to Charlotte (of “Charlotte’s Web,”), “It’s rare to find someone who is a brilliant comedian and a mensch.” Eddie Izzard is both.

  12. mkyarwood says:

    Eddie Izzard is my favorite person. It’s not nuts, his cause is admirable and most people aren’t doing half what he does.

  13. Miss M says:

    Both! A bit extreme to me, buy Go Eddie! Get some rest and speed recovery!

  14. Laura says:

    I love Eddie!! Thanks for posting about this!!!

  15. LAK says:

    That is amazing. I’m not allowed to run. I wish I had run a marathon when I could.

  16. Norahb says:

    I’ve run four marathons (not in four days 🙂) and can say this is both admirable and crazy. Marathon recovery is hell! But good for him for raising that money!

    • Kitten says:

      You should be dead by now, according to some commenters here.

      Just kidding ;)

      I have a friend who’s a yoga person who is always harping on how bad running is for your body. Meanwhile, I have THREE friends who have all gotten fairly serious injuries from yoga so….any exercise if not approached with good form, consistent training, and proper rest can hurt you.

      The repetitive nature of running can be intense, but it’s not an automatic indication that it’s any riskier than any other exercise IMO.

  17. The New Classic says:

    I love Eddie Izzard. Watching his stand up was my way of destressing when I was in nursing school. I can still pop in any of his DVDs and still laugh as hard as I did the first time I watched them.

  18. INeedANap says:

    I want Eddie Izzard to teach a class on the art of finding the perfect shade of red lipstick, because both of those pictured are on point.

    I am happy he is doing this with the advice and care of medical professionals! Sounds intense.

    His standup has been the only way I laughed in some dark times.

  19. Pandy says:

    Good for him! That’s a crazy schedule but kudos to him for being passionate and following through.

  20. Esmom says:

    Good for him for raising so much money and awareness, but I have to believe this couldn’t have been good for his body. And I say this as an avid runner! I’d think a less strenuous and less potentially damaging challenge probably would have been just as successful. And still challenging. :)

  21. OhDear says:

    That’s seriously impressive. Dang. I assume he’ll spend the next week sleeping, though!

    What is this man unable to do?!

  22. S says:

    He is astounding. Really impressed by this (as someone who despises running!). As a comedian, Izzard is unparalleled. I once missed a flight because I was watching his standup on my laptop and laughing so hard I missed the final boarding call.

  23. Belle says:

    I absolutely adore Eddie, he’s my hero.

  24. Lisa says:

    In the pic on the main page, I thought it was the dude who played Johnny Sack, but with a dye job and good eyebrows.

    Sorry, Eddie.

  25. Guesto says:

    Go, beautiful, committed, compassionate, take-it-to-limit, no-fool-suffering Eddie.

    And, I’ll be 100% behind you if you do decide to stand for mayor of my city.

  26. spurc says:

    My favorite list of comments ever!! Cake and death for everyone! Or… Something.

    I credit him with saving my marriage. This is all true…

  27. Nike says:

    Too freaking cool.

    My pinup, this week, for sure.

  28. Bobby says:

    My wife and I were having a convo about what celeb, if any, we would like to actually meet and get to know. (Not for sexy reasons, but as people), As a 45 year old man brought up in a very racist/homophobic household, I had a hard time until I remembered Eddit Izzard. I just get the feeling that he’s just a good person to get to know. We know he’s brilliant, open-minded, traveled, and seemingly genuine.

  29. Magnoliarose says:

    Eddie is amazing and crazy wrapped up in brilliance.