Who’s Doing the Fitbit Fifty?

“‘You're doing what?!’ That's the most common reaction when I tell people about the Fitbit Fifty challenge,” says Jason Lawrence, 32, from London.

It’s an understandable reaction. Running and cycling from Buckingham Palace to Edinburgh Castle with a bunch of strangers, then turning around and coming back again – all in under 50 hours – isn’t exactly a relaxing way to spend a weekend.

So why is Jason doing it? “I applied because I like the idea of doing something slightly crazy,” he says. “I love the idea of completing a challenge that sounds a bit unrealistic. And I’ve never been to Edinburgh before.”

For Will Lockwood, 30, from London, it was “the things that sounded horrendous that made the idea so attractive. The scale, the length – I like to test myself against these things,” he says. Dean Ramsden, 48, from Bolton, also found the idea of a physical and mental challenge appealing. “I like pushing myself and seeing what I can do without breaking,” he says “I'm used to doing marathons and triathlons on my own, but I think working in a team is going to be brilliant. We’ll be able to help each other out when it gets tough. I can't wait.”

For some of the participants, there were more personal reasons for applying. “I went to university in Edinburgh and got married in Edinburgh – it's a favourite place of mine,” says Rick Jenner, 39, from London. “The idea of running and cycling there and back is pretty amazing.”

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As for Natalie Doble, 31, from London, it’s all about raising awareness of a chronic condition. “My sister has an illness called gastroparesis, which is essentially paralysis of the stomach,” she says. “Throughout 2016 I’ve been raising understanding and funds. I’ve cycled 100 miles, run 24 hours on a treadmill and done obstacle races in the pouring rain – this will be my next big challenge. I hope it's not as tough as the 24-hour sponsored silence, though – that's the only one I thought I might fail.”

Just How Fit Are They?

As you may have guessed, the Fitbit Fifty isn’t the kind of thing you can do with no preparation. Pushing through the pain barrier on tired legs while grabbing snatches of sleep will be as tough on the mind as the muscles, so unsurprisingly this isn’t the first challenge most of our participants have taken on.

When we catch up with Elise Downing from Northampton, the youngest in the group at 24, she’s on the final leg of a nine-month run around the coastline of the UK – and has the tan lines to prove it. “I’ve been looking for something else to get excited about after I finish, and all the time I’ve been running I’ve been desperate to get back on my bike,” she says. “I’m going to go home after the run, have a cup of tea with my mum and then start the cycle training.”

She’s not the only one who likes to put their body to the test. Jeremiah O’Mahoney, 36, has run 50 marathons and completed events across the globe, including running 157 miles across the Sahara and completing an eight-day mountain bike race in South Africa. Originally from Ireland, he’s looking forward to doing something without having to jump on a plane or a train. “It’s a great opportunity to see the real heart of Britain,” he says. “London has been my home for the past 15 years and doing something in the country you love can’t be bettered.”

Ozzie Wolf, 26, is all about the British countryside too. “I was born in Scotland and grew up outside Bath, so I’m a country bumpkin at heart,” he says. “I drove up to Edinburgh last month having not been back for 15 years, and the scenery is absolutely stunning. I live in London now and it will be so nice to get out of the city for a cycle – I’m not looking forward to the running so much, though.”

As you’d expect, there are more than a few triathlon fans in the group. Since being treated for the crippling condition ankylosing spondylitis, which left him unable to walk properly for 18 months, Dean has completed Ironman UK four times and is excited to add the Fitbit Fifty to his resume. Mike Jones, 43, from Bristol, is also a keen Ironman, with two under his belt and another on the horizon for 2017, as long as his wife agrees. “With big challenges like this, you have to have the whole family behind you,” he says. “Because of the amount of training involved, you really need their backing.”

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While some of these feats may sound superhuman, a few participants happily admit they haven’t always been sporty. “I didn't get into fitness until I was 30,” says Holly Seear, 40, from Staines. “I did nothing when I was younger, but after the birth of my two children I wanted to lose a bit of baby weight and get fitter. I started swimming and going to the gym, and gradually got sucked into doing more and more. I'm hoping people will see me and be inspired to take on their own challenges.”

Pre-Challenge Nerves

While the teams are excited, there are a few nerves. As Jeremiah points out, “It’s an inaugural event, so it hasn’t been proven it can be done yet.”

Ozzie’s worried about zoning out and coming off the bike when he’s really tired, Mike is concerned about the weather, Rick doesn’t want to let his team down, and Nicola Noble, 29, a duathlete from Plymouth who wants to test herself over a longer distance, is worried about missing out on her luxuries. “I’m not a diva,” she says, “but I suppose you could call me a princess. I’m going to miss my bed and my duvet.”

Adam Gamble, 36, from Kent, however, is most worried about telling his wife-to-be what he’s about to embark on. “I found out about the challenge when I was in America on a work trip,” he says. “She’s been asking me to reel in the amount of challenges I do, so I thought I’d wait until I saw her face-to-face to break the news. We’re getting married in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll tell her after that.”

Charlotte Thomas

Charlotte Thomas is a freelance journalist and health and fitness blogger at Lunges & Lycra.