14 March, 2024

Friends Alan and Martin took on the challenge of a lifetime when they ran and walked a staggering 100 miles each to raise money for Breast Cancer UK, after both men’s families were impacted by the disease.

Alan, 49, lost his sister Gail to the disease in 2011. She was just 40 years old and had two children. Martin’s mum Pat has also had breast cancer but fortunately after treatment is now in remission.

This was not the friends’ first rodeo at doing impressive challenges! They’ve both completed several marathons and Martin a few ultra marathons. They’ve also completed the 24-hour Three Peak Challenge together.

Overcoming obstacles

Prior to agreeing to take part, Alan, a project manager for an automotive parts manufacturer, contracted COVID-19 which ‘completely floored’ him. He was later diagnosed with long COVID which caused extreme tiredness and affected his concentration and memory. When it happened, he had to stop running for the best part of a year and eventually needed treatment for chronic fatigue. So the thought of taking on a 100 mile run and walk challenge was very daunting, he admitted

Alan, who lives in Nuneaton near Coventry, said: “Martin told me about what had gone on with his mum and it deeply resonated because I lost my sister to breast cancer. So, when he said that he wanted to do some fundraising, I said I didn’t care what it was but I was in and would do whatever it took.

“Knowing what Martin was going through with his mum, and having witnessed it with my sister, it gave us both this massive motivation to do something.”

The pair, who are members of the athletics club Nuneaton Harriers, had planned to run along a nearby canal towpath. However, due to difficulties with logistics and the added worry of the uneven terrain in places, the friends changed their minds and opted to take on the April challenge at the Harriers club and run circuits of the track.

A team effort

In total, the friends needed to complete 402 laps each to complete their own 100 mile run, starting at 9am on the Saturday and finally completing the gruelling challenge at about 4pm on the Sunday. They ran through the night, taking mini rests and naps, alternating between walking and running for a whopping 40 hours.

Due to Alan’s long COVID diagnosis, and not wanting to push his body too hard before the challenge, his training runs never really went above 20 miles which he undertook in a race a few weeks before while unknowingly having contracted COVID-19 again.

“Up until then, I was like can I actually do these 100 miles? But then I thought I’d run 20 miles with Covid, so yes I can do it!”

“It wasn’t as bad as what people thought but that was mainly because we’re such good friends and we had each other’s back when we were feeling tired. We also had a lot of people join us and run with us to keep up morale which was great,” said Alan.

Before they set off, the pair planned to run / walk for 45 minutes and take 15 minute breaks for food and drink. But at about 3 or 4am on Sunday morning, Martin started to struggle with sleep deprivation, which was the thing Alan most worried about due to having long COVID.

Alan, who has two daughters, said: “We both had a nap but when I got up, the moment I put my left foot down on the floor I couldn’t put any pressure on it. We went out onto the track, and I tried to walk on it, but it was just so painful.”

Just keep going

There was still about 40 miles to go and it looked likely Alan would have to pull out. However, he recalled a podcast he’d listened to by an ultra-runner which might help.

“I remembered this guy had said that particularly when you reach the 50 mile or more mark, your body will play so many tricks on you to try and get you to stop. So, you’ve got to really push on. He recommended that if something’s really painful, carry on for 1km and if doesn’t get any worse, push on for another kilometre. If it gets easier, just keep going,” said Alan.

And that’s what he did! By this point Martin, 52, had gone ahead of Alan by quite a few miles. However, as Alan pounded the track, the miles kept stacking up. Despite a few setbacks, and Alan’s body refusing to go on, the friends finally crossed the 100 mile finish line together to huge celebrations from friends and family who had come down to support them.

The challenge raised £2,350 for Breast Cancer UK. There are around 56,000 new cases of breast cancer every year, that’s over 150 cases every day.

If you would like to 100 mile run or raise funds for Breast Cancer UK like Alan and Martin, or take on a different challenge, email the team [email protected] to get started. 

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