"I have never experienced anything like this before"

Participants, volunteers and staff took part in a 150 miles challenge from coast to coast last week. Will, BFCCT Education Officer, talks about his experiences and how he has, “never experienced anything like this before.”

So, why the extreme challenge? We all have aspirations to challenge ourselves in one shape or another. Be that academically or physically and on different platforms.

As a keen sportsman and teacher with a chronic immune disease, type 1 diabetes, I have always tried to push the boundaries of what can be achieved and inspiring the new generation of type 1s. This has been my main motivation for pursuing ultra running. Secondly, I want to inspire the numerous young people I teach that there are no limits to what they achieve, providing they are willing to put time and effort in. Further to this, in recent times there has been a lot of media stigma surrounding mental health. I used the last two years of training to encourage my friends, family and colleagues to join me whilst running to talk and make a difference to people’s mental health and wellbeing.

After recently completing the Lakeland 100, which navigates 100 miles through some of The Lake District’s finest scenery, Dave Marsland (Blackpool Football Club Community Trust) asked me if I would like to complete a coast-to-coast run for charity. The chosen charities were Blackpool Football Club Community Trust and The Carer’s Trust, two fantastic charities that give so much back to the local community of Blackpool.

Months of planning and fundraising had us starting the coast-to-coast run in Scarborough on Thursday 19thSeptember at 8.30am, with a plan to run straight through to Blackpool with no sleep. The hope was to complete Friday evening at 5pm. The run was supported by Helen Jenkins from the Carer’s Trust and Marianne Proietti., who did a fantastic job keeping us fed, hydrated and safe. I really couldn’t have asked for better support!

The run was self navigated and was tough and arduous. There were lots of adversities to overcome mentally. Navigating wrong in the first 20 miles was a tough pill to swallow. Knowing I still had to run over 130 miles and adding 4 miles on to the run was difficult to get my mind around, especially as I was leading three other runners. I quickly learnt to block this out and get on with the task. The miles ticked on and I found myself running alone. The long laborious run down the A59 was very dangerous, with no clear pathways and took a lot of mental strength and concentration to keep going. A tactic I used was to do live feeds on Facebook. This gave me a sense that people were supporting me through this tough time  and the messages kept me plugging away.

A knee injury 60 miles in to the run was a low point. I thought all of the hard work I put in was all for nothing. Some strong painkillers and a knee support from Helen allowed me to continue at a walking pace. I was gutted at the thought of having to walk nearly 90 miles, but I told myself it was that or nothing. Not only motivated for my own selfish reasons, I wanted to ensure that I secured the sponsorship money for both charities.

Inevitably, the task became harder and sower once I’d past the 100-mile mark. Luckily I had almost reached home territory. Friends and family decided to come out and meet me along the way. They brought much needed food, medical supplies and company to while away some miles. The last 10 miles seemed to go on forever.  Fatigue, injury and hallucinations had set in. I have never experienced anything like this before and it was very scary. Determination drove me through at this point, with an ounce of stubbornness and I made it. 46 hours and 44 minutes. One of my greatest achievements to date. Not just because I had completed, but also the community spirit shown to get me there during tough times. Messages, face time, miles donated during training, raising awareness for type 1 diabetics, the two charities and moreover, breaking barriers for mental health and well being.

Will Cowell is an Education Officer for Blackpool FC Community Trust and our congratulations goes to him and extends to the rest of the team that took part too.

It’s not too late to donate: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/david-marsland