“I suppose it's a bit like cricket. If you've got 41 runs, your eyes are on the half-century,” comments chartered accountant, Chris Finill. “I would love to run 50 London marathons, but I take each race as it comes and try not to get too far ahead of myself. In the 2018 London marathon, I fell at two and a half miles and broke my arm in four places. I finished the race that day, but it taught me not to take anything for granted.”
At 62, Finill is the youngest of seven men who have run every London marathon (the oldest is Ken Jones at 88). Finill is also the current world record holder for the longest sub-3-hour marathon streak - 33 in the London Marathon from 1981 to 2013.
Here he tells ICAEW Insights about his athletic achievements, career in business and practice, and the harmonious relationship between running and accountancy.
How does it feel to be a world record holder?
“It's weird because It didn't cross my mind until Runner's World in the USA pointed it out to me. The journalist asked ‘has anybody ever done a sub-three-hour run 30 times in the same marathon event?’ to which we didn't know. We put it out there on social media and asked around the world and the answer came back, no.
“I was awarded the Guinness record for running 30 sub threes and then I managed to extend it by three more years, setting the current record at 33 sub threes.”
When asked how the record made him feel, Finill says it's “more meaningful than being the fastest radish or the fastest person dressed as King Kong, which is what a lot of these records are about - it's a proper athletics record.”
A proper record for a proper runner – Finill has also represented both England and Great Britain at athletics. He was in the GB squad between 2000 and 2010 where he achieved 14 international senior vests.
Across the States in 80 days
As well as the world record and 41 London marathon streak, Finill ran across the USA in 79 days from Half Moon Bay, California to Coney Island, New York - August to November 2011 and he counts this as one of his favourite achievements.
“I took a sabbatical from work and spent three months crossing from California to New York. In a sort of vague nod to around the world in 80 days, I did it in 79 days and 22 hours so that was quite a pleasing result.
From the starting line
You could say running was in Chris Finill’s blood, or more specifically three doors down, as he was born on the same street that counted Sir Roger Bannister, British middle-distance athlete who ran the first sub-4-minute mile. That embedded an early connection between Finill and athletics - that and cigarettes.
“In those days, in the late 60s, eight-year-olds could walk into newsagents and buy cigarettes, so I used to get sent to the shop by my mother to buy her cigarettes and I used to run there and run back,” he says. “Over time, I tried to run faster and faster.”
Finill’s passion for running drove him to sign up for his local club – Harrow Athletics Club – in 1974. But after running many short cross-countries, he wanted to keep upping the distance.
“And then in 1981, the London Marathon came around and I was living in London at the time. I was a Londoner running for a London club so running the London Marathon seemed like the most obvious thing in the world to do. I ran the first one and really enjoyed it, ran the second, ran the third and then the streak started to take shape.”
A hunger for business drove Finill towards the ACA
Career-wise, Finill currently works as Finance Bursar at the Duke of Kent School in Surrey. He started his career in finance with 3i (Investors in Industry) in the early 80s as a “very raw 22-year-old”. He found he was thrown in at the deep end financially and didn’t feel sufficiently qualified to tackle the decisions he was being asked to make, so he decided to get a formal business qualification under his belt.
Finill joined Touche Ross (now Deloitte) and qualified with the firm in 1986 as an ICAEW member. Finill says it was a sense of wanting to work in business which pushed him towards achieving the ACA qualification.
“I'm just a regular accountant, I certainly haven't broken records as far as accounting is concerned but it's been a very good job for me, because I work five miles away from where I live and have done for the last 23 years.
“I've been able to integrate the training into my work and private life very well. I've been commuting by running to and from work for years. And that's a very harmonious relationship to have with my career,” he says. “Something that people are considering far more deeply and seriously in recent times”.
Keeping up with the pace of business
“I think the role of an accountant has always been to provide reliable information that gives decision-makers in an organisation a proper insight into how to control the business, hopefully growing IT and keeping it stable and profitable. That objective is completely constant from when I started to now,” explained Finill.
“However, I do think the pace of business has increased a lot, not simply because I've got older but because information is so readily available now. Emails have replaced faxes and letters and generally, the speed of commerce has shot up over the years. Consequently, keeping abreast with latest developments and providing really up to date information is probably more important now than it ever was before.”
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