We asked you for your tales of inspiration. you didn’t disappoint…
James Golding: beat cancer and cycled haute route, the world’s highest and toughest cyclosportive
“I found out I had a tumour about five years ago. I was in immense pain and initially doctors and specialists thought it was muscular, but it got to the stage when I was in so much pain that my mum took me to A&E, where they thought I had testicular cancer. They wanted to do an x-ray and an ultrasound to confirm their fears and what they found was not testicular cancer, but an 11.5cm abnormal mass situated between my spine, kidney and bowel, which they thought was cancerous. At the time I was on 300g of morphine, so to find out I could keep my crown jewels, but that I needed an operation, was a real mix of emotions.
“I survived and I’m still here, and I couldn’t imagine doing some of the stuff I’ve done since. I’ve recently finished the Haute Route, which is an unbelievable bike event that involves the Pyranees, Alps and Dolomites. It’s not out of reach for most people’s abilities, but it can also really test you. Ever since I first completed it, I’ve been keen to get more involved and I’ve been fortunate enough to do that. Whether you’re at the front of the peloton, or at the back, everyone goes through the same emotions.
“I won’t lie, it was tough. I got everything wrong on the first day in terms of not eating properly, trying to stay with people that were too quick for me, and then subsequently spending too much time by myself. I was also trying to catch people on climbs! After that, I just had to roll my sleeves up and go again. After all, a bad day on the Haute Route is a good day given the context of my situation. “I’ll do the Haute Route again and probably try and beat my time. Last year I also attempted the most amount of miles on a bike in seven days in an attempt to break the world record. The record stands at 1,740 miles and I did 1,100 in four days before I was forced to stop because of a combination of bad weather conditions and injury. That’s something I might attempt again one day, but for now I’m doing motivational speeches and working on a load of exciting projects. I’m very fortunate.”
“I survived and I’m still here, and I couldn’t imagine doing some of the stuff I’ve done since. I’ve recently finished the haute route, which is an unbelievable bike event”
Clare Dooley: ran 50 miles in 11 hours
“My main reason for wanting to run 50 miles was really just to push myself. I did it for charity, too, but I’d been running for years and I’d already done a couple of marathons, so it was a case of ‘what can I do next?’
“I trained quite hard in the build up and was covering distances of up to 30 miles in one go. The training was quite difficult. I work and run my own business, so finding the time to train was hard. The run itself, which was based around Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, was actually ok! I enjoyed most of it, though I suffered from blisters around 40 miles in. The first 26 miles actually represented my quickest marathon time yet, so I was running pretty well. Music keeps me going, so my playlist keeps on growing. I’ll certainly need an epic playlist for my next challenge…
“I had intended to run 100 miles originally, but I’m now doing that in May next year. To do 100 miles in 24 hours, there isn’t much time for breaks, which means when I’m going to need to practice running through the night when I’m absolutely knackered. I’ll probably hit 60 miles in training, but it depends how my feet hold up. If I can run 60 miles in training, I’ll be able to reach 100 fairly easily.
“Believe it or not, I don’t train on my own. I usually have some members from Knutsford Tri Club join me, or at worst gee me up on the longer runs. Some will join me on the shorter runs when I’m running for time. They’ve been a huge support.”
“to do 100 miles in 24 hours, there isn’t much time for breaks, which means when i’m going to need to practice running through the night when i’m absolutely knackered”
Kevin Betts: ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks
“It all started out as a selfish thing, to be honest. I never started it with the view of helping other people… it turned into that later, but at first I started because my dad died and I’d just given up my rugby career (shoulder injury). Running was the only thing I found that seemed to enable me to move at the same kind of intensity as rugby. I liked pushing myself to the brink and I realized it was a very cathartic way of dealing with my dad’s suicide. Beyond that, people started reading my blog and seemed inspired by what I was doing, which is how my involvement with the mental health campaign began.
“I did my first marathon in 2008 and once I’d completed it I felt quite overwhelmed. I was like, ‘what do I do now’? I’m very goal oriented, so the year after I did three marathons in three days along the Jurassic Coast. I learned then that I was quite good at challenging myself. I started talking to my mates about how I could possibly help raise awareness of mental health, and one of them said that I’d have to do a marathon a week if I was to get any money out of him, and I said ‘yes’. That was that! He then said he wouldn’t pay me to just finish them, that I had to race them, and between them they came up with a rule that I had to do each one in under four hours.
“There was never a point where I thought I wasn’t going to finish the challenge. I must admit, I did wonder if it was worth it, or whether I was damaging myself (I got a stress fracture in the leg at one stage), but I was never going to stop.
“I did 27 of the 52 marathons on treadmills and 26 of them were awful. The only one that wasn’t was the one on my wedding day. I did one in Vegas with my best men, too, and that was great because it meant they had to do it with me.
Another that sticks out was New York. I had been doing a Q & A on Twitter and somebody asked me which marathon I hadn’t done that I wanted to. It turns out that the person who asked the question was from New York, and she was incredibly wealthy. She had been inspired by my blog – her uncle had killed himself – and the next day I woke up to find she’d paid for me to go out there.
“In 2012, I helped eight people with a passion for raising awareness around mental health to run from Paris to London in four days. Since then, I’ve been trying to hit a sub three-hour marathon. I’ve also been training to become a personal trainer so I can help the needy become fit and healthy. In 2017 I’ll be running from the southern-most point of New Zealand to the top and following the British Lions Tour. I also work closely with Mind when it comes to the London and Brighton marathons, and helping their runners prepare.”
Gemma Underhill: swam the length of the channel to combat depression
“I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety in 2014. Ten years of self-harming and eating emotionally had taken its toll on my body and I struggled with self-confidence. When it was suggested that I do some exercise to help manage my condition and improve my confidence, I thought of swimming. It wasn’t the obvious choice as I didn’t relish the idea of wearing a costume in public, but it’s an activity I’ve always enjoyed.
“I signed up to the Aspire Channel Swim, a 22-mile challenge where you swim the length of the channel in your local pool over 12 weeks. The idea of raising money for Spinal Cord Injury and those less fortunate than myself really helped me to face up to my selfconfidence issues and commit to the challenge. I quickly learnt that counting laps stopped me worrying about anything else. After just a few sessions I found my confidence and my depression improving, I enjoyed it so much that I completed the challenge in nine weeks instead of 12!
“I now swim regularly as I’ve found it a huge help in managing my depression and I’ve lost weight and feel fitter, too. The Aspire challenge has inspired me to sign up for more events including an open water swim!”
Amy Hughes: ran 53 marathons in 53 days (and broke the world record)
“Last summer I set myself the mammoth challenge of attempting to run 53 marathons in 53 cities and towns around the UK in 53 consecutive days. On September 27, I successfully completed my goal and in the process set a world record for both women and men! Why? I wanted to do something on a massive scale to try and raise awareness of the benefits of being fit and healthy for young people. A lot of people do one or a few marathons, so I wanted to do something bigger, even though to begin with I wasn’t sure what that was.
“I feel there aren’t enough young female role models, so I also wanted to show that it’s good to keep fit and that it’s fun to run. I also wanted to raise money for The Isabelle Lottie Foundation, which campaigns tirelessly for the early diagnosis of brain tumours in children and young adults.
“It took me a year and a half to come up with the ‘53’ concept and initially I wanted to travel round the UK and do a marathon in each city in England. My friends helped me organize it and we counted 51 cities in England. We soon found out the record for marathons in consecutive days was 52, which is why I extended it to Scotland and Wales. I had to do one in my own town, too.
“There wasn’t a single day when I thought I wouldn’t do it. I loved travelling and meeting new people. That’s not to say there weren’t hard days, there were many, but I was so focused and passionate about it I just kept going. I would have completed it even I had to crawl!
“The plan was to sleep in a campervan as I travelled around. By about day three, my friend’s mum got involved and helped organize a hotel for every night and restaurants for the evenings.
“I only wore two pairs of trainers all the way through. I was lucky enough to have Nike sponsor me and they sent me loads of pairs of trainers, but I was so used to two pairs that I did 25 marathons in one, 26 in the other!
“I got, and still get, so many messages of support and a lot of people saying I inspired them to start running or go to the gym, which is nice.
“I’m now planning something bigger and better for next year, though I’m not allowed to say what it is. I can reveal it involves another country and a few more miles than before. Watch this space!”
“I only wore two pairs of trainers all the way through… I was so used to two pairs that I did 25 marathons in one, 26 in the other!”