Life begins at 60 for a super-fit grandad who plans to break a Guinness World Record to mark his landmark birthday by running 60 marathons in 60 days and raising £600,000 in the process for a local children’s hospice.
Steve Radjen, group client services director for a LAB group digital agency, has spent 10 years building up to his current challenge after completing the arduous Marathon des Sables – a 156 mile endurance run in the Sahara Desert – for his 50th birthday in 2012.
Yet, when he first put on his running shoes in 2004, Steve, who lives in Brockenhurst, in Hampshire’s New Forest with his wife Gerry, 59, a finance administrator, and has two children, Victoria, 31, a teacher, and Emily, 29, a hair and make-up artist for television and theatre, remembers being sick.
He said: “One morning just after Christmas, I put on a pair of trainers and went for my first run.
“I made it about a mile up a hill before spewing my guts up at the top of it because I was so unfit.”
But he did not give up and is now gearing up for his 60 marathon challenge of a lifetime.
He said: “A lot of people have questioned why I’d even attempt to do something so crazy.
“This is one of the simplest questions I’ve ever had to answer. Put simply, I don’t run to add days to my life, I run to make the days of other lives better.
“From the first moment I walked through the doors at Naomi House children’s hospice, I instantly felt the desire to give something back and once I walked out of the door, my life was changed forever.”
He added: “I knew I wanted to play a part in supporting this amazing cause in any way I could.
“I’m certainly aware of the weight that this brings to my shoulders, but the support I receive from the children, families and staff makes everything worthwhile.”
A determined character, ever since his first run back in 2004 – despite it making him sick – Steve has been striving to improve.
He said: “My daughters were very sporty growing up and I was watching them play hockey one afternoon and, while I’ve never been overweight, I remember standing on the sidelines, watching them play and thinking about my age and how I needed to get into shape.
“I was worried that as I got older, I would get bigger and that would make me unhealthy.
“So, I set myself a goal to run the London Marathon, which I completed in 2005.”
He added: “I’ve never looked back. Running has become a huge part of my life since then.”
And Hampshire’s Naomi House gave him the perfect incentive, as he made it the cause he ran to raise money for.
He said: “My wife and I had been to a gala event in support of Naomi House and when I looked into the work they do, it really moved me.”
He added: “I’ve been blessed with two healthy daughters, but for the people whose children are at Naomi House, they face every parent’s worst nightmare.
“It really puts things into perspective.”
Steve has worked closely with the hospice for the last 18 years to raise funds.
He said: “At the time, I ran a marketing and design agency and I offered them pro bono work for any design for print and advertising that they needed.
“And I’ve also been completing challenges to help them raise funds.”
In 2018, the hospice celebrated its 21st birthday and Steve decided to mark the occasion.
He said: “I wanted to do something big and I’m very connected to numbers so, as it was their 21st year, I decided to run 21 marathons in 21 days.
“It was a big challenge, but I had friends and family taking turns to run with me and every time I wanted to stop, I just thought about the families who rely on the hospice.
“My goal was to raise £100k, but in the end, I managed to raise £184k.”
Steve’s array of achievements earned him a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for 2021 and now, he has his sights set on his biggest challenge yet – running 60 marathons in 60 days to mark his 60th birthday.
He said: “I turned 60 on June 6th and, again, the numbers felt important to me.
“I start my first run on August 17 and I’ll be putting my body through the absolute ringer, but I’m determined to get through it.”
But Steve’s mammoth challenge has concerned his family.
He said: “My wife was really against the idea at first, as she’s very concerned about how it’ll affect my health.
“We’ve talked a lot about it and I’ve enlisted the help of running coach Nick Anderson from Running With Us, a nutritionist and a physiotherapist to keep me fighting fit.”
He added: “My daughters think I’m off my rocker, but they’re very supportive. Emily will be running some of the days with me and Victoria will be cycling along with me too.”
And, once completed, Steve will become a new Guinness World Record holder.
He said: “The current record is 59 marathons in 59 days, so I have to make it all the way to beat it.”
He added: “It’s going to be a mental challenge as well as a physical one and I’ll be fitting in the daily runs, which will take between four and a half hours and five hours, around work.
“After that, I’m looking forward to my life getting back to some normality.
“My family has put up with a lot of disruption due to the challenge, so it’ll be nice to rest and relax together.”
He added: “It’s all for a good cause and my thoughts will be with the children’s hospice while I’m racing to the finish line.”
Paul Morgan, Director of Fundraising at Naomi House, is full of praise for Steve’s dedication.
He said: “Steve epitomises the community-centred nature of the support that has enabled us to grow as a charity.”
He added: “Over the years, Steve has tackled some of the toughest physical endurance challenges that anyone can imagine and always with the dual objective of raising funds and awareness to support our children.
“Steve has utilised his professional skills to help grow our brand and guided the charity’s strategy as Trustee and Chair of the fundraising and marketing committee. As such, it’s no surprise that over the years Steve has become our single most successful individual fundraiser.”
To donate to Steve’s cause, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/steve-radjen-60in60at60