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BLOG: A marathon achievement for a Guinness World Record!

"When I heard there was a 'Guinness World Record for Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Scientist', I immediately decided I would do it."

road-level shot showing feet of person running

A blog by Dr Stephen Cochrane MRSC from Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.


When I heard there was a Guinness World Record for 'Fastest Marathon Dressed as a Scientist', I immediately decided I would do it as it combined my occupation with my hobby and would be a fantastic opportunity to promote Chemistry at Queen's.

I was fortune that I already had an entry to the 2024 London Marathon. This was through championship entry, for runners that had ran a sub 2.40 marathon in 2023 (I ran 2.36 at Chicago Marathon). I submitted my application for the record attempt to GWR, and upon their approval, emailed London Marathon team, who then transferred me from a Championship entry, to the Green wave where all record attempts start from. We got our own special tent in the starting area and it was great fun talking to all the other costumed runners before the race.

Running is brilliant for de-stressing and I think I do some of my best scientific thinking during runs!

As the marathon started I felt great but this didn't last very long. My costume was full PPE, which included trousers, a lab coat, safety glasses and gloves. These things are not conducive to fast or comfortable running! I started to overheat by 5 km and by 10 km knew it was going to be a challenging day.

This is where I was able to rely on my experience running marathons (14 completed before London) and pace the race at the correct effort level. I told myself that as long as I could get to 35 km at my current pace (~6 min 20 sec per mile), then even with a massive slow down the record would be in the bag.

I unbuttoned most of my lab coat to help with circulation and at every water station drank water and poured the remainder of the bottle over myself to cool down. I made it to 35 km averaging desired pace and by that point my legs and arms felt very heavy. At that stage I resorted to my usual trick of counting to 100, with 1 count every 8 steps. I know this means I'll hit 1 km at ~100, at which point I restarted. It's a mental strategy made popular by Paula Radcliffe to help you during tough parts of a race.

Unfortunately I got no second wind and the pace was getting slower and slower as the finish approached. However, I had banked plenty of time and crossed the finish line in 2 hours 48 minutes and 51 seconds, smashing the previous record of 2 hours 55 minutes and 40 seconds!

As soon as I crossed the finish line I received my medal and was ushered to the GWR area where I was presented with a prop certificate (the real one with come in the post in a few weeks). After the race and showering, I met up with some running friends and celebrated with pizza and a few beers.


About Stephen and his work

I joined Queen’s in 2017. My research lab focuses on antibiotic discovery and development of chemical tools to study processes inside bacteria. I can thank my Chemistry teacher at Limavady Grammar School, Mrs Crown, for my love of Chemistry. She made it fun and always related things we were learning to real world examples.

Chemistry is all around us. Right now, a multitude of chemical reactions are occurring inside your body. The clothes you're wearing likely have synthetic polymers in them. You may have taken some type of medicine today. All of these things exist because of chemistry. I love my job because I get to make new things that could improve human health or provide new information on how a biological process occurs.

At Queen’s we have excellent staff to student ratios, ensuring lots of one on one contact for students. The major research themes within our school are Healthcare and Sustainability, so if you like chemistry and want to build a healthier and more sustainable society, come to Queen’s!