How did you first get into running?
If I go right back to the beginning, at school, we had Monday morning runs and I dawdled at the rear chatting, so my master kicked me up the bottom, literally, and told me that if I didn’t get to the front of the run I would be in detention. I came in first or second and that made me think ‘I can do this!’ I think it escalated from there. I dipped in and out through school and university, then I was at my desk in the office one day and I realized I was in an environment I didn’t want to be in and my motivations weren’t what I wanted them to be. The life I was leading was dictated by what I thought other people expected me to do. So I thought I would do something I wanted to do, but I didn’t want to live a life without purpose – I wanted to meet people, travel, raise money for charity and get as many positives as possible, but you can’t just quit your job to run a marathon, so I worked out that my adventure needed to be at least 11,000 km to justify leaving my job. The route I ended up running was actually the easy option in that I started at the end of summer in Vancouver and I basically followed summer for 16 months!
Why does running appeal to you?
For me the endorphins help, but it’s also just time to yourself, time to reflect – it’s basically when I do all my thinking. I am currently writing a book and when I recently did the Three Peaks I realized that all these problems I was having with it were because I was sitting at a desk writing, but when I am running that’s when I think, that’s where I thrive.
How has running impacted your life?
I am the happiest I have ever been, is the simple answer. By changing my life and doing what I wanted to do I have become very, very happy. No matter what you do in life you have to work and now my work is writing and speaking. Mentally, it’s taught me to seek out and thrive on challenge rather than to shy away from it.
Has it had an impact on your mental health as well as physical fitness?
I have given up drinking – I was a big boozer before, and now I don’t even think about alcohol which must stem from being more confident. I would rather have an early night and do more in the day than have hangovers. Also my 32-inch trousers are now a little bit big for me – I’m thinner and healthier all round than I was in my twenties.
Did you ever train in London?
I used to run or cycle to work every day from Fulham to the City. I ran down Embankment most of the time and I strongly feel that you can choose to see things as either a barrier or something positive, so I saw my commute as a training opportunity. So for longer runs I would take a Tube to the other side of London and then jump out and run back to my house, I would use it as an adventure and a tool to go and see London. If you are sensible you can make running and cycling in London as easy as you want.
What would you say to anyone thinking of building running into their routine?
A lot of people find it intimidating and for anyone the first three kilometres can be really difficult, even for someone who’s been running for a long time. A lot of people think ‘oh I can’t run home from work because I live at X’, but just try getting out one stop early on your train and run from there, then build it up one stop at a time and you will be surprised how quickly you feel the benefits. Then you will want to do more, and all of a sudden you can run home from work. No matter what excuses we come up with the barrier to doing something is usually ourselves – I did it, but ultimately realized it was usually down to me.
How do you think cities could be made more accessible for runners and cyclists?
I am noticing that London is getting dramatically easier to cycle around, and I know a lot of people talk about the dangers for bikes on the roads, but you’ve got to think like a car. I think London is progressively getting more accessible but it comes down to people being sensible.
What are you up to next?
I have millions of different ideas so I think I am going to put them all together and get other people to pick which one I do! Some challenges I want to do more than others and strangely the one I want to do most is the closest to home but I question if that’s because it’s easiest to organise. Then there’s one in Norway which would be wonderful. I think about 30% of doing it is about having an adventure, and 70% is about sharing the experience, so I’m also writing a book, blogging and exploring brand partnerships. I’m also an ambassador for men’s mental health organization CALM.