Life begins at 60 for a super-fit grandfather 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, director of group client services for a digital agency in the LAB Group, has spent 10 years building up to his current challenge after completing the grueling Marathon des Sables – a 156-mile endurance race in the Sahara desert – at his 50 birthday in 2012.
Yet when he first pulled on his trainers in 2004, Steve, who lives in Brockenhurst, in Hampshire’s New Forest, had with his wife Gerry, 59, a finance administrator, and two children, Victoria, 31, a teacher, and Emily, 29, a hair and make-up artist for TV and theatre, remembers being ill.
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 kilometer up a hill before I threw up on my stomach at the top of it because I was so unfit.”
But he did not give up and is now preparing for his lifetime challenge of 60 marathons.
He said: “Many people have questioned why I would even attempt to do something so crazy.
“This is one of the easiest questions I’ve ever had to answer. Simply put, 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 of Naomi House Children’s Hospice, I instantly felt the desire to give back, and when I walked out the door, my life changed forever.”
He added: “I knew I wanted to play a part in supporting this fantastic cause in any way I could.
“I am certainly aware of the weight this puts on my shoulders, but the support I receive from children, families and staff makes it all worth it.”
A determined character, ever since his first race back in 2004 – despite it making him sick – Steve has been trying to improve.
He said: “My daughters were very sporty growing up and I watched them play hockey one afternoon and although 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 in 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 big part of my life since then.”
And Hampshire’s Naomi House gave him the perfect incentive as he made it the cause he was running to raise money for.
He said: “My wife and I had been to a gala event in support of Naomi House and when I saw the work they do, it really touched me.”
He added: “I have been blessed with two healthy daughters, but for people who have children 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 past 18 years to raise funds.
He said: “At the time I was running a marketing and design agency and I offered them pro bono work for any print and advertising design they needed.
“And I’ve also completed challenges to help them raise money.”
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 attached 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 who took turns running with me and every time I wanted to stop I just thought about the families who depend on the hospice.
“My aim was to raise £100,000 but in the end I managed to raise £184,000.”
Steve’s string of achievements earned him a British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honors 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 6 and again the numbers felt important to me.
“I start my first run on the 17th of August and I’m going to put my body through the absolute ringer, but I’m determined to get through it.”
But Steve’s enormous challenge has worried his family.
He said: “My wife was really against the idea at first as she is very worried about how it will affect my health.
“We’ve talked about it a lot and I’ve had the help of running coach Nick Anderson from Running With Us, a nutritionist and a physiotherapist to keep me in shape.”
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 with me too.”
And when it’s completed, Steve will become a new Guinness World Record holder.
He said: “The current record is 59 marathons in 59 days, so I’ll have to go all the way to beat that.”
He added: “It’s going to be a mental challenge as well as a physical one and I’ll fit the daily runs, which will take between four-and-a-half hours and five hours, around work.
“After that, I look forward to my life returning to some normality.
“My family has endured a lot of disruption because of the challenge, so it will 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 hospital as I run towards the finish line.”
Paul Morgan, Director of Fundraising at Naomi House, is full of praise for Steve’s dedication.
He said: “Steve exemplifies 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 anyone can imagine, always with the dual aim of raising funds and awareness to support our children.
“Steve has used his professional skills to help grow our brand and led the charity’s strategy as a trustee and chair of the fundraising and marketing committee. As such, it’s no surprise that over the years Steve has become our most successful individual fundraiser.”
To donate to Steve’s cause, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/steve-radjen-60in60at60