'It's my salute to medical workers': Dubai dad runs 100km in his garden in under 14 hours

Lee Ryan completed an ultra-marathon at home, running the distance of Dubai to Abu Dhabi

Dubai resident Lee Ryan after completing a 100-kilometre run in his garden. Courtesy Lee Ryan 
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Lee Ryan is no stranger to a challenge. The British Adidas runners captain  has already achieved a total of one 100-kilometre ultra marathon, 37 marathons and more than 100 half-marathons in his time. But even for him, the target of running 100km in his own garden was a major feat.

"It's very overwhelming," Ryan, who lives in Town Square Dubai, told The National. 

This is a new normal for the time being, we have to come out of this stronger

"I have achieved and challenged myself with a lot over the years, including 24 hours of burpees and the Dubai to Abu Dhabi 100k ultra-marathon that I did last year, but yesterday was by far the most challenging thing I have ever done."

Ryan started his challenge at 3am and finished just after 5pm, on Friday, April 3, while in isolation amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He ran for a total of 13 hours, 50 minutes and 42 seconds, which was a total, he thinks, of 3,333 laps of his garden.

Lee Ryan crosses a homemade finish line, with the support of his daughters, Lily and Sophia. Courtesy Lee Ryan 

He stopped for regular food and water breaks, consuming an estimated 15 litres of liquid throughout the challenge. He ate pasta and rice cakes to fuel his run, but tucked into slices of his daughters' pizza and Oreos to keep himself going towards the end.

"The isolation factor was the most overwhelming aspect," he says. "Not including my daughters and wife, I think saw a total of seven people through the garden gate yesterday.

"Most other challenges have a grandeur and there are crowds there to support you and keep you going. Yesterday, it was just us."

A salute to essential workers around the world 

Ryan had already challenged himself to a 42km back garden marathon, which he completed on Friday, March 27. However, with the ultra-marathon, he knew he wanted to make a statement, saluting medical teams around the world.

Lee Ryan describes his 14-hour run as a 'salute' to the medical teams, working 14 hour shifts amid the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy Lee Ryan 

"I ran the average shift of many health workers at the moment," he says, citing NHS workers in his native UK in particular. "This was a testament to them, something to say, 'We don't know how you're feeling, but we see what you're doing and are grateful.' So this was a salute to them."

Family at the finish line

Although he may not have had his usual crowd there to cheer him on as he approached his 100th kilometre, he did have wife, Suzanne, and two daughters, Lily, 5, and Sophia, 3.

His daughters fashioned a finish line out of toilet roll for him to run through, which he was quick to point out did not go to waste. Lily also made a cardboard medal, to add to his collection.

Dubai runner Lee Ryan with a medal made by daughter, Lily. Courtesy Lee Ryan 

His wife was there to cheer him on, and even ran a chunk of the way with him.

"My wife absolutely loathes running, but joined me for 5km," he said. "She only expected to do 3km but kept going. It was the furthest and fastest she has run, which gave me a pick-up."

His daughters also joined him at the 80km mark, hoping for piggyback rides, which he duly obliged. "I am a dad first," he says of running around the garden with his daughters on his shoulders.

For Ryan, the challenge was about proving you can make the most out of what you have, even in extenuating circumstances.

"This is a new normal for the time being, we have to come out of this stronger," he says.

"I don't think there were points I didn't think I would finish, but there were times I didn't know when or how.

"At one point I went into the house feeling dizzy and my wife said, 'You do know you don't have to do this.' But I did, I had to finish what I set out to do.

"I wanted to show people you can do what you want to do with what you have," he adds. "I am not saying it has to be 100km, but we can all reassess our goals in these times."