Every time someone in running gear approaches the entrance to Brighton’s Palace Pier, I know what they’re going to say: ‘Are you waiting for Josh?’
That’s Josh Patterson, or JP, who ought to materialise here around 9am and run a marathon. We know this, because he’s been doing it every day in a different place, aiming to complete a 26.2-mile run in every city in the UK without a day off. This is number 68 out of 76, with Chichester yesterday and Canterbury tomorrow. He began on 27 February in Inverness and will finish the challenge with a few celebratory laps of London’s Hyde Park on 13 May. So even though he’s a bit late, we’re pretty confident he’ll show up. There’s a record to be set.
When he does appear across the road, he’s alone and looks thoughtful. He later confesses to being in ‘quite a bit of pain’ as he began the day, but he brightens up as he greets the 20 or so runners who’ve come to help him on his way. It’s the biggest crowd since Bristol, he thinks. Everyone gets a hug, including me, and soon we’ve all got arms round each other in a circle while he leads us in a few motivating words, culminating in: ‘Brighton! Are you ready to run today?’
Then it’s off at a conversational pace along the seafront towards Hove Lagoon, where he and his companions will turn and head all the way back past central Brighton to Saltdean, turn again and finish where they started. With the sun out and the sea beside, there are worse ways to spend a day.
‘It was a really scary decision to commit to this,’ he admits as we jog. ‘But it’s something I feel incredibly passionate about, and in an area where I felt that I could make a huge positive impact, not just in terms of people who are struggling with mental health, but in terms of how I can inspire and shape my five-year-old daughter.’
If you watched the realtity TV show Made in Chelsea between 2015 and 2017, you might already be familiar with some of his personal life, which found him in an on/off relationship with original cast member Alexandra ‘Binky’ Felstead, and conceiving said daughter. But the cameras trained on all those glossy posh folk weren’t seeing the whole story. He was also wrestling with a depression that had affected him severely since his early teens. And now he’s hoping to raise £1 million for the Samaritans.
Today, at 33, he’s got a gruff goatee beard and remains TV handsome. No small number of his 426,000 Instagram followers will have come for the mental motivation and stayed for the possibility that he might take his shirt off again. But, he says, he’s a lesson in not judging a book by its cover.
‘Who says I’ve got money?’ he bristles, when I suggest that people would assume he is privileged because of the toffs and tiaras in the TV series. ‘Apart from being on a show, where has this assumption come from? Right now, this challenge is costing me a fortune. I’m not earning a living. People might look at a period of time in your life, and that’s their judgement forever. Judge me on my actions, not my bank balance.’
Over the past five years, those actions have become ever more extraordinary. After his best friend became paralysed from the waist down in a motorbike accident, Josh did the Berlin Marathon, and then John o’ Groats to Land’s End, in a wheelchair. During lockdown he ran six marathons in five days, then did a 24-hour run – both challenges around his back patio. Then there was a day in May 2021 when he became the first person to run a marathon in all four UK countries within 24 hours.
This one is the biggest by far. ‘Looking back at everything I’ve done has been my greatest asset,’ he says. ‘People ask how long I’ve been training for this. Everyone of those challenges has been building me up for this moment. So when times are tough, I reflect on previous tough moments, which makes the current one a bit better.’
At this point, ‘The legs are feeling pretty heavy,’ he admits. He’s been enduring tendon damage since marathon 11, and is putting a lot of weight on his left side to keep it off his right. But he’s in super spongy Hoka shoes – his sponsor – and never looks like he isn’t having a great time.
Looking around, it’s clear that although this is officially one man’s challenge, he’s anything but alone. His friend Chris Taylor, at the front of the pack, has been handling the logistics and running most of the miles too. I bump into him later in Asda, trying to charm a manager into letting them leave their giant motorhome in the car park for longer than the two-hour limit. Another friend, Ted Lowney, is on an e-bike filming for Josh’s social media. A range of coaches and physios have been working on his physical health - and then there’s the running public.
‘There are times like the past few days when I’ve been incredibly vulnerable, and it’s okay to lean on those around you. Without them, there’s a chance you might not get through it,’ he says. ‘All I can do is put one foot in front of the other for as long as I possibly can. But this challenge can only be a success if everybody is behind it.’
Josh Patterson is completing his 76 marathons to support the Samaritans. ‘Having somebody to talk to can be the difference between saving and losing a life’ he says. You can reach the Samaritans for free by phoning 116 123 day or night or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. More info at samaritans.org. More on Josh’s challenge at joshpatterson.uk. To make a donation go to justgiving.com/page/joshua-patterson-runfor1million
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