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The X-Pennine 300 Challenge


There comes a time in many peoples’ lives when curiosity drives them to want to know a little bit more about themselves. I’m not talking about starting a family tree or anything like that, but to know more about THEMSELVES and what they’re capable of physically, emotionally or otherwise.  Since my 50th birthday came and went over a year ago, I decided that I needed my own answers to the physical question before my faculties started to fail me. Thinking about what I could do that was sufficiently outside my comfort zone I considered just running the 78 miles of the Weardale Way, a brilliant trail that winds its way through County Durham in the North East of England (it’s an excellent course for any multi-terrain challenge and I know it well having promoted it for a while now). However, I’ve never run anything near that distance in one go (the most I’ve done are mountain marathons that involve 5-6 hours out on your feet). Splitting it into two or even three days would just give my chronically dodgy left ankle an opportunity to seize up (it can be freed up but its absolute agony and involves around 2 hours of painful hobbling).

So I thought that what I needed to do was divide the running by starting half-way along the trail, take to some other form of transport (the bike was the obvious choice) and keep going so that the ankle didn’t seize up and so that I could start the second section of the run in better form. To minimize time spent on main roads, the popular C2C cycle path that crosses northern England from coast to coast seemed an obvious choice but because I felt the need to do it all meant that I would have to ride both ways to get back to the start of the Weardale Way at Roker, crossing the Pennines twice in the process. And for some reason, shoehorning all of this into 48 hours seemed like a good idea at the time. When I’d reflected on what 78 miles of running and 217 miles of cycling in that time period was going do to me physically I thought ‘you must be joking!’ But then after deliberating further I came to the conclusion that it might be more achievable if I had a bit more motivation. So I decided to do something I’ve never done before in any event I’ve ever taken part in: to do it for charity.

Many people, if not most, including my wife and daughter, have raised funds for charity when taking part in the events they enter; some wouldn’t even consider doing it without, but not me, I was always far too selfish for that. I couldn’t be bothered with all that ‘collecting’ shenanigans. So I didn’t even have a favoured charity but I did remember a compelling documentary I’d seen a few months previously that highlighted the humbling selflessness of the unpaid and unseen carers – particularly youngsters – in society today. It had made me feel slightly ashamed of the fact that for most of my life to date, my time has largely been my own and that broadly speaking, I could go and do what I wanted when I wanted; I thought that this image alone would be enough to stiffen my resolve when I needed it.

Primary_logo_Carers_Trust_logo_RGBSo I elected to raise money for Carers Trust, a charity that represents up to 7 million unpaid carers in the UK today. What is more, they estimate (and it’s a figure that I have no trouble believing) that 3 in 5 of us will become a carer, needing the services that they offer, at some point in our lives. Parvinder, who works for the charity, was and continues to be very helpful and I must say that I don’t feel that I’m doing this on my own anymore. On that theme, I’ve decided to log all of my training on Map My Run and to keep a regular journal along with updates on this blog and on Facebook so that anyone who’s interested can see how a 50-year-old body can hopefully be coaxed into coming up with the goods, so to speak (admittedly I’m not starting at the bottom but with the injuries and niggles that I’ve accumulated over the years and with my recent exercise record it could be worth a read).

As will be gleaned by the title of this post the 295-mile challenge has been christened ‘The X-Pennine 300 Challenge’ (because it’s NEARLY 300 miles long and it scans better) and that’s how I’ll be referring to it from now on. It is by no means a done deal within the time frame but I’m determined to finish it however long it takes. As I write this it seems a long time until Friday 16th May 2014 when it all begins but I fancy that it won’t be long enough. In the meantime I’d love to receive any advice, recommendations or encouragement so please feel free to leave a comment (positive or helpful ones would be particularly appreciated). One last objective: I’ve set myself a target of £1000 but have even less experience of fundraising than I have of the challenge itself so if you feel inclined to make a donation, no matter how small, you can be sure it will give my determination a massive boost (I’ll really need it come the winter). Donating is easy:  just go to my Just Giving page or send a cheque made payable to ‘Carers Trust’ to the address on our Contact Us page. If you want to know more about the X-Pennine 300 Challenge itself click HERE.

Best wishes and thanks for reading,