I’ll begin this post with a saccharine cliche: one of the best things about running clubs are the people you meet.
But it’s so true! Since joining my club 18 months ago, I’ve met people who literally make my jaw drop with awe.
So today, I’d like to introduce you to Neil Sleeman. Physiotherapist, Aussie, cricket fan (but we don’t need to dwell on that right now), and general all-round good bloke. He’s responsible for making me want to puke with pain through sports massages, and provides much-needed familiarity with his Aussie accent and Sydney-sider knowledge!
Why Neil Sleeman?
Neil and his wife are super-sporty. But last month he undertook something that I don’t think you could classify as sporty. Or super sporty. Bad-ass might cover it.
Together with a team of people, Neil did a 4-day challenge crossing the UK from one coast to the other via cycling, running and swimming. They started out in Whitehaven, traversed the Lake District, crossed the ‘middle bit’, stopped for a radio interview in Newcastle, and finished at Tynemouth. That’s approximately 204 miles.
Why did they want to do that?!
To raise money for the Children’s Heart Unit at Freeman’s Hospital in Newcastle. The son of one of the team, Seb, was treated there as a baby, and as a physio, Neil had also worked with children suffering from similar conditions in Sydney.
How did they get on?
Day One: 75 mile cycle from Whitehaven to Keswick via ‘lots of big hills’. Not only did it feature the hardest climb they had ever tackled, it covered some of the highest hills in the Lake District, and the scariest descent they had done.
Total climb: 4,693 ft
Hills climbed (and descended) include:
- Hardknott Pass – 1,289 feet – dominated in approx 2.5 hours!
- Wrynose Pass – 1,281 feet
- Whinlatter Pass – 1,043 feet
Day Two: 1 mile swim across Derwentwater, followed by a 65 mile cycle to Alston (4,500 feet climb). A warm swim across one of the famous Lakes loosened up stiff legs from the day before, and helped the team freshen up. Then, they jumped on their bikes ready to tackle some more hills. It wasn’t plain sailing: at the top of one of the peaks they witnessed a motorbike accident (who was thankfully ok), and temporarily lost a team member who was suffering from dehydration, who joined them later on.
The day finished up with an ice bath and a deep tissue massage. Because they hadn’t done enough to challenge themselves that day. 😉
Total climb: 3,805 ft
Hills climbed (and descended) include:
- Kirkstone Pass – 1,489 feet
- Hartside Pass – 1,903 feet
Day Three: 37 mile run from Alston to Wylam. Knowing their rear ends were safe from more cycling, they started running in good spirits. As they edged closer to home, they were spurred on by support from friends and family, and from honking cars as they were recognised. And the beautiful scenery too. They arrived into Wylam to a crowd of supporters, including golfer Lee Westwood!
Neil hasn’t gone into detail about the run itself: it sounds like it was easier than the cycling from the previous two days. For me, this is amazing: a 37 mile run is taken in their stride, after 140 miles cycling. Hats off to them all.
Day Four: 26 mile run from Wylam to Tynemouth. So only a marathon then – easy, right?
At this stage, they were joined by “Day Four Runners” to keep them company and morale high. They ran into the centre of Newcastle, stopped for an impromptu interview on Metro Radio, before running the final 14 miles to Tyneside. At this stage, some serious injuries were developing and it sounds like some of the team were beginning to see The Wall, even if they hadn’t hit it yet. But they stuck together, and descended to the beach as a team.
In Neil’s own words:
“The noise was deafening as the crowd cheered, the clown doctors sang and a little voice shouted “Daddy, Daddy” as my daughter spotted me, then ran the final and most meaningful 30 metres of the 200 odd miles I had covered. Best of all was little Seb who also joined us for a huge final stretch, and it was seeing him run like any healthy 4 year old that once again ensured any aches and pains were put to one side.”
And that’s what Neil Sleeman does with his Summer! I don’t know how you even start training for something like this. I’ll ask him and pass on any words of wisdom he has.
If you are interested in contributing, you can do so via his Just Giving Page. You can also follow them on Twitter: @seb4chuf!
For me this is an example of how you don’t need to be a professional athlete to do something amazing: you just need determination, discipline and a positive outlook.