The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

This Year!

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Photo by the Queen of Scottish Ultra, RunDMC 🙂

And Rest…….

I’m taking a rest from running (ok I started this blog a few weeks ago, I am now well and truly back on it😊).  I was trying to remember the last time I have done that.  Oh yeah, It’s never.  The only time in the last 15 years I have not run is when I’ve been injured or recovering from a big race, which I admit, the former has been lots of times.  I’ve had lots of down time due to injury, but this is the first scheduled rest.  I’m relieved and lost at the same time.

After Croatia, I was invited to race in China, all expenses paid.  It was a fantastic experience but the 50k did not go well.  I’d picked up some kind of bug that had me feeling awful on the start line.  Indeed, I was unwell for a fortnight afterwards. The pace I started at, and what I thought would be 50k pace, required way too much effort and I had to slow down after about 5 miles to a pace that was manageable.  I completed the race.  It was an enjoyable experience that I got to share with good friends David and Jo and coach and friend Paul G.   Dan, Sam, Paul F, Ollie and Walter made up the rest of the GB representatives and I hope to go back again to race fit and well.  There was no pressure on anyone to run well and it showed in people’s demeanour.  Racing for fun.  The whole experience deserves a blog of its own.

The Pyllon Endeavour was next up.  This project was thought up by my coach and dude Paul Giblin, owner and lead coach at Pyllon Coaching.  The idea was to run from Milngavie to Fort William on the infamous West Highland Way route, turn around, and run back to Milngavie.  At the outset this was 192 miles and the proposal was to run it as a relay in 24 hours.  Out and Back in a day. So, that was what the runners had to do, but the main principle of the endeavour was to get people talking about mental health.

It was decided to raise money for SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health), but more importantly it was about creating the safe space, the openness for people to talk, to share their thoughts and to reach out for help.  And it did, through the build up to the challenge we, the runners, read , heard or experienced people open up about their own challenges, periods of depression, hardships.  People I suspect you wouldn’t expect to open up, men in particular.  It was lovely, it broke down barriers, the blockades that men have were gone, ripped down by the community that was being shaped.  Having said that, the community was already there, at the end of the day it is just a bunch of people, but they were presented as people who others could trust with other’s innermost thoughts.  Some of the runners involved had shared their own experiences of mental health issues and many brave people shared their own challenges in public forums.  The endeavour had done what it set out to do, get people talking and asking for help.   The fact that it raised nearly £11,000 for SAMH was almost a by product of the success of the movement and momentum that the challenge had created.

(There might still be time to doante: Click Here)

It was wonderful to be a part of it.  It is a weekend/24 hours that I will never forget.  Without trying the team, James, Graham, John, Chris, Eoin, Marco, Paul and myself had generated excitement amongst ourselves and the wider running community and indeed the wider public.  I’ve had a great year, a really great year, from the running perspective. It started with an unexpected win in Gloucester Marathon in a time that I thought was beyond me at that moment, then an epic battle with Ant Clark to win the 100k British Championships in Wales. Next up, Comrades in South Africa, then the unexpected call up to the British 100km Team for the World Championships in Croatia.  Sandwiched between those two was a wee Run the Blades 50k effort, then the invite out to the 50k in China. I look back at those events and while they all didn’t go to plan for various reasons, it has been an outstanding year in my running ‘career’.  I’ll be honest here though, being part of the Pyllon Endeavour challenge team topped all those races.  Why? Because we were doing something selfless.   Yes, there was the matter of running up and down the West Highland Way, mostly in the pitch black and having that awesome type 2 fun that thrills and excites me while desperately suffering (that is why we do it after all) and that was the enjoyment aspect of the actual physical part. But we had generated talk, action and hopefully resolution for people who might need help.  I don’t have the skills to describe how that makes me feel.  Being surrounded by so many decent human beings restored my confidence in people’s motivations.  On a day to day basis I am surrounded by people where alternative motives and hidden agendas are the norm and so it was refreshing to be part of a group of magnanimous, generous and altruistic individuals who had a common unselfish goal.  An amazing, astounding, incredible experience that I’ll take to the grave. Thank you lads.

I can’t write about the experience and not mention the support crews, in particular my own support, Derek.  Another brilliant dude, willing to give up his time to drive me around in his pride and joy camper.  It was pristine when I saw it first, painstakingly cleaned and gleaned for the event, but looked like a scene from Platoon by the end!  I can’t thank Derek (and all the other support teams) enough, we simply could not have done this without them.  It really was a team effort.

And so, we get to the end of the year and my only wish for next year is more of the same please 😊

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year when it comes.

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