Mens Health Man of the Month | Mike Buss

| 02/05/2012 | 0 Comments More

October 2010

MH Man of the Month: Mike Buss

The ex-soldier who ran 100 marathons in 100 days


After surviving an IRA explosion that killed two colleagues, soldier Mike Buss was medically discharged from the British Infantry in 2000. Struggling to adapt to civilian life, he found himself without focus and living on the streets of London – at a time when 25% of the homeless were ex-soldiers. Five months later, he found inspiration and motivation in the story of an ultra runner, and he started training. In 2010, Buss ran a marathon every day for 100 consecutive days, as part of his ongoing quest to raise £100,000 for Help the Heroes.

Why did you decide to run 100 marathons in 100 days?

Last year I read a book called 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days – and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance! by ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes, who ran 50 marathons in all 50 US states on consecutive days. I decided I wanted to get to his level, and that I would mimic his challenge and raise money for Help For Heroes. I was planning to do 55 consecutive marathons, but then Eddie Izzard came along with his challenge [in which he completed 43 marathons in 51 days]. I couldn’t be outdone by an overweight comedian so I decided to double Karnazes’ achievement. It’s all Eddie Izzard’s fault!

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I ran my first marathon when I was 12 years old, finishing in a time of 4.5 hours. I nearly became a professional tennis player when I was younger but injury cut that career short, so I got more and more into running. I joined the army at 16 and stayed for 10 years with the infantry, where physical fitness was a necessity. In 1997 I was nearly killed by an IRA car bomb, which left me deaf in one ear. After being discharged from the Infantry and living on the street, I finally found the motivation to run again. I entered the London Marathon, found a flat, trained for a month and I beat the unofficial record for carrying a 55lb pack by 12 minutes.

Your website says you are striving to become the “world’s fittest man”…

Yeah, a few years ago, when I’d broken around 30 endurance records, the press started dubbing me “the world’s fittest man”. There’s no longer an official Guinness world record for it though, so it’s more of an accolade than an official title.

Where were you doing the Hero 100 Challenge marathons?

I have run them all on a Star Trac treadmill in 19 different locations, such as shopping centres and health clubs, around the UK. Help for Heroes was the reason I ran on a treadmill – remaining in a static position in a public place was the best way to create attention and raise money.

What kind of training did you have to do?

In a normal week I run 100 miles, I do a spin class and spend four hours in the gym doing weights and resistance work. For this challenge, I turned a lot of my road running into treadmill running, as they’re very different skills. A run on a treadmill can feel longer and more difficult because your gait is different.

What has your diet been like during the challenge?

In each 24-hour period I’m burning roughly 6000 calories. I’m eating 4000 a day, so I’m losing around 2,000 a day. Even with protein shakes and supplements, I simply can’t eat more than 4000 calories or I feel sick, so I’ve had to put up with losing weight. Since the start I’ve lost a stone and a half – I think I’ve found the ultimate weight loss programme but I don’t think anyone will go for it!

What sort of times have you been achieving?

I have been averaging around 4.5 hours per marathon for this challenge. The quickest I’ve ever run a marathon, however, was 2 hours 25 minutes. I’m six feet tall and usually weigh around 12 stone, so I’m not a natural marathon runner. The pros are usually much shorter and lighter, which is why I prefer ultra racing, as you need the extra body-weight to carry weight packs.

While spending so much time on a treadmill, how did you stop yourself getting bored?

I didn’t – I’ve been bored for the last 100 days! At times it was soul destroying, particularly when some of the venues were a lot quieter than I had expected. At around 30 marathons in, I didn’t even want to get out of bed some days; I really had to force myself. I accounted for many things prior to the challenge, but not the effect of solitude. I was in public for the whole challenge, but I would barely speak to anyone while running and went back to a hotel alone every night. It has been like living in a bubble for three months – and has been very tough mentally.

But have you enjoyed the experience?

Yes, I have met amazing people who I will stay in touch with, and found so many supporters. One girl in Ashford, for example, ran a 20-mile round trip in the rain just to get her picture with me. She and many others said I’ve been an inspiration to them and I hope that is the case.

Was there a day when it really started to get painful?

Actually, I finished the 99th marathon about an hour ago, and I feel like I haven’t run at all! A few universities are interested in doing tests on my body to find out how I function. I have a very low VO2 max and it seems that my body thrives past the lactic threshold.

Have you not yet pushed yourself to your limit then?

No, I feel like I could run a marathon every day for a year if I wanted to. It hasn’t been easy – particularly from a mental perspective –  but it’s not been punishing enough for me. I need to find myself tougher challenges.

How much have you raised so far?

At the moment around £34,000. When I’ve found it tough, the fundraising has kept me going. Watching the news on my treadmill I’ve seen soldiers out in Afghanistan, which makes me think of those injured on the front line. I look down and I’ve got two legs, and I know that 4.5 hours of sweat and hard work is insignificant in comparison to what they have to do for the rest of their lives. That makes me push on.

What’s the secret to your success?

Insanity? [Laughs] My mental fitness is very sound – I believe in myself 200%, and I know I can do anything. When talking of distances beyond a single marathon, it’s 90% psychological and 10% physical – it’s all about determination. I enjoy pushing the realms of possibility, and believe anyone else can do it too.

What’s your top tip for MH readers?

Believe in yourself. Whether you want to lose weight, run a 5k or run an ultramarathon, it’s just about belief. We can be our own worst enemies – once the barrier of self-doubt is removed you will have the determination to train and you will do it.

What’s the next challenge for you?

This October, I will try to run up and down Mount Snowdon as many times as I can in 48 hours, while carrying a 40lb pack. In January, I’m planning to become the first person to run across the English Channel – I’ll be inside a big inflatable ball, like a Zorbing ball.

Later in 2011, I will be doing a challenge that encompasses over 3200 miles. I’ll start with the 6633 Extreme Winter Ultramarathon in the Arctic, then do the Marathon des Sables (a six-day marathon across the Sahara Desert in Morocco), then run the London Marathon, and finally I will repeat my 100 marathons in 100 days challenge. This time, though, it will be in the Badwater desert in Nevada [home of the notorious Badwater Ultra].

You’re clearly showing no signs of slowing down. Will you always strive for new records?

Yes I think so. I’d like to be the oldest marathon runner, so I’ve got goals to keep me going for the next 50-odd years.

Mike’s Hero 100 Challenge was sponsored by Jeep. To help him reach his £100,000 target, donate here

Interview by MH’s Ryan Bailey


Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Mens Health

Leave a Reply