Man from Sidcup runs marathon in his garden

Mattha Busby
Photograph: James Page/PA

A man in south-east London ran a marathon in his garden to raise money for a cancer charity after the government said people should stay local for exercise.

James Page, 36, from Sidcup, had been in training for an ultra-marathon in the Sahara desert, along with the London Marathon, but both were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rather than letting his months of training go to waste, the pipe fitter did 873 laps of about 50 metres in his garden – clocking up more than 26 miles – in a gargantuan effort on Friday which has helped him beat his fundraising target for Children With Cancer UK.

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” he told the Guardian. “In a weird way it was quite enjoyable. It was nice weather and the kids were out there watching me with my wife.”

The government has advised people to stay local for exercise and not to travel unnecessarily, and Page took this guidance literally. During the 4 hour and 57 minute marathon, he regularly refuelled with water, electrolytes, nuts, gels and sweets, while switching direction every 20 minutes to protect his knees.

“I wanted to go a bit quicker and get a personal best, but it’s hard to pick up speed as you’re running in such a small circle,” he said. “I’m not the fastest runner, but I had to keep it at a nice comfortable speed otherwise it would be tricky at the corners.”

Both of Page’s parents were diagnosed with cancer in the past 18 months and though they both appear to have beaten the disease, the road to recovery is an ordeal he would not want anyone else to go through.

“My mum got the all clear on the same day my dad got diagnosed with bowel cancer,” he said. “Mum has to be really careful now, and my dad’s doing really good now, he’s got over the worst of it.”

Page’s son created a toilet-roll finish line for his father, which has been the source of some jovial criticism online due to shortages, while his wife is not pleased about the damage to the lawn.

“You can really see the loops trodden into the grass,” he said. “My wife’s not really happy, but she knows it was for a good cause and it keeps me happy.”

Children With Cancer UK is organising the Together as One run, which is due to take place on 26 April, the original day of the London Marathon.

It is encouraging people to use their daily exercise to run wherever they can in the UK between 9.30am and 10.30am to raise money for childhood cancer research.