Eddie Izzard ran an ultramarathon on Sunday to fulfill his quest to complete 27 marathons in 27 days in honor of the late Nelson Mandela.

“It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Izzard told the BBC in Pretoria, standing under a statue of Mandela, who spent 27 years before becoming the first black president of South Africa.

The 54-year-old actor and comedian raised more than 1 million pounds for the U.K.-based charity Sport Relief over his 27-day, 707-mile journey.

It almost didn’t happen. A health scare following his fourth marathon forced Izzard to take an unscheduled rest day — meaning he needed to do two on Sunday. (He technically did just one — a run the equivalent of South Africa’s 56-mile Comrades Marathon — in 11 hours and 50 minutes.

“I can’t stand upright, I have a huge blister and I’m exhausted,” Izzard said. “But I’m delighted.”

Izzard had tried to complete the same challenge in 2012, but a medical issue forced him to quit on day five.

“I always knew I’d be back,” Izzard said. “When I didn’t make it in 2012 I knew I’d be back.”

Earlier this month, Izzard spoke to the Guardian about his running routine.

“I don’t listen to music because the cars go really fast here — I don’t want to get hit,” Izzard said. “I link in to what’s around me — buffalo, tortoises and turtles, wildebeest, ostrich, zebra. If you’re listening to some band, it cuts out a whole bunch of senses.

He did, however, manage to stream several of his runs live on Periscope.

“It’s tough fighting boredom; when I get very hot and tired, my brain doesn’t work right,” Izzard said. “If you’re morose, you won’t finish the run. I sometimes mutter to myself or sing. I like singing the theme tune — a Mozart concerto — from ‘Out of Africa.’ I’ll witter [chatter] to myself on occasion, too. You have to keep your mind happy to make sure the dopamine is flying around the brain.”

Sunday’s finish wasn’t Izzard’s first foray in the world of ultramarathons. In 2009, he ran 43 marathons in 52 days for the same Sport Relief cause.

“I came out as transgender 30 years ago and that was tricky to do,” Izzard told the newspaper. “It sounds bizarre but, ever since that point, I’ve been able to do quite difficult things. Walking out of the door wearing heels and makeup was so hard. I had to get my brain ready to do that. But it prepared me for everything else difficult that I’ve ever done in my life.”

“If I can do 26 miles every day,” he added, “anyone can.”

Izzard chose 27 marathons to reflect the 27 years that Nelson Mandela spent in prison.

Throughout his journey, he explored the history of South Africa and Mandela; and visited communities, organisations and families that have all been helped by the work of Comic Relief.

** Update to original article… Eddie Izzard raised over £2 million in the process. Thats more than R46 million!!!


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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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