The Chaos of Running’s Greatest Riddle

An investigation into the world of multi-day running, the long-standing Guinness World Record for John O’Groats to Land’s End on foot; and the incineration that awaits any man that tries to conquer the mark

By Will Cockerell, distance runner, athletics writer and author of The 50 Greatest Marathon Races of all Time.

Andi Rivett arrives at Land’s End during inclement weather, 13 May, 2002

Introduction

Ours is a wonderful sport that stretches us to the limits of what the human body and mind can achieve.” Richard Brown, former Jogle World record holder

To the naked eye, it’s difficult to name running’s greatest world record by a male, and its percentage superiority over the next mark. Usain Bolt perhaps? Or maybe David Rudisha, Kenenisa Bikila or Eliot Kipchoge. All wrong.  The greatest, by a huge distance, is the time set by a hitherto unknown runner called Andi Rivett, who smashed the world record for the iconic end-to-end run of John O’Groat’s to Lands End [hereafter known as “Jogle”; or “Lejog” which is the route in the other direction] in May 2002.  Here’s how Rivett’s superiority compares with others:

NameDistanceTime% better than next best time
Usain Bolt100m9.581.1
Wade van Niekerk400m43.030.3
David Rudisha800m1:40.910.2
Kenenisa Bekele5000m12:37.350.3
Kenenisa Bekele10,000m26:17.530.3
Eliod KipchogeMarathon2:01.390.5
Yiannis Kouros24 hour303.6k2.8
Yiannis Kouros48 hour473.4k0.7
Yiannis Kouros6 day1036.8k0.6
Andi RivettJOGLE9d2h26m10

So, the paradox is clear:  All the above names aside from Rivett, are clear icons and the best in history, and there are four things to note about Rivett’s numbers.

  1. He was only a mediocre club runner, who really struggled in the sport, with asthma, shin splints and a weak heart.
  2. His percentage domination over the next best time is 7.2% better than the next best in history, and it is clearly the best multi-day performance of all time for quality.
  3. He claimed to travel 5% further than the necessary distance, making his record all the more incredible. 
  4. The previous Jogle world record holders were two of the finest multi-day runners in history in Don Ritchie, who had a large obituary in the New York Times in 2018, here, and the man he lost it to, Richard Brown, one half of an epic husband/wife act who have a website at Ultrabrowns.com detailing their exploits.  Brown reduced Ritchie’s 10 day 15 hour world record by 13 hours in 1995, that hasn’t been felled since, except this one time, by Rivett, by a margin of a whole day.

As the above chart shows, there is only one man in Multi-day running who has run remotely at the standard that Rivett claims for the Jogle, and that is of the “Greek running God”, Yiannis Kouros who dominated the sport for over 15 years.  Here are the World’s half-dozen best times over the 24 hour run, and a comparison to what Rivett achieved in his best three attempts at ‘the 24 hour’ [the other two were dnf’s]:

The Top 24-Hour Runs In History in Km (Via Statistik.d-u-v.org)

  1. 303.306 Yiannis Kouros Adelaide 04oct1997 1997 track
  2. 295.030 Yiannis Kouros Canberra 05oct1997 1997 track
  3. 294.104 Yiannis Kouros Coburg 14apr1996 1996 track
  4. 290.221 Yiannis Kouros Basel 03may1998 1998 road
  5. 286.463 Yiannis Kouros New York 29sep1985 1985 road
  6. 285.362 Yiannis Kouros Surgeres 07may1995 1995 track

————

**  193.08  Andi Rivett Doncaster 1998 track

As can be seen Rivett loses to Kouros by 110kms in the 24 hour, a colossal distance.  In marathon terms it’s the equivalent of around a 3:08, which closely equates to the performances that Rivett logged time and again in his career.  When one transfers Kouros’ epic performance at the 1,000 mile day run of 10days 10 hours on a flat, closed circuit in New York over to the Jogle, one gets 9 days and 7 hours – a supreme performance for sure, but still 5 hours off the Rivett mark. 

There are thus two, and only two, options to consider on the Rivett Jogle mark:

  1. Rivett is the greatest statistical freak and sporting miracle in history.
  2. The mark has been incorrectly logged.

Discussion of Option 1:

Rivett boasts the ‘double whammy’ of not only being completely dominant in his chosen field, but achieving it from the starting point of mediocre ability and no other quality performances in his career.  I raised this point with Rivett in June 2019 and his explanation was as follows: 

“I have never enjoyed club running, and did not join one until I was about 35. Many of the runs I did around this time were as a coach/trainer to other runners so was running as a pacemaker for their potential, not my own. In the second Marathon of Britain I suffered from a heart problem and after this was not able to run as I had before.”

Whilst this does explain why he never produced another quality time in his career, it throws up a wasps nest of follow-up questions: 

  1. How likely is it to go from eschewing any attempt at quality, to making the jump, on a single occasion, of being the best in history by 10%? 
  • Also, he clearly did ‘give it large’ on multiple occasions.  His coach, Ivor Lloyd, wrote at great length in his book about how seriously they took Rivett’s 24 hour run, and what a tactical masterpiece it was.  But the distance was a meagre 120 miles – 69 miles off the WR.  There is bragging too about the Marathon des Sables where he also wasn’t in coaching or pace-making guise, but lost to the winner by around 6 hours; and in his Marathon of Britain he wasn’t coaching or pacing anyone, but only won the 175 mile race by 8 minutes, over the next two finishers, both women, and noted to the Wakefield Express afterward: 

“I won every stage, being top of the rankings each day, and was eight minutes in front of the next person at the finish. It was a nice run for anyone who wants a punishing race.”

Rivett errs by saying he won every stage. On stage 3 for instance, run over 32.8 miles, he placed a distant 4th [and the top two on the stage were female].  So here clearly, he’s not pacing or coaching anyone, he is finding it “punishing” and still losing to the top females over a stage.  A very common factor for all Rivett’s career is that he was close to, but still some way behind, the leading female athletes. GB Ultra Sharon Gayter for instance has 140 miles for the 24 hour run compared to Rivett’s 120, but her Jogle time is 12 days, 15 hours, which is over 3.5 days behind Rivett.

It should also be noted that in this Marathon of Britain race, he took 41 hours 43 minutes to cover 175 miles, with 12-22 hour recoveries over the course of 6 days.  A standard light years away from Jogle requirements.

A key issue with option 1 is that Rivett is not celebrated as a statistical freak or sporting miracle by the Ultra community at all – he’s just ignored.  A bit harsh maybe?  Or perhaps they see insufficiant evidence that such a thing is possible, not just by an athlete of Rivett’s calibre, but anyone.  Rivett’s Jogle time is the equivalent to running the 100 metres in low-sub 9 seconds, or shooting a round of 57 at Augusta. 

Discussion of Option 2

Mark Vaz during his Jogle claim of 7 days, 7 hours – a rate of 115 miles per day

We are led then to consider the possibility of Option 2 of the time being incorrectly logged, or whether the whole thing could be a hoax.

If the Rivett mark is a hoax he’ll be following in a long line of infamous running hoaxes, with farcical claims on the Jogle record in recent years, including one by a 3:24 marathoner called Mark Vaz, pictured, in May 2016, who claimed a ludicrous 7 days 7 hours.  Furious that the community rejected his time, Vaz said:

“In regards to running and this record I never once stated I beat it or wanted to beat it, I did it for charity which is close to me to raise money. Unfortunately I won’t be doing any more due to it affecting my health.

“I will not be going to Guinness now and making it official as I have been hounded by a number of people and it all makes it now all very bitter. Either way I can’t win.”

When The Daily Telegraph contacted Vaz, his wife Tammy said: “We are taking legal action. I’m not speaking to anyone.”

An early running hoax was by the American Fred Lorz at the 1904 St. Louis Olympic marathon.  The race was a bloodbath, as the organizer Edward Sullivan, one of the founding members of the AAU, used it to conduct detailed research into the effects of “purposeful dehydration,” [otherwise known as death]; so started the runners off under the broiling 92 degree mid-afternoon sun, and allowed them only one water stop en route.

Fred Lorz at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, who, “went a little funny in the head, and did a silly thing.”

Lorz collapsed at 9 miles and got into a car back to the stadium, which too gave up at 19 miles, so Lorz got out and jogged the remaining 5 miles of the 24 mile course.  He crossed the finish line in first, posed for a photo with Alice Roosevelt, was about to be adorned with the gold medal, when he came clean about his “practical joke.”  The unsmiling officials banned him for life, rescinding the following year in time for Lorz to win Boston in 1905.  He died of pneumonia in 1914 but is still recalled for these two contrasting events. 

Rosie Ruiz

Rosie Ruiz “wins” Boston in 1980

Fast forward 76 years and we find Rosie Ruiz, who had observed the running boom of the 1970s, and secured an entry for the New York marathon of 1979.  She dropped out, rode the subway to Central Park, infiltrated the finish line and was given a token for a 2:56 marathon.  Her boss was impressed and his company paid her way to Boston as she had the qualifier.  ‘Beat that!’, they encouraged.  Ruiz made her way to Kenmore Square a mile from Boston’s finish and saw scores of runners pass.  ‘I better get in there’, she thought.  Her keen eye hadn’t noticed that all of those runners had been male.  She crossed the line in 2:31, smashing the American record and poor Jacqui Gareau, the rightful Canadian winner.  Ruiz was crowned as a fabled Boston champion and adorned with the laurel wreath.  Too swiftly, the lie had become inescapeable.  Although disqualified after an enhaustive week’s investigation, she never did return her winner’s medal with the diamond stud.

There are many similarities between Ruiz and Rivett.  The key ones being little running ability, and no races of quality to point to before or after their world-class returns.  Another key similarity is of their lead supporter.  In Ruiz’ case it was Steve Marek, an oddball figure who used to pop up at races dressed as Superman, and stated a 2:58 in order to get into the New York marathon of 1978, when “I meant 5:58.”  He duly dropped out, but upon driving to the finish, he said he wanted to check on some runners, and crossed the line [again dressed as Superman].  “We subsequently banned him from any of our races,” said the director Patricia Owens.  Marek was the only witness to come forward and say he saw Ruiz at the start.

Ivor Lloyd, Coach

For Rivett, the support comes from his coach Ivor Lloyd, who monetized the Jogle World record by attracting clients to his mentoring and coaching business and gym – and wrote a book called Never Give Up – on the back of taking an unknown runner and turning him into the “world endurance champion” [his words, not mine].  Before coaching Rivett, Lloyd had a spell in Durham prison for kidnap and blackmail [acquitted, but says he “messed up big time”], and has since served as a non-sexual male escort (pictured), and suffered a nervous breakdown and bankruptcy. 

And a huge red flag that I unearthed, is that he and Rivett share a sister, and are in fact step-brothers.  Nowhere, in any of Lloyd’s literature does he mention the family connection with his biggest client, and in fact distances himself from it, with statements like saying that Andi came to him for help with his running in 1994 and noting, “the first thing that struck me about him was his determination.”

Unprecedented quality & clustering of Lloyd’s book reviews

There is a grave issue with how Lloyd’s book appears on the Waterstones website.  Although an unknown author, it is Waterstones’ second most prolifically reviewed books by customers, behind JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

It is also the best reviewed book in history, so far as I can find, averaging 4.85 stars out of 5 per review.

Of the 28 reviews, 27 are 5 stars, and perfect.  Here are 3 examples:

One of the most influential self-help books ever written. This book is a must for anyone who, like me, has been “through the mill” and needs some encouragement

Great book. Great guy. Great read. Enough said!! 10/10

If the author were to ever do a tour of the south coast of England, I would be the first to book him to give a motivational talk. I really cannot recommend this book highly enough – the best of its genre by far.

There is only one negative [1 star] review, by someone dazzled [or duped] into buying:

I bought this book because it was so highly rated however now I have read it I cannot understand why it has got so many high ratings. The only advice I found in this book seemed to be regurgitated from other spirituality books or simple metaphors that my mother used to tell me.

Each chapter does indeed begin with a common, somewhat hackneyed, parable.

A vast majority of authors get less than 5 reviews on the Waterstones website, and indeed William Shakespeare struggles to get that, topping out at 6 for Romeo and Juliet.  Apart from Lloyd, any book fielding more than 10 reviews is penned by a world famous author. 

Here are some comparisons:

So, as this table shows, even the most famous self-help book in modern times, Paulo Coehlo’s “fable for following your dream”, has less reviews and is rated one-third of a star lower than Lloyd’s work.

All but one of the reviews were penned in a 2 month window in the spring of 2012.  It goes without saying that online book reviews simply don’t cluster like this, and are instead evenly spread out over a period of years.

Whether it be in coaching, or writing, Lloyd is posting numbers that are the finest in history.

On Google reviews, the book only has one review, and Lloyd doesn’t bother to hide that he’s writing it, despite masquerading in the third person to begin with:

“No one who reads this book can fail to be moved and motivated in equal measure… Ivor’s inimitable, no-nonsense style of writing as he describes the emotional roller-coaster that his life has been, makes this book a real page-turner.”

But then he suddenly switches to first person half-way through:

“My sole purpose in writing this book is to help you overcome any obstacles which are holding you back and preventing you from living the life you truly deserve. I have personally used the methods upon which this book is based to help me overcome a teenage cancer scare, infertility, wrongful imprisonment, divorce, bankruptcy and, ultimately, a mental breakdown.”

Finally, Lloyd smoothly weaves to the heart of this document, coaching Rivett to the Jogle WR:

“I believe my success in coaching is down to the fact that ‘I am real’ and the knowledge and wisdom I have gained has not just enabled me to help create sporting world champions, but it has also helped many others in the face of adversity.”

Note the pluralisation of champions [which is news to me].  I wrote to Ivor Lloyd requesting an interview and 26 minutes later he replied saying fine and to send him questions.  I sent him seven, asking all about the record attempt, and why he disguises the fact that he and Rivett are step-brothers.  But he never replied.

Proving the Critics Wrong

Not only did Lloyd monetize the Jogle WR, he had another motive.  He left Durham prison in a self-confessed rage as to how things had turned out for him, and was also furious that athletics coaches said that he had insufficient background in running to get the best out of Rivett. Lloyd writes: 

Well, that was it for me! I was determined to prove the ‘college boys’ wrong. It isn’t academic qualifications that make you a winner; it is sheer guts, courage and the will to give 100% in your efforts to win that make you a champion. My blood was boiling and I was determined to prove them wrong.

On the 13th May 2002, Andrew Rivett recorded the fastest ever run from John O’Groats to Land’s End. He smashed the existing world record to finish the 874 mile challenge in 9 days 2 hours and 26 minutes. His record was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records and still stands to this day (it is recorded in the 2011 edition).

Andrew had proved everyone wrong and proved that having asthma does not need to stop you from achieving your dreams. I, too, was delighted because my reputation as a coach and ‘dreamer’ had been restored

Note how little detail is provided about the run itself here – none whatsoever.  A whole book is based around the achievement, but the event itself is over in the blink of an eye, when in reality, the Jogle is packed with drama, incident and talking points from start to finish.  In the case of Don Ritchie his descriptions are haunting, bloody and very graphic, and he realized early on that a distance of low 70 miles per day would be required so as not to invite a breakdown.

Meeting the Man

I went to visit Rivett down in Rye where he mends boats.  The meeting started in the most jarring manner when I said to his work colleague that I was, “here to meet the great running icon.”  The guy shot back, “great running con more like!”  We all laughed, but it was a dreadful way to start.  Rivett is a nice guy, and I don’t have an axe to grind with him personally, and he clearly adores running and still goes out for 10 milers in the glorious Rye environs, three times a week.  But the interview only made his claim more precarious:  he didn’t know any of his personal best running times, and could provide almost no detail about the Jogle run at all, except that:  he had a terrible 3rd day, but it didn’t cost him any distance, and that each day was of 90-96 miles, the weather was perfect [save for a 36 hour monsoon/hurricane in the last two days, so not quite perfect] and he had no injury trouble except for a blister that didn’t hurt.  And both feet turned “black”, but that was not a problem either.  He was rather hazy on witnesses and could give no surnames.  One was his physio Penny, who brought along her toddler and newborn.  He didn’t mention whether his step-brother and coach Ivor Lloyd was present at all.

Informal runners don’t think it’s an issue that Rivett doesn’t know what times he’s run in the sport, but top runners know exactly what they’ve done.  Andi not only didn’t know, he was very confused, venturing a time of sub-9 for the steeplechase, which has one in the mix in the early stages of an Olympic heat.  I quickly disabused him of that notion and he agrees he probably means the 3k – still a good time but far more mainstream.  He doesn’t know his marathon pb and affirms he never went after a marathon time. 

To my surprise, Rivett states each day’s run at Jogle started at midnight, but has “no idea” why.  It’s a terribly harsh way to tackle the mission as running in the dark is soul-destroying, cold, lonely and very boring, and yet he decided to go one third of the route under the cloak of darkness, with few/if any witnesses or crucial pacemakers about.  He was then quitting for the day at around 6pm, in glorious sunshine, with the most pleasant hours still to go, with the sun setting, glorious views and the heat dissipating.  The crepuscular hours also made it all the more tortuous for his handlers, who would also have to try and get their night’s sleep between the hours of 6pm and midnight.

I asked to view Rivett’s GWR certificate, but for some reason he’d given it away to a pub 10 miles away in Newenden.  I visited them to see it, but they’d lost it.

There is also the very serious anomaly of how far Rivett and Lloyd claim they ran.  It pops up regularly that their distance was 874 miles, which is some 50 miles longer [around 11 hours] than necessary.  I have a good idea why they’ve plunked for this huge number:  it’s the distance given on the sign at Lands End [pictured, top].  But that signifies the traditional cycling route, a far more popular way to travel.  The running route is around 825-835 miles.  So the brothers have fallen into a bit of a trap there, as they attempted to convey a number that Rivett ran.

Rivett wrote to me with an explanation:  “The figure of 874 was what was put up by the guys at Lands End.”

By “lads” I assume Rivett means his handlers.  But why on earth put up a time so much longer than necessary – which so happens to be etched on the Lands End signpost?  Why not just put up the correct distance that ran?  What use is a bogus, inflated distance to anyone?

The Cruel Demands of Jogle

Former Jogle World record holder Richard Brown notes:  “much flesh has gone this way never to arrive at the promised land.  JOGLE/LEJOG is tough.. let no man say otherwise!”

A good comparison one can make for Jogle’s demands is with its little brother: the 6-Day, flat, closed circuit race.  In May 2019 there was a dramatic EMU European World Trophy 6 day event in Hungary which gives great insight into the harsh demands of Multi-day running.  Britain’s Dan Lawson won with 571 miles over Italy’s Tinzian Marchesi by just 4 miles.  So Lawson averaged 95 miles a day, to Marchesi’s 94.  Rivett claimes he averaged 92 at Jogle [or 96 if one takes 874 mile claim, but we’ll let that slide.]

So, if Lawson and Marchesi can do 95 & 94 for the 6 dayer, is it at least feasible for Rivett to achieve 92 for the Jogle?  No.  And here’s why:

Henry: Well, he who finds the Grail, must face the final challenge.

Indiana: What final challenge?

Henry: Three devices of such lethal cunning.

Indiana: Booby traps?

Henry: Oh yes!

But unlike the Holy Grail, the Jogle does not have three devices to face – it has four:

  1. Hills.
  2. Sleep.
  3. Slowdown.
  4. Shrapnel.

The four factors are non-negotiable, and are each a demanding mistress.  Transferring Lawson’s 6-day time to the Jogle, gives him a time of 8 days, 19 hours; some 7.5 hours up on Rivett.  But now Lawson must pay tax on the four devices:

Hills.  Britain is very hilly, whereas closed circuit 6 day races are flat.  Early on day 3 of James Williams’ May 2019 attempt his handler wrote to Richard Brown [who had suggested avoiding some terrible hills]:  “We are going to take you up on your advice as the hills are killing the time and him. Too much walking.”  A generous estimate for the 12-15,000m of climbing that Jogle requires is to add an average of 30 seconds per mile.  It could be a fair bit more than that as the steep hills can cost a good 5-8 minutes per mile as they are walked.  Ie, a mile on the flat might take only 10-11 minutes, but walking a steep uphill mile is as much as 20.  But 30 seconds is a sober judgment, and equates to a 418 minute tax on the journey.

Sleep.  Both Rivett and especially Marchesi skimped on sleep in Hungary, as one is lured into over the 6 day run; although for Marchesi it backfired and cost him the race.  With sleep deprivation kicking in, his daily mileages went:  131, 103, 85, 90, 82, 74.  Marchesi averaged just 2 hours 10 mins rest/sleep a day.  Anything under 5.5 hours rest per day for the Jogle is a strategy laden with venom.  Lawson was a more circumspect 3hrs55mins rest per day in Hungary.  So if we take Lawson and not Marchesi’s rest figure, we must still add 90 minutes a day for Jogle’s rest compared to the 6-dayer.

Slowdown.  This factor applies to any race when one adds distance, and adding 46% in distance equals a slowdown factor of 3.3% in pace, and there’s no getting around it.  For instance, a 15:00 5k runner (3 mins per K) will run the 10k in 31:30 (personal example), and 22:45 for a distance of 7.3k at 3:06 per K, for the 3.3% rise in pace.  This works right across the board. So we must add 3.3% to the 8 day 19 hour total.

Shrapnel.  This is slightly more subjective, but still a huge factor.  GB is a very crowded island with a lot of traffic.  This traffic must be respected, and one can’t simply fly across hundreds of road/roundabout & level-crossings [pictured right] with impunity.  Some will cost up to a minute a go – or as much as 5 for a level-crossing.  There are also plenty of grass verges to run on and navigate, and time spent discussing best routes however much planning has gone before – ie, the above change of route to avoid yet more hills, or an unexpected road closure for resurfacing – boom, detour, and a gnarly 10/20/30 minute penalty. 

I heard a Jogle story of one road being upgraded which meant a 7-mile detour, and another very high profile attempt where the athlete went the wrong way for 6 miles, so got into the van to take them back to the point where they got lost.  Completely unacceptable. Hitching any sort of ride when things go wrong is Jogle’s gravest violation, and if permitted would turn the whole thing into a farce.

With the added time and distance, there is also the hugely increased threat of niggles, blisters, sickness, diarroeah, insomnia and loss of appetite.  The lengthy Jogle journals for Don Ritchie and Sharon Gayter clearly show this.  Neither athlete had bad runs, they were just constantly ‘putting out fires’.  If Ritchie wasn’t worrying about navigation, it was painful mouth sores [which lead to a hard time eating], stomach pains, fever, blood in his stool, symptoms of a collapsed lung, dreadful weather, trouble sleeping… and on and on it goes.  A very conservative shrapnel tax is 50 minutes a day.

So, one must now add these four taxes to the 8 days 19 hour figure of:  Hills 7 hours; Sleep 13.5hrs; Slowdown 7hrs & Shrapnel 7.25hrs.  Total hours to add:  34.75

This gives a transfer of Lawson’s Hungarian 6 day win to:  10 days, 5 hours and 45 minutes for the Jogle.  A time 3 hours off Richard Brown’s old WR, which strikes one as just about perfect given the similar pedigree of the two men.  But note, it’s a whopping one day and 3 hours off the Rivett mark.

Tortuous GWR campaign

My dealings with Guinness World Records to dispute the record were Kafkaesque. They’re very hard to contact and didn’t reply to my early overtures.  I’m told that many ultra runners in the past have written to GWR asking to see Rivett’s logbook, but get nowhere.  The problem with GWR trying to be on top of so many trivial, novelty records is that the serious, meaningful ones, get ‘lost in the wash’, and they can’t have the expertise to rule on everything – they need specialists, and they clearly don’t have one for ultra multi-day running.  The founding fathers of GWR, the McWhirter twins would have been distraught to see what became of their feted project, where athletics statistics were its metier.  Norris of course was the announcer for Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile.  Ironically, Rivett is listed next to Bannister on an internet site listing running’s greatest performances.

The GWR investigation of my comprehensive 37 page dossier on the subject lasted 8 months.  To my frustration, after 6 months they still hadn’t consulted Rivett’s logbook and verification from their archives. That was a move they should have made on day 1.  The proof that Rivett ran the distance in those archives will be very weak, as there were no trackers, garmins or Strava in those days, and Guinness were clearly operating on an “honours code”. 

Rivett’s handlers just took photos of him running [about 55,000 would be required] and got policemen to sign his forms when he went past.  Remember, one third of the run occurred between midnight and 6am.

On 5 June, 2019, GWR wrote to me with their ruling on the matter:

Having conducted a thorough review of the materials you have submitted relating to ‘the fastest journey from Land’s End to John-O’-Groats on foot (male)’, on this occasion, we have been unable to identify any clear evidence of malpractice.

This is an obtuse judgment because they’re clearly looking through the wrong end of the telescope.  They won’t find the evidence of malpractice because anyone can post a picture of them running down the road, or get someone to sign something to say they’ve seen them trot by.  What I’m interested in is the times where he wasn’t photographed and when he wasn’t signed off as being viewed running in a certain time and place. At no stage in the process did GWR reach out to me or any of the world’s leading Multi-day experts for clarifications, which one would expect for such a lengthy document packed with statistics and analysis.

Ultra-running author and statistician Andy Milroy observes:

“Guinness lost all credibility when Peter Matthews was forced out as Sports Editor – he has edited the ATFS Annual since the early 1980s so a direct successor of the McWhirters.

“The move to a glorified comic book, focussed on images and gimmicks and not facts, meant that far less care was taken.

“Internationally it has little credibility. The constant search for new and obscure new gimmick records means that any sporting marks are largely ignored, buried under the dross of faux sporting marks where head to head competition is unknown.

“I had been a consultant previously on long distance.  But when Peter went, I went.”

Richard Brown and other “victims”

If the mark is false there are bodies strewn all over the roadside, which is a grave injustice to the ultrarunning community, the sport of multi-day, and of course the iconic and much loved challenge of human spirit, fitness and ability that is the Jogle.  For the last 17 years many hapless multi-day athletes have set out to attack the record, only for the attempts to fizzle out in a few days.  Huge time, effort, finance and sacrifice has been expended. 

Three notable victims include:  the previous record holder the incredible Richard Brown, pictured above.  A dedicated, clinical and talented multi-day walking and running legend, who along with his equally decorated wife Sandra has poured his heart and soul into the sport.  The sacrifice and hard word Brown has put into his sport are endless; from conquering the gruelling condition of spondyolitis and chipping away at his times.  He has a quite exceptional double for the 24 hours run of 145 miles, but 133 miles for the walk; a double that only Yiannis Kouros can better.  So let the facts on this be very clear:  over ultra-distance, Brown walks quicker than Rivett runs.  And speedy walking technique is sacrosanct at Jogle.  Into his 73rd year, Brown is still going strong, and placed 29th/96 at the 6 day European race in Hungary in May 2019.  In all he has completed around 150 Centurion events of over 100 miles, and was the sixth person in modern times to exceed 400 Km in a 48 hour event (401 Km at Surgeres in 1991) which remains the British record.

In August 2018, another leading British multi-dayer Dan Lawson [whose dazzling win at Hungary is described above] attempted to beat Rivett’s Jogle mark, but after a torrid sequence of days from 5-7, he suddenly quit on day 8, with some 200 miles to go, suffering from severe mental breakdown. 

And in May 2019, there was the high profile case of James Williams who also gave his all.  For 18 months he embarked on a brutal training regime, and however much I warned he could be chasing a phantom and to not ignore the Brown mark, it just spurred him onto greater heights.  In January 2019 he ran 1,278kms [equivalent to a marathon every single day] – close to unheralded levels.  Williams’ attempt triggered major coverage from many publications including The Daily Telegraph and a spot on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show.  A 2:30 marathoner, he is a much better runner than Rivett was, and his backing was second to none, with great support from his employers at Sky, his family & father-in-law [the author Bill Bryson], two state of the art motor homes, shoe sponsorship from Saucony and a long list of crew and support staff.

Day one was described as “tough”, but he grimly chiseled out 100 miles, but critically had to eat into his rest period to achieve that.  Day 2 saw him take off some 45 minutes late – a direct knock-on effect from the night before’s largesse, and duly declined to 85 miles, and I went out to support him at the end of the Day 3.  I found someone largely incapable of speech who could only communicate by sign language, reduced to a slow walk, and at strategic odds with his crew.  James badly wanted to stop for the night at 10:30pm on around 88 miles, but his crew urged him to crack on to 100 miles to keep on the Rivett pace.  But that would have taken him till nearly 2 in the morning, a terrible sacrifice.  I observed that resting now meant that the 12 minute kilometers he was doing would become 6-minute K’s after some rest, so it would be a good investment in time.

The lure of the Jogle GWR is irresistible, but woe betide anyone that tries to slay it.

92 miles was settled on, which became a grim 82 for day 4, which took till 3am, and on day 5 James compiled an excruciating 20 miles in around 8 hours, before quitting, totally spent, just 377 miles in, and some 450 still to go.  To be sure, the mission would have been far less harrowing if he hadn’t been seduced by the Rivett mark, akin to Odysseus and the Sirens on the rocks.

The importance of a correct mark

The founder of the International Association of Ultrarunners, Andy Milroy writes why it’s necessary to ensure the mark for the Jogle is correct:  “It is very important. I have spent a lot of time over the years investigating incorrect times.  They undermine genuine runners and detract from their achievements. It can even have a financial impact on potential funding and sponsorship.  More power to your elbow.

“Would Dan Lawson have succeeded in an attempt on Richard Brown’s mark? – by placing the bar at an unattainable level, genuine athletes are penalised. This is why Guinness have a responsibility to recognise only accurate, well documented marks by credible claimants.”

Multi-day experts are 100% behind my campaign to get the Rivett mark expunged, as in this note from Chris Finill, an ‘ever-present’ at the London marathon [all but two in sub-3 hours] and who has run across America.  Chris writes:  “If the record is removed you will have done the ultra community a huge service.”

Non-specialist resistance and spokeswoman’s letter

There are non-specialists who say about Rivett, “maybe he just had an extraordinary 9 days!”  Or there’s this note from an ultra-running group, when I tried to flag the problem:

Not sure why you want to go out of your way to tear someone down irrespective of any argument you have made in your letter.  This has to be one of the worst things I have witnessed in the ultra scene.

Luckily it is mostly sweetness and light and lots of happy helpful people
 😘

The kiss the chap has given me is appreciated, but it shows how misunderstood the sport remains.  The pushback has started from the Rivett camp, who communicates with me via a spokeswoman called Dr. Rebekah Gilbert DProf ProfDipLSSM HDipRSPH(Hons) DipsITEC MA LRAM LLCM ProfCertRAM(Hons).  I asked Dr Gilbert about who she was, and when Andi and Ivor became step-brothers.  Her reply is thus:

“The answer is I have no idea and quite frankly cannot see the need to print such personal and private information about Yvonne.

“If I may be so bold, and in the spirit of constructive critique from someone with a great deal of experience, and qualifications in sectors of public, private and academic research and publication, you may like to reflect on two angles of your practice.

“Firstly, however dogmatic one may be about a hypothesis, you have to be objective to the evidence you find and sometimes data sets come back differently to how you may have expected; nor can one cherry pick data to suit an argument when there is evidence to the contrary.

“Secondly, you are dealing with live human beings, who have feelings and emotions. This may not have been your intention and I apologise if I am wrong, however, you seem to be determined to set Mr Rivett up as someone who is a fraud and, therefore, someone who must be lying about his achievements. Perhaps if your approach had been a little more open and objective, then perhaps people would have warmed to you and conversations would not have resulted in the phone being put down. Mr Rivett is a private individual and for you to be publishing unnecessary verbiage about Yvonne and her family is hurtful to all parties.

“Mr Rivett ran this race in a record time, gave all his evidence to Guinness and they in turn have confirmed this. You could of course be writing your article in a positive light about the amazing achievement of a humble human being, however, from the contact we have had, I am afraid I doubt it.

Yours

R Gilbert”

With regard to Yvonne Lloyd, Ivor’s mother, it’s important to note that all information I have gleaned about Rivett’s family are discussed at considerable length in the public domain by Lloyd in his book and online; where he also speaks of another brother, the Coronation Street actor Phil Middlemiss.  But he never mentions the family connection to Rivett.   His sister Lorraine does though, commenting on many sites noting the Jogle mark [like GWR’s] that she is Rivett’s sister, hence why I spoke to her in the first place, looking for Lloyd, who she then told me is her brother.

Strategy for Tomorrow

So where to go from here?  Well, hopefully GWR will one day bring in more experts to study the case.  The Jogle mark isn’t noted in any formal FKT [fastest known times] lists, but the fact that GWR list it is a real bore as their name still holds tremendous cache.  And it causes such damage, mentally and physically, to anyone who goes after it.  It leads people to believe that Rivett’s stated rate of 92-96 miles a day for Jogle could be possible, when it’s clearly out of reach.

Rivett aside, the Richard Brown 10 day 2 hour mark has stood unmolested for nigh on a quarter of a Century, and if GWR refuse to remove the Rivett mark, my advice would be for someone to try a fell the Brown mark, get under 10 days, and maybe nudge it toward around 9 days and 16 hours.  This would still be way short of Rivett, but at least then the athlete in question could write a detailed report on what they did, what their background was, and whether those extra 14 hours (1.5 a day) are remotely credible.  Remember, the greatest multi-day outlier in history, Yiannis Kouros, sees his best run only worth 9 days 7hrs at Jogle; and even that is merely optimistic supposition.

What can’t continue is for athletes like Dan Lawson and James Williams having these terrible breakdowns en route because they’re logging early days of 100 miles, which they deem necessary.  It is simply not possible to do 100 miles at Jogle for any more than a day or so.

Lawson’s Hungarian trip saw this daily mileage:  126, 84, 86, 80, 88, 105.  It’s a wonderful climax to his run, and he took 30 miles out of Marchesi on the final day.  This is clearly the way ahead at Jogle:  start pragmatically [Lawson was too quick in Hungary], and jockey for position, in readiness for a 210 mile, sleep-skipping, eye-balls out, gut-wrenching, lung-busting assault, for those last couple of days.  So few athletes reach the last two days in one piece.  But start too quick [anything over 90 miles], and the collapse will always arrive on days 4-6.

WVLC  13 June 2019