As part of my blog I (MM) believe it’s important to learn from people who push outside of their comfort zones, showing what is possible, and why you shouldn’t limit yourself. I am really inspired by Wayne’s (WR) journey where he completed a 5,000-mile (8,000km) solo run around the British coastline, during which he has slept rough and spent less than £3 a day.
WR: My big sister, Carmel Webb. She died suddenly on New Year’s Eve 2013 after battling primary pulmonary hypertension, a rare heart and lung condition. Despite being terminally ill, she dedicated her life to charity and helping the community around her. During the run-up to her funeral, I started a facebook page, where I carried out random acts of kindness in her honour. Friends, family and strangers took up the challenge and did their good deeds too. The idea was a great way to celebrate my sister, but it also inspired me to do more. Not just for others, but for myself too. This was when the idea of doing the British coast run sprouted and grew. I’ve read, watched and followed many people as they went on their way to achieving a personal challenge and they all made me say ‘I wish I could do something like that’. With that in mind and inspired by my sisters dedication to helping people, I was all set!
MB: How long did it take you and what was your daily average mileage like?
WR: I left at the start of September and made it back ten months later in July. I tried my best to finish faster than I did but to be honest, I was just happy to finish it at all. I started out running around fifteen miles a day, building it up to a marathon. When winter came in, I struggled to run in the dark along the South West Coast path so had to rein it in a bit. By spring time, I was feeling fitter, stronger and with the days getting lighter, a feeling of determination increased along with my milage. I was hitting between 25-30 miles a day. It was around this time, I would just run and run until I couldn’t go on. I had no plans. It was just run, make sure the sea was always on my left and when I got tired, I’d find a bus shelter, church porch and if it wasn’t raining, I would seek a bit of grass to pitch my tent.
WR: It was tough. Most days, it was like starting all over again. A little like Groundhog Day but without the romance and comedy. The worst feeling was dealing with the repetitiveness. Each evening I felt broken, just like the day before. A lot of the mental strain was not about the actual running. At times, running was the easy part. It’s pretty black and white; just get up and put one foot in front of the other. I thought the more I run, the closer I would be to finishing. I also felt that I couldn’t afford to get ill or sick. I tried my best not to think too far ahead. Like I mentioned before, most of my worries were consumed by other stuff like not sleeping, stressing about charging my phone, finding food and staying clean.
Often, I would think of my Sister and all the good she did. I would think about Superhero Foundation and how the money I was raising would help families who really need it. When you’re feeling a little sore or off, remembering there’s a kid out there unable to walk or live a normal life, soon puts things into perspective. If that didn’t help, it was just about gritting my teeth or making sure I was seeing the beauty that was all around me.
WR: This is going to sound so cheesy but the universe sorted me out. Whenever something bad happened, something good or someone would pop up just in time. After five months of sleeping rough, camping and relying upon the kindness of strangers, I hit a hard time. I was just so tired. It was at that moment, with the help of two fire fighters (and now my new best friends), Paul Wilson and Patrick Thompson, I had five months of sleeping in fire stations almost every night. Can you believe that?? It was amazing.
If I’m honest, I thought about quitting so many times. Almost daily. There were a handful of times when I came really close. In Wales it rained everyday for four weeks. The terrain of Cornwall was brutal. There were times when chaffing left me unable to walk let alone run. The loneliness of the Highlands almost engulfed me with feelings I’d never experienced before. The jealousy I would feel seeing people with hot meals that were out of my budget… these really tough times I don’t think I could’ve overcome if it wasn’t for the kindness of others. Officially, I ran the British coast unsupported but really, I had the best support in the world – the British public.
MB: Bar finishing, what was your favourite moment of the challenge?
WR: Now that’s a tough question. In fact it’s impossible to answer. Despite all the tough times, there were a lot of smiles. Real smiles. The kind of smiles that make your cheeks sore. I met so many people and saw so many things. Looking back, even the hard times have become favourites of mine. I really can’t give specific times but what I really did love (apart from meeting lovely people) was the running. The moments when everything was just perfect. When running was a careless movement. No huffing and puffing, no painful niggles or worries. Those rare running moments when the only way it can only be described is… gliding!
WR: It’s a tough one to learn but receiving help and support is so valuable. When I first set off, I did the whole English thing and turned down offers of help. You know the kind of thing; thanks but no thanks, I’m good but thank you. Awe I couldn’t. No really I’m fine… etc etc. Also, I would avoid getting myself into situations where people would run with me. But looking back I WAS A PLONKER!! A LEMONADE SANDWICH!! Maybe it took until I was desperate but when I started to share my challenge with others and let more help in, it made everything so much better. Two important things that have helped me with depression is running and being surrounded by kind and helpful people. When I understood that, something changed. Having people run with me through the challenge was inspiring. I was reminded how wonderful people can be which made where ever I was, both mentally and physically, feel wonderful.
WR: My meal would be whatever I could get my hands on. I had a daily budget of £3 a day. I left London with just £1000 of my own money and looking back it probably was a bit naive. I’d read lots of adventure stories and always thought, I couldn’t afford to do one. I got tired of wishing and when with the passing of my sister, I just thought, ‘f**k it, let’s prove I can do it without all the flashy stuff’. I started off by eating lots of oily tinned fish, fruit and nuts with the odd hot pub meal here and there. As time went by, I found myself in so many situations, especially when the British fire and rescue helped me by letting me stay in their fire stations, people would bring me so much. I didn’t care what it was, I’d stuff it in my face until I couldn’t move.
With regards to post recovery, I was given lots of advice from people connected to the charity. ‘Adventureman’ Jamie McDonald and strength and conditioning king, Ed Archer’s knowledge was so important. I’d run until lunchtime and spend half an hour to an hour doing strength training, working on my core with selected stretches. At times, I felt too tired to do them but I always regretted it if I didn’t. It’s an odd feeling after doing them because it gave me more energy. Most of the time, it got rid of all the tightness and niggles and setting off to run into the evening become so much easier. Before sleeping, I would do a simple stretch out but nothing really major.
WR: Getting injured is just horrible. Luckily, I didn’t get many and the ones I did get, I was able to battle through because I felt like I didn’t have a choice. That’s not advice I’d really like to give. It’s not very sensible because it could make any injury worse. It’s all about have patience. My biggest fear was my ankle. Two months before I was due to run the British coast, I shattered my ankle and ended up with ten pins and a plate (I drunkely jumped off a while…). It took me about six months to walk again and another two to start running. At first, because of doctors advice, I thought it would stop me doing the run at but determination got the better of me and again, maybe naively, I thought ‘f**k it, let’s just do it and prove myself wrong’. It gave me a few worries. I hadn’t really built up the strength to where it should be and the slightest of twists would be really painful. Being by the sea helped as I’d let the freezing ocean work its magic. It helped with the healing as well as the constant swelling. Other injuries were sore knees and a bad back from running with all my possessions in my rucksack. Oh, and not forgetting runners nipple and chaffing. Ouch!
WR: I’m still working this out. It’s been four months since competition the coastal run and I’m itching to do another. But weirdly, it’s still hasn’t really sank in what I’ve already done. I think I need a little more time processing it before deciding what’s next. I have a few ideas but as of yet, I don’t have that gut feeling telling me ‘yep… this is the one..’
MB: In your experience, of depression, how important is the link between physical health and mental health?
WR: So important. This is the reason why I started running in the first place. After suffering with depression for as long as I can remember, I hit rock bottom. I was done. I’d had enough. I don’t know how or why but I finally managed to get myself to the doctors. As soon as the doctor asked what was wrong, I just broke down. The floodgates opened and I couldn’t stop crying. It just kept on coming. Without really talking to me, the doctor prescribed me antidepressants and sent me on my way. Before leaving I thought no, I don’t want this. I wanted to talk. Without looking at me, he passed me a leaflet with a free phone number on it and that was that. I picked up the antidepressants and kept them on me for weeks. Maybe this was wrong of me but I just didn’t want to take them. Something about them scared me. And then there was the helpline. Again, it was just something I couldn’t face. I’m not sure where it came from and what really made me think of it but I had this urge to run. One evening I grabbed what I had; a tee, denim shorts and a pair of converse and just went heading out into the night. I ran for about three miles and got lucky. That thing every runner wants – runners high! For a few minutes I felt great! Soon after though, I was almost dead. This was the most exercise I’d done for years. But at that moment something changed. There’s now lots of science and theories that shows us how physical exercise is great for mental health. The effects it’s had on me have been life changing. In no way has it cured me but I’ve come a long way. A real long way. Running made me feel something for the first time in ages. It really has transformed my life and without all those endorphins kicking about, I’d hate to think where I’d be.
MB: Based on your experiences, what do you believe to be true?
WR: Anything is possible. Anything.