Richmond Park is synonymous with majestic stags and bow-legged foals.
However in recent months the deer population has welcomed a persistent and dogged visitor day in, day out.
Decked out in a tartan kilt chosen by schoolchildren, Rob Young ran his first marathon around the Royal Park on April 14 this year.
Since then, he’s not stopped running.
“Richmond Park is my second home, or my first home at the moment,” said Rob.
The 32-year-old is currently deep into a world record attempt to run 367 marathons in 365 days.
In the process he’s hoping to raise £200,000 for three children’s charities –NSPCC, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Dreams Come True.
“This guy is pushing himself harder than anyone else has before,” said Ali Parkes, manager and friend of Rob, who is now popularly known as Marathon Man UK.
“It’s just a bit of running really,” admitted Rob with a sheepish grin.
He’s clocked up 241 consecutive marathons in 227 days as of December 3.
A total distance of 6,670 miles covered –the equivalent of travelling from London to the Philippines’ capital Manila, burning almost 1.2 million calories.
On the heaviest day, October 11, Rob ran 88 miles in 21 hours across the Lake District climbing a height of around 17,500ft – more than half the height of Mt Everest.
Ever since watching this year’s London Marathon he has been on a personal and physical odyssey.
Inspired by the self-giving stories of fundraising runners and motivated by his partner Joanna’s challenge that he couldn’t do it, Rob decided he was going to run a marathon.
That initial challenge quickly mushroomed into an attempt to run the most consecutive marathons run in a year.
He’s aiming to finish in time for next year’s London Marathon and his project will include a run across the USA early next year.
“I don’t see it as a challenge. A marathon for me is like a 10km run for a normal person,” explained Rob, who served for more than five years in the Army’s Royal Signal Corps.
— Paula Radcliffe (@paulajradcliffe) September 26, 2014
Until a few weeks ago Rob would rise at 2.30am each day to clock up 26.2 miles or more before going in to his 9-5 job at a motor parts company.
He has since given up his job and moved in with manager Ali, who is supporting Rob, Joanna and their two-year-old son, Alexander, through his incredible journey.
Faced with constant astonishment at the scale of his task and the pressure he is putting his body under, Rob has a simple response.
“If you have got a good heart or a good mind, your body will follow you through,” he explained.
“I have got a good mind and my mind tells me that I am doing something positive, therefore I don’t see running these distances as a major challenge.”
Born in Barnsley, Rob has been on the move his entire life. His disjointed childhood was largely due to the horrific abuse Rob suffered at the hands of his father.
This culminated in Rob running away from home and entering the care system where he endured difficult years of bullying and anger problems.
This troubled past serves as an explanation and motivation for why Rob is supporting his chosen charities.
“Any child can think big and if they believe and work hard enough they can slowly change the world,” said Rob.
“Even if what I’m doing changes one child’s life or perspective on life then I can be happy with what I’ve done.”
He has now finally put down some roots after spending the past couple of years in and around Richmond.
Rob’s extraordinary feat has led him to give presentations at schools including Sheen Mount Primary School in Richmond, Hotham Primary School in Putney and Phoenix High School in Shepherd’s Bush.
In the long-term the humble runner explained that his dream is to found his own charity which will build sustainable schools for children around the world.
“For the kids, they don’t see a motivational poster, they see a real-life hero,” smiled Ali.
Unsurprisingly Rob’s exploits have led to a few bumps and bruises along the way.
He’s currently enduring an enforced pause due to tendon and bone injuries and hopes to be back running in Richmond Park by Boxing Day.
He’s been designated ‘a person of special scientific interest’ by Dr Courtney Kipps and his team at the world-leading Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH).
Dr Kipps is astounded by Rob’s recovery powers and expects he may well be back in action before Christmas.
“He is confounding all expectations of normal athletes in terms of his powers of recovery and ability to keep going,” said Dr Kipps.
“He is able to do a lot more than the average person can, which means we do not really know where his limits lie and I don’t think Rob really knows either.”
The backing for Marathon Man is snowballing with a whole host of celebrities showing their support for him.
His social media pages are dotted with photos of Rob alongside the great and good of sports and entertainment including Mo Farah, Jack Whitehall, Jimmy Carr and England rugby captain Chris Robshaw.
— Coldplay (@coldplay) September 23, 2014
Despite his meteoric rise, which included running with explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes and meeting the All Blacks rugby team, Rob is keeping his trainer-clad feet firmly on the ground.
“I’d rather stand there talking to a bunch of runners than meet any famous person,” he said.
The only role model he can think of is Mother Teresa, who he explanied inspired everyone around her to do good.
“I have felt exactly the same since the age of 10 or 11.
“ I have always wanted to do something like this, to inspire kids who have been abused to go on and inspire other people,” he said.
So what does the future hold for Marathon Man?
Rob lists potential future challenges as completing the longest non-stop run in the desert, running an underwater marathon and becoming the first marathon-runner in space.
While some of these might sound a little unrealistic, even for someone of Rob’s physical prowess, they strike to the core the meaning of his challenge.
He explained: “The message is to tell people that it’s possible to do it.
“Nothing is impossible to do.
“That is what I’d say to other people – if you have a dream or a wish, then just go for it.”
For more information on Rob’s challenge and to support him in his mission to raise money for disadvantaged children, visit http://www.marathonmanuk.com.
Any businesses interested in sponsoring Rob can contact his manager Ali Parkes via the website.
Video courtesy of Howard Greenhalgh and Simon Cross, soundtrack gifted by Coldplay, with thanks