When Phil Brown’s landmark 40th birthday was approaching, he made the monumental decision to train for a marathon even though he had not been the least bit sporty all his life.
He started running in 2007 and signed up for the Chicago Marathon despite never having run more than a couple of miles.
He has gone on to complete 14 since, the fastest being the Tokyo 26.2-mile run, six months ago, in 3 hours, 55 minutes. His previous best was a 3:59 in Madrid in 2008.
Sounds like someone who definitely has the running bug. Yet Brown claims he is not that keen. “As strange as it might seem, I don’t particularly enjoying the grind of training for marathons,” he said.
“However, I do enjoy the experience of race weekend for a big city marathon, or traveling to some overseas location for a race, and as such the training is the means to the end.
“However, I enjoyed the experience of Chicago so much that I decided to run a second, and a second became a third.”
So far his races have stretched over all seven continents, Antarctica included, and in nine countries.
A member of the Wednesday Night Running Club, Brown says it has been great for introducing him to a number of people in Cayman that he otherwise would likely have never met.
And it also forces him to run outside his normal comfort zone, “which has proved very beneficial with regards to training.”
With marathon training being such a time sink, Brown does not really play any other sports, although he lists other pastimes, such as scuba diving and some cycling.
Brown ran the Cayman half-marathon in 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2014. “It generally falls in the middle of training for some other race, so the half works well as a training run.” His best time of 1 hour, 48 minutes, came last year.
Since taking up running, Brown has finished five of the current six global major races – Chicago, New York, London, Berlin and Tokyo – with Boston the only one remaining.
Boston is a tricky one to qualify for. “It is likely I will not make the tough qualifying time for my age group – around 30 minutes faster than my current personal best – but I am trying each year to secure one of the spaces allocated to the various charities affiliated with the race.”
Now 47, the Englishman who holds Caymanian status, is a chartered accountant by trade, and now runs the Cayman operations of a small software company based in Ireland.
He does not really have any sporting heroes but is proud of his season ticket for his local English football team, Bristol City.
Brown also enjoys traveling to watch England’s cricket team. “But other than that, I am content to watch most sports, without avidly following anything in particular.”
He is in training for the New York Marathon in November, and after a short break will be looking toward the Paris one next April.
“As a spectator, I am hoping to spend a week or two in France next summer for the European Football Championships.”
With regards to his favorite races, it’s hard to pick any one in particular, but for crowds, “London marathon stands out. There is barely anywhere on the course that does not have crowds several deep.”
He added, “For an overall trip I would pick Antarctica. The remoteness of the location meant that it involved 10 days on a small cruise ship with 100 other runners, and the scenery along the way was spectacular.
“And as a third, I have good memories of Chicago, being my first race, the only one to date I have done more than once.”
He also likes Chicago because the run is well organized and, significantly, flat.
For anyone considering taking up long distance running, Brown’s tips are simple. “It may sound blindingly obvious, but if you want to run, just get up and head out of the door and run.
“If you can only run half a mile now, you can do three-quarters of a mile next week, and one mile the next.
“If I can go from not being a runner of any description to completing a marathon, I would think that most people, free of illness or injury and suitably motivated, should be able to.”
He cautioned that beginners starting to do any sort of distance should ensure they are wearing shoes that suit their physique and running gait, and to get measured for them at a specialist running store.