Earlier this year, Joshua "Josh" Patterson (UK) embarked on an impressive journey for charity.
Starting in February 2023 and crossing the finish line in May, the TV personality and mental health campaigner smashed the record for most cities to run a marathon distance in, on consecutive days – 76 marathons in 76 days in 76 cities across the UK.
His challenge spanned from the heart of Westminster, London, to Inverness, Scotland.
With the help of specialists monitoring his health and a film crew, Josh documented the journey in its entirety to shed a light on the positivity that can stem from showing emotion and dismantling the toxic "alpha male" stereotypes.
“Having struggled with my mental health for so many years, I really empathise with anyone and everyone, when they are struggling.” – Joshua Patterson
Formerly a star of the reality TV show Made in Chelsea, 33-year-old Josh says that he “was a child when he went on the show. Life has changed”.
From a young age, Josh has struggled with mental health.
Now, however, the Norfolk-born record holder speaks openly and bravely about the hardships he had to face along his path – and the challenges that allowed him to embrace his emotions.
“The initial goal was to break the world record for the most consecutive marathons in different cities, so the original record to beat was 60,” Josh explains.
However, he powered through and went on to reach the whopping number of 76 consecutive marathons in 76 cities across the UK, making history and achieving his goal of raising awareness on mental health issues while encouraging empathy, strength in vulnerability and a positive mindset.
Josh’s life took a turn when his best friend Tano suffered a motorbike incident on the way home from visiting Josh and his daughter, India, who was just a baby at the time. He was left paralysed from the waist down.
In his hospital bed, shortly after being told he would never be able to walk again, Tano told Josh that he wanted to recover; he wanted to be able to walk his own daughter down the aisle, one day.
Because of that, Tano set himself the goal to run the Berlin Marathon – with Josh by his side not only as moral support, but also as a racing partner.
Running the Berlin Marathon in a wheelchair together with his best friend was a life-changing moment for Josh, who was also battling depression at the time.
That was the starting point of his running adventure.
Since that life-changing moment, Josh has chosen to be outspoken about his struggles with mental illness and being suicidal, taking on several challenges and fundraising for several charities.
Through his words and record, however, Josh also aims to highlight the positive learnings that stemmed from his journey.
“I feel we need to start highlighting the positives that can come from this,” he says. “I'm not saying mental illness is a positive but, ultimately, I think it does build you up in a certain way.”
“And I think it also gives you some traits, like empathy. Empathy is a quality and it's a really powerful thing to have: it can lead you on not just to help yourself, but also the people around you.”
Although his mental health has improved since he was younger, in his 30s Josh still struggles with anxiety.
“Now I'm 33 years old, and I'm still picking and biting my fingernails. I'm trying to do it secretly when I’m in front of my six-year-old daughter, so she doesn't pick up that bad habit.”
Training for the challenge
“I tend to keep my training quite condensed,” Josh explains.
His regular training would consist of four months of running and exercise, five at most.
However, aware of the difficulty of running several marathons in such a short time, Josh also surrounded himself with a dream team of specialists that could monitor his physical health through such a demanding challenge.
“I had my run coach, and a kinetic cycling coach who works on running movement mobility,” he explains, describing the team that followed him and his video crew from city to city.
He was also followed closely by a strength and conditioning coach, who helped him with building up the strength of targeted muscle groups. Thanks to this specific training, Josh's body could withstand the impact of the protracted marathons.
He also relied on a soft tissue therapist and a physiotherapist during the recovery stage to avoid injuries.
“Everything was really chronicled,” he recalls.
Throughout his challenge, Josh was welcomed by different cities and different landscapes.
“I won’t name the specific cities, but there were definitely places where I understand why people within that area might struggle,” Josh recalls when Guinness World Records' Editor-In-Chief Craig Glenday asked him about the best and worst landmarks of his journey.
The energy truly changed from city to city and influenced him, Josh recalls, explaining how the landscape or the architecture could impact his mood.
That, however, only emphasized the importance of his challenge: to change how mental health is perceived in order to encourage an impactful, momentous positive change. To further highlight this goal, Josh picked the Samaritans as his charity of choice because the organization operates in all the cities he visited in the record-breaking journey.
“In some places you could wake up in the worst mood, but the city is just so beautiful and that lifts you up," he said.
“In other cities, it’s consistently grey. And architecturally… I know that sounds crazy, but it can affect your mood when you're just dealing with multiple grey buildings. They could be quite neglected areas, as well. There were cities where I would get to the start line and it was a tough, tough slog."
Everywhere he went, however, Josh felt like the people he encountered truly understood and supported his attempt with unfaltering enthusiasm.
“I’ve committed the last six years of my life to this,” he explains, “but it’s also a very relatable journey."
“We had people from all different walks of life joining every day.”
The UK charity Samaritans
Josh’s journey to demolish the negative construct of the “alpha-male” mentality and change how mental health is perceived goes hand-in-hand with another ambitious goal: to raise £1 million for those who need it.
Specifically, by running 76 marathons in 76 days, he wanted to shine a spotlight on the life-changing work perpetrated by Samaritans, the UK-wide charity that offers support to individuals in need.
“With the current climate, there are a lot of people who are really struggling,” Josh says. “And, right now, there is not enough support out there for people.
“Instead of getting frustrated with what the government may or may not be doing, or with how much time people are given for therapy – or lack thereof – it was a case of trying to find a solution. Samaritans were the best possible one.”
A moment that stood out for Josh was the connection that he formed with his audience, and the people running with him.
“We had what some men might stereotype as the alpha male, coming and running with me,” Josh recalls. “You know, Marines or ex-Marines, police officers, or even prison guards. And what we were doing was making them question things.
“Most of these men have been raised to think or believe – by father, or whatever their environment might be – that emotion is a sign of weakness. And then they were running alongside a guy who was visibly in pain after running 45 marathons consecutively, but who was showing emotion.
“It left them slightly confused because it was contradicting everything that they'd been raised to believe.”
With this amazing achievement, Josh successfully brought attention to some of the most toxic stereotypes in contemporary society - stereotypes that, once brought to a breaking point, might lead to devastating, life-ruining consequences.
Even if the road to dismantling the stigma around men’s mental health is still a long and arduous path, with his record (and by documenting it every step of the way) Josh created 76 landmarks of positivity and raised attention toward a theme that is often scary – because vulnerability, emotions, and the fear of failure are quintessentially terrifying.
After finishing his epic challenge on 13 May, Josh is now enjoying some hard-earned rest and a lot of quality time with his daughter.
However, he continues to push his limits in a never-ending, always-positive journey to redefine how mental health is perceived in society.
Looking at the future, as he smiles and holds his official Guinness World Records certificate, Josh doesn’t rule out the possibility of attempting new records.
We certainly can't wait to see what's next for him, and what amazing challenges he will smash in his quest for change.
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