On April fool's day 2014, I made a decision. A big decision that may change the course my life. I have spent the last 12 years working in London for an international communications agency. 47 weeks of the year were spent behind a desk daydreaming about the adventures I was going to have on the 5 weeks holiday I had been allocated. I don't think there is anything new there and we are all guilty of this, but the imbalance started to niggle me. It was also my job to communicate the success of people who had taken a risk and pursued something they believed in or were passionate about. It suddenly dawned on me that I wanted to be that person, and not the person paid to talk about that person. So, on a whim, I decided to do something about it and exchange my black leather shoes for a pair of brightly coloured running shoes, and the streets of London for the ever changing Pan American Highway. I was going to become an Adventure Runner!
It quickly dawned on me that there were a few issues I would have to address. Firstly, just how brave and sensible is it to leave a perfectly good job at a respected firm with good prospects for the complete unknown? Additionally, my monthly pay cheques were going to stop immediately and my meagre savings were going to quickly dwindle away. The scribbles I had made on a scrap of paper made it very clear that I didn't have enough money to complete what I had in mind. In the true spirit of my newfound belief that everything will work itself out, I started to plan for the adventure of a lifetime without giving these serious issues as much attention as maybe they were due.
So what exactly is an adventure runner? According to Wikipedia Adventure running "is the sport of running over a variety of surfaces (dirt, road, mountain, sand, snow), generally over long distances, where the racer has to overcome nature. Challenges include river crossing, scrambling, snow, extreme high or low temperatures, and high altitudes." With what I had planned it seemed an apt title to bestow upon myself. Here is a very simplistic outline of what I have set out to achieve.
Firstly fly to Vancouver, Canada, put on a pair of running shoes and run the most direct route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, some 18,0000km away or 428 marathons. The trip is expected to take 600 days and take me through 14 different countries. I will run across deserts (including the Attacama) and over mountain ranges (including The Andes). The temperatures will range from freezing to sweltering heat and humidity. If that is not enough of a challenge I will will also being doing this solo and unsupported. I will have to plan and execute each and every aspect of the expedition myself and push all my belongs in a Thule Cheetah One, a running pram! Sounds like utter madness, I know, but somehow after 11 months of plodding the tarmac I am over 10,000km from the start, pretty much injury free, still have a little money left and most importantly am probably the happiest I have ever been.
To be able to achieve this I have had to keep a few of things front of mind.
The first thing is to believe in myself and my abilities. Running 18,000km sounds scary but when you break it down into small parcels it becomes much more manageable on a mental basis. I don't just break it down to weeks or days but each and every kilometre. I tell myself that if I can get to kilometre 20 then the rest of the day will be easy. The physical aspects then fall into place. Your body, which is an amazing piece of kit, adapts and over time you get into a routine.
The second thing is to make sure I approach the expedition as a job. If I started by thinking it is going to be a jolly, I am pretty sure that I would have failed a long way back. For me I have decided to raise money for three great charities, CALM (Prevention of Male Suicide), Macmillan (Cancer Care) and WaterAid (provision of clean water). This gives me a real purpose and it also creates a following of people who are interested in what I am doing. If people are interested, then I see it as my duty to give back to them. I try to bring them along on my journey through a personal blog (www.jamieisrunning.com) that I update as often as possible while also maintaining a strong social media presence through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. If I can keep people engaged in what I am doing then I have to keep myself focused on delivering.
The last element that drives me forward is trying to communicate that anyone can do anything if they really believe in themselves. I have no qualifications for what I am doing and I am doing it completely solo. I am my web designer and chief of logistics. Google is my doctor (I would not recommend this as I have self-diagnosed horrific diseases that have turned out to be nothing!) and Charlie the teddy bear is my only companion. When I started I didn't even speak Spanish, but with dogged determination and by applying myself day in and day out, I have found a way to not only survive but to also love what I am doing.