For world record-holder Nick Butter, Christmas Day will be the first day in 100 that he will not have to put on a pair of running shoes and head into the Italian countryside to run a marathon.
British adventurer Mr Butter, 31, who last year became the first person to run the length of a marathon – 42.16 kilometres – in every country of the world, is now on another challenge to complete 100 marathons in 100 days as he heads from the northern tip of Italy to the south.
The Italian Grand Tour is scheduled to be completed on Christmas Eve, which means Christmas Day itself will be spent in his camper van with his girlfriend Nikki, an online business mentor, and his year-old dog Poppy, who both travelled with him every step of the way.
“The idea is to have Christmas in Sicily and then drive back up to the French Alps and be in the mountains, running and skiing in the snow for a month in January,” said Mr Butter, from Cranborne, Dorset.
“But Covid is causing a few problems, so we're going to be hitting Sicily sooner than we thought. But wherever we are in Italy, we will be in the van and I will have only just recently have stopped running, so it will be the first day where I haven't run a marathon for the last three or four months.”
Former banker Mr Butter quit his career in the financial services industry to embark on his solo global marathon expedition in January 2017, after being inspired by a friend with terminal cancer.
He completed the record-breaking challenge, to run 196 marathons in 196 countries, when he crossed the finish line of the Athens Marathon in November last year. He ran the UAE leg of his challenge on January 11 last year, calling it one of his "top 10 runs" at the time.
During the 675-day adventure he broke his elbow, was hit by a car, bitten by a dog and even shot at. He aimed to raise £250,000 ($339,900) for prostate cancer in support of his friend Kevin Webber, whose condition is terminal, and has so far raised more than £210,000 of that target.
His latest challenge in Italy was a last-minute decision after the coronavirus pandemic stalled a nationwide tour of the UK to share his achievement with school pupils and fans across the country.
This time he will traverse 38 cities, scale 19 mountain peaks and run 2,600 miles, which is why he will be looking to put his feet up on Christmas Day.
It is actually the second Christmas the couple will spend in the van, as they enjoyed their first festive meal in the vehicle last year, cooking a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings and eating it on their dining table in the back of the vehicle.
While Mr Butter is aiming for a traditional British turkey meal with all the trimmings again this year, he fears he may struggle to buy the ingredients he needs because Italy is largely locked down to contain the spread of the virus.
“Italians have don't have turkey dinner, they have lasagne or general pasta dishes, I believe, but nowhere is open – it’s an absolute ghost town south of Rome. So we’re going to try to get as close to a Christmas dinner as possible,” he said.
The couple moved into the van, which was converted by Mr Butter’s brother Chris, in November last year. During the first lockdown, they parked it on Fistral Beach in Newquay, spending their time helping the needy with food deliveries. Mr Butter said after seeing so much poverty around the world during his record-breaking challenge, it made him realise they have everything they need.
“We've got a shower, toilet, hot and cold water, a kitchen and a kitchen table – everything's within arm's reach, more or less."
While the couple have already decorated the van with Christmas lights and apple-and-cinnamon candles, they plan to create a Christmas grotto inside the van on December 25 and spend the day opening presents in front of family over a Zoom call.
“The decorations will be as tacky as you can get, with tinsel and flashing lights,” Mr Butter said.
“When I'm running, the only shops I see open are selling Christmas tat. Obviously we can't have a huge tree but if we can get a couple of miniature plastic trees and maybe cover the ceiling in tinsel or have lots of flashing lights and Christmas music, then we can make it as much of a British traditional Christmas as we can.
“In terms of cooking, we've got three hobs, a grill and a proper full-size oven, so we can probably put a turkey in there, for sure.”