He might have played villain Stephen Bonnet on "Outlander," but in real life, actor Ed Speleers is a hero.
On June 14 — after nearly two months of daily 10-kilometer (6.21-mile) runs in support of National Health Service workers who are helping patients battle the coronavirus — the English actor completed an ultramarathon to raise money for NHS Charities Together.
"100km done. Thank you for all your support, it's been colossal," Ed captioned an Instagram video showing the final block of his 62.14-mile run, which he completed in 10 hours and 55 minutes. After shouting in victory and bumping elbows with elated friends, Ed accepted a cold glass of beer to mark the end of his journey as The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" played in the background.
Ed, who memorably played footman Jimmy Kent on the hit PBS drama "Downton Abbey," further documented the day on his Instagram Stories, noting various milestones as friends joined him for legs of the lengthy run, which raised funds via his Just Giving page to help support NHS staff, volunteers and patients impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The following morning, the page indicated he'd helped raise more than $16,000 of his $10,000 goal.
Back in mid-April, Ed explained his plans to support healthcare workers. "Having been inspired by many others I've decided set myself a challenge in order to raise funds for the heroes at the #nhs," he wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of one of his running shoes. "Starting this evening I will attempt to run 10km daily until the end of the UK lockdown. If you feel inclined please tell your friends or anyone who you think this may interest. There's a link to my just giving page in my bio. #running #bristol #nhsheroes."
The "Eragon" and "Wolf Hall" actor, 32, did the runs with Tom, one of his neighbors in Bristol, England, and was often accompanied by "trusty pal" Frank — his border collie. For the last few months, Ed shared photos on social media celebrating various businesses, restaurants, theaters and landmarks around Bristol, a city in southwest England that borders Wales.
Ed's "Outlander" co-stars were in awe of his accomplishment, with cast members weighing in on Instagram. "👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Bloody hell. Amazing Ed. Congratulations," Caitriona Balfe commented, while Sam Heughan added, "Amazing buddy!!! 💪💪💪💪." Sophie Skelton wrote, "Dude, flipping amazing!!! Nicely done 🙌🙌🙌👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼." Richard Rankin was speechless: "Got no words. Amazing. 👏 👏." Steven Cree, however, didn't hold back at all, calling Ed a "F—ing legend."
In a late-April interview with Collider about his work on Starz's "Outlander," Ed shared a little about his then-nascent daily runs while elevating his foot during a plantar fasciitis flare-up. "My mum, who was a nurse in the NHS for many years, gave me some sound advice and I'm currently sat out upstairs with my foot out the window, watching the street, listening to the birds go to sleep, and the trees are sort of very gentle, and I'm hoping that my foot's going to be fine for me to run tomorrow," he told reporter Jolie Lash.
When she asked why he wanted to shine a light on the NHS during lockdown, Ed explained that his mother came out retirement due to the COVID-19 health crisis and he wanted to do his part too. "I've been surrounded by the health service all my life," he shared. "I'm not going to sit here and say we're all in together because we're all in hugely varying situations and I'm very fortunate, but there are some people in gravely grave situations, and I'm very lucky to be able to enjoy the time I have with my family at the moment, but I also was like, 'Well, hang on, there must be something I can do. There must be something I can do physically,'" he said.
Ed then thought, "'Well, I like running. I haven't got back into running for a while, so let me get back into it.' I saw all these people doing these 5K, nominate five people; thought that was brilliant and saw the whole thing going on with Captain Tom Moore [the former British Army officer who helped raise money for coronavirus-related relief ahead of his 100th birthday this spring] and that was like, unbelievable."
He continued, "It's astounding that this gentleman was just walking on his walker every day until his 100th birthday. I thought, 'Well, if he can be out there doing that every morning in a suit, then I can get up and run with a dog.' So, I thought, 'Let's do it. Let's try and set myself a target and do it.' So, I'm going to get back out and do 10K a day until the end of the U.K. lockdown."
"It was just a very, very small thing I wanted to try and do to try and do something positive and I guess, give something back in a way," Ed added.