CAPE TOWN, South Africa — For most people, just thinking about running a marathon is enough to tire them out, but for Eddie Izzard, one marathon is just a warm-up. On Feb. 15, the English comedian announced that he would run 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa for the benefit of the Sport Relief charity drive.
Sport Relief 2016 is taking place on March 18 through 20, and is holding over 1,000 events all over the U.K. Izzard’s final run will take place on March 20, the final day of the drive.
Izzard became inspired to run the marathons after watching “Invictus,” a movie detailing Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison. He called the marathons “a salute to the great man,” and said, “It is also a salute to all who struggled and fought against Apartheid.” However, Izzard’s runs will pay more than tribute to the life of a great man; they will also pay for schooling and vaccinations for South African children.
Sport Relief is a weekend fundraising effort held every two years where British citizens raise cash by getting active. Half of donations go to fighting poverty in the U.K. while the other half is spent helping some of the world’s poorest communities. According to its website, Sport Relief has given educational opportunities to over 189,000 children and vaccines to over 734,000 children in the last two years alone.
Comic Relief is the organization behind Sport Relief. Since 1985, Comic Relief has raised over £1 billion through the power of sports and entertainment, and Izzard has played a considerable role. In 2009, he ran over 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief. This act raised nearly £2 million for the organization, but Izzard was far from finished.
In 2012, Izzard, then 50 years old, tried to run the 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa. His health ultimately prevented him from running, but this time, Izzard believes it will be different. “I tried to do this four years ago and failed. This time I will succeed.”
Izzard looks to Nelson Mandela for motivation. While in prison, Mandela never gave up hope, and read William Ernest Henley’s poem Invictus for inspiration. The poem means “unconquerable” in Latin and is about finding courage even when life is at its toughest and most bleak. Even if he has to pull out again, Izzard refuses to see it as an obstacle to success. “If I fail,” he says, “I will come back again and again and again until I do succeed. Because that’s what Nelson Mandela would have done.”
Through the effort of Eddie Izzard and other celebrities, Sport Relief has inspired everyday British citizens to take action and actively contribute. Over 140,000 people swam, ran or bicycled for Sport Relief 2014. Over 3,600,000 schoolchildren participated in charity-raising events. Over 7,900,000 were helped thanks to the £71,820,731 raised by the British public in that year alone.
Whether or not he succeeds in his goal of running 27 marathons in 27 days, Izzard has already succeeded in raising awareness.