I’d been to Chamonix many times, walking, climbing and mountaineering including at times when the UTMB was taking place. It was always clear that the atmosphere around the event is something special and taking part in one of the races was added to the wish list, with the only problem being that I was not an ultra runner. I do participate however in many mountain running races of various descriptions and over a few years built up distances and undertook bigger challenges until in 2016 I’d run events to gain the required qualification points to enter the lottery for a place on the shortest of the races in the series – 56km and 3500m of ascent (and quad trashing descent). Confirmation that I’d successfully gained an entry was a bit of a ‘ok - this is real now’ moment and the hard work of training really began.
If I was going to put in that sort of effort and have the ‘you are doing what?’ conversations using the opportunity to promote a good cause seemed logical. I was doing the challenge for myself, but others could benefit too. The choice to support OddBalls was based on a number of factors. As a man, I know we stubbornly bury our heads in the sand over our own health issues, I have sons in the most at risk age group and lost a close friend to cancer (of which testicular cancer was sadly just one). So firstly I focussed on encouraging blokes to check themselves, pointing them at the OddBalls’ guidance, and secondly inviting people to support OddBalls directly through donations if they so wished.
The hard work of training was worthwhile as, although a tough event with some atrocious weather conditions, on 31st August it was very satisfying to complete the event and in a strong position in age group to boot. The atmosphere around the whole race was everything that I’d anticipated and more. Even a week and a bit later the euphoria still holds and the fact that I’ve been able to do some good in helping raise awareness along the way is doubly satisfying.