Guest Post: On the road with The RunAway Challenge
The RunAway Challenge sees Burnley fan Scott Cunliffe attempting to run 19 ultra-marathons from Turf Moor, Burnley to 19 Premier League Stadiums during the 2018/19 season, raising money for local charities.
At Farnworth Rose, we were delighted to sponsor his most recent leg as he ran from Turf Moor to Selhurst Park in London. Here, Scott talks about completing the journey of more than 200-miles and what lies ahead on the RunAway Challenge.
Turf Moor to Crystal Palace
Distance: 223 miles
Running time: 50:32’39
If the mind is willing the body will follow…
My recent seven-day run from Burnley to Crystal Palace was the eighth run of the RunAway Challenge and the third run to London since I began the Challenge in August 2018.
I’m happy to report that I completed this run achieving both key performance indicators that I have set for myself: 1) get to the game on time and 2) do as little mental and physical damage as possible.
Over time, I’ve become familiar with the route from Burnley to the capital, memorizing the distances between towns and villages, stopping to admire favourite landscapes, resting in cafes with the best coffee and cakes and breathing a sigh of relief every time I run under the M25 motorway, which serves as a symbolic gateway into London and the start of final 20 miles of a 225 mile run.
All these familiar things help me overcome the mental fatigue and loneliness of long days pounding along canal towpaths, cycle paths and back roads. Yes, there is also a massive amount of physical training and preparation involved in successfully competing these ultra long runs but the more runs I do the more I am convinced that: if the mind is willing the body will follow.
But to succeed my mind needs more than the stimulus of familiar surroundings and a fancy cappuccino. It needs your support. During every day of running, without fail, I hit a low spot where I feel mentally exhausted, lonely or voices in my head are screaming why the hell am I doing this?
When this happens, I tune in to social media on my phone. I read all the comments of support, look at the hundreds of donations on Just Giving and think of all those who will benefit from the money raised. This really is a massive boost and helps me to continue putting one foot in front of the other. So, please keep on following the journey and sending warm wishes my way.
Winter is Coming…
Even with the mind and body acting in unison I am not guaranteed to succeed. The British weather is probably the biggest external threat to me completing each of the nineteen runs.
Since starting the RunAway Challenge back in August 2018 the weather has been very kind, with almost perfect running conditions during all of my runs. I’ve only had a couple of rainy days and the average temperature has been 18c. However, with the days getting shorter and colder I’ve got to be prepared to face whatever conditions are coming, especially in winter.
My toughest day so far was on Thursday 29th November as I approached Milton Keynes on the Grand Union Canal. A front of high pressure had been moving across Britain for two days bringing heavy winds blowing in from the southwest. Two days earlier I got drenched in the early evening as I ran into Leicester. Rain I can cope with, but heavy winds are a runner’s biggest enemy. After setting off early from Northampton I made decent progress running on the towpath at a slow to moderate pace into the strong headwind.
Three hours in my chest became very tight and the air became very thin. Milton Keynes is not the prettiest place on the planet, so I never thought it would take my breath away. I loosened my running pack, sipped on the water in my running flask and slowed down my pace until I found a café where I could relax and bring my heart beat back to normal.
As I left the café the clouds cleared, blue sky and a rainbow appeared and I began to run again. I hadn’t experienced such tight breathing since I’d been trekking at high altitude in the Himalayas. Yet this was in Milton Keynes not at Everest Base Camp.
On Saturday morning, I crossed the River Thames into South London, running towards Selhurst Park to watch the Clarets play Crystal Palace.
The usual pre-match jitters kicked in, what was the starting line up? Would Dyche play Vydra or Barnes? Would we get a result?… but at the back of mind, I was already planning my next big run away from Turf Moor.
How to donate to the RunAway Challenge
To date, Scott has run the equivalent of 54 marathons or 1415 miles to get to eight Burnley away games. He has another 11 away games to run to this season.
On 8th December Scott begins his biggest Challenge of the season so far, running 450 miles from Turf Moor to Spurs, then from Turf Moor to Arsenal in 14-days. If you’d like to join or support Scott on any of his runs email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To make a donation go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/therunawaychallenge