Running Straight and Narrow: The Healing Power of Racing

This is a story of overcoming massive obstacles and picking yourself up to succeed at the highest level.

Last month we posted to our Facebook page about the growing popularity around ultra-marathons and encouraged our community to share their stories. We were overwhelmed with feedback and received some incredibly inspiring stories and comments.

Today we are happy to share with you a particularly touching story from Simon Coombes. This story is inspiring and humbling, to say the least. Here is Simon’s story:

About 8 years ago I was a mess. My life revolved around drink, drugs and basically my own selfish being. I’d been that way for over 20 years and never in my wildest dreams did I ever picture myself running 5k let alone a marathon or ultra marathon. Then one day I realised I needed to sort myself out and quit that life for good, and that’s what I did. It wasn’t easy and I’ll admit I had a few relapses in the first few months but I persisted and am now close to 8 years clean.

About a year after quitting, I started going to my local gym where I met a lot of friendly and positive people, who helped me stay on the straight and narrow. Then, a few years, later I was talked into running a 5k fun run for charity. My new addiction was born. Since then I’ve run about 30 races altogether from 10ks to ultra marathons and I must say taking up running was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Running means so much to me. The buzz of race day, the friends you meet along the way and, most important of all, the feel-good, fit feeling which is the best buzz I’ve ever had (and I’ve had some buzzes let me tell you!).

My first ultra marathon was the South Coast Challenge from Eastbourne to Brighton about 3 years ago and it ended up being a bit of a nightmare. As beautiful as it was to run along the white cliffs of Dover and up into the South Downs, at about mile 12 my left knee gave out and I was left unable to run, but as I’d raised about a £1000 for Macmillan I was determined to finish so (foolishly) I literally limped the last 20 miles, over hills and in terrible pain. This was a stupid thing to do and I ended up with a knee injury for about 6 months and was unable to do the thing I love most, running. I was gutted I couldn’t run the whole ultra but in the end was just glad to limp over the line. Since then I’ve completed 3 more ultra marathons, the latest being the st Illtyds 50k ultra marathon in South Wales, which I happily ran in 5 hrs 36 mins. Like most ultras it was very tough, going over hills and gruelling terrain, but crossing that finish line is one of the best feelings any runner could wish for, and I’d happily put myself through the pain and sweat another 50 times.

If I was to give a new marathon or ultra marathon runner a tip for their first ultra it’d be to get a training plan and stick to it, run most of your training on hills and fields with tough terrain, eat the right foods (fill up on carbs the week before) and try and get one of your friends to do it with you. I’ve been on many endurance running events by myself and also with a friend or two, and having company makes it a lot easier, as you’ll motivate yourself around the course and can take in the experience together.

“One word to anyone thinking of doing an ultra and that would be ‘perseverance’. There’ll be times when you’ll think about giving up but persevere and the rewards at the end will be well worth it.”

My next big challenge after I run the Swansea Half Marathon in 2 weeks is the Man vs Coast Rat Race down in Cornwall in July. It’s about 25 miles along the coast and ends at Lands End. A week later I’m doing the welsh marathon in Tenby. I’ve got about another 12 races lined up this year but the one I’m looking forward to the most is the Athens marathon in November. To run where it all started 3000 years ago will be a dream come true!

Find your ultra challenge!

June 28, 2018

Sean Errey

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