Our Monday Motivation series on GuinnessWorldRecords.com profiles the inspiring stories of commitment, courage and and dedication behind some of our most extraordinary titles.
This week we're placing the spotlight on a Reverend who has has become a fundraising legend at the annual London Marathon, raising nearly $10 million for charity.
“The crowds, the music, the noise, the media.”
Just a few select words Reverend Steve Chalke uses to describe the exhilaration a runner feels when finishing a race as large as the Virgin London Marathon.
“Anyone who has run a marathon will know just how much of a buzz you get from the support you receive from the hundreds of thousands of supporters who line every inch of the course.”
But for the 61-year-old athlete, that support has arguably been more exceptional and greater than any other marathon runner in the world.
Steve has held the Guinness World Records title for the Most money raised for charity by an individual marathon runner since the year 2005, only being surpassed once in 2006.
Competitive on the track as much as his own endeavors, he has beaten his own record three times within the span of five years.
Steve ran his first marathon as a personal goal. After crossing the finishing line, the thrill of the atmosphere and the support from the community gave him an inexpressible feeling, and a thirst for wanting more.
Immediately, that emotion swayed him to sign up for next year’s race shortly after completing his first.
The distance runner would participate at the 2001 London Marathon as a means of self-fulfilment and gratification, but eventually he would see the value of the race as an opportunity to change lives everywhere.
A British Baptist minister, Steve was not only given an incredible innate ability to push past his athletic boundaries, but also the desire to help those in need.
In 1985, he founded the Oasis Charitable Trust, with the aim of opening a hostel for young homeless people. The trust has gone on to now span a family of charities across five continents in 11 countries, delivering housing, education, training, youth work and healthcare to the less fortunate.
“A marathon provides great reason to ask for funding as well as a handy deadline by which the money has to be raised,” explains Steve, “It nudges donors into action.”
Therefore in 2005, the dedicated competitor set out to break record holder John Spurling’s standard of $1.87 million raised for charity by an individual marathon runner.
With a hefty number to beat, Steve was inspired to train harder than ever with the belief that he would gain enough support from donors to achieve a record-breaking amount of money.
“I always run in the early morning, and in the winter it is easier to get out of bed in the cold and the dark for training if you have a target – knowing that you’ll be helping others by completing your run really does help you focus on your preparations.”
The Reverend went on to supersede his goal by nearly half a million, officially accruing an incredible $2,308,295 by the time he reached the finish line at the 2005 London Marathon.
It was that point that the news of Steve’s noble deed spread around the world - being described as one of the most incredible feats ever performed for charity.
But that interest in his title earned him some healthy competition, with legendary Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave going on to break his record the following year at the very same marathon, amassing a total of $3,515,744 for his own foundation.
“I didn’t run in 2006, but I watched on TV. When it was announced that Steve had beaten my record, I was excited because it created the opportunity I needed to raise more, desperately required, cash for Oasis the following year.”
Steve would have faced the same challenge in 2005 with a determined Redgrave, had the rower not dropped out of the race last minute.
The minister was relieved to have earned the record first, but now Steve had tunnel vision in reclaiming his crown.
“I would have to say I’m pretty competitive when in training. Even when I go for a jog in the mornings, I hate being overtaken by anyone.”
And that “anyone” included an Olympian. Picking up right where he left off, Steve Chalke finished the 2007 London Marathon having managed to amass $3,669,325 in donations for Oasis Trust UK.
The reverend’s determination at the London Marathon is a direct reflection of his passion for running and the organisation he supports – in his mind, running for a purpose beyond ones’ self can allow you to accomplish even the most extraordinary of things.
Steve surpassed his efforts once again when he broke his own record in 2011, raising $3,795,581 for Oasis UK in honour of the organisation's 25th anniversary.
Since that final record-breaking race, Steven has also competed in the New York Marathon and Chicago Marathon, motivating other long distance charity runners to push pass the pain and endurance of a 26.2 mile race on behalf of Oasis.
His program has also expanded to 47 academy school and provided housing for 1,500 people a year in several communities. He now stands as an icon in the history of the Virgin London Marathon- which will be hosting its 36th annual race this coming Sunday.
“My advice to [those running], and indeed to any others taking part this Sunday, is to enjoy every moment. Allow yourself to soak in the fun, the crowd and the support.”
Though Steve Chalke has already made a prominent charitable footprint in marathon racing, and raised over $9,773,201 for his foundation, he still plans to chase down more ambitious goals and races in coming years.
His advice to other runners? "When you feel like giving up at the point when the start line is just a distant memory, and the finish line still seems a world away – keep going!"