In May 2019, Luke took on the 190-mile Dragon’s Back Race in memory of his friend Jamie. Luke has raised over £10,000 for PAPYRUS and suicide prevention. In this blog, he talks about the gruelling reality of the race, and how loss has led him to appreciate the small things in life.
My friend Ollie and I were quite surprised to get a place running the Dragon’s Back Race in May. The race is 315 kilometres with 15,500m of ascent over the steepest hills in the UK – it would be a very tall order.
Ollie sadly had to pull out in March, leaving me to face the hills on my own!
Training went OK. Shocked by the brutality of the terrain I decided not to research some parts of the routes for fear that it would put me off!
The first couple of days were completely relentless but also beautiful and exhilarating. My emotions were swinging from high to low with moments of elation and despair. Getting to the end of each day felt incredible.
I got through the first 3 days but then I started to get tendonitis in my ankle. Next to go was my knee – getting down hills was starting to be a big problem. I finished day 4 with 15 mins to spare from the cut-off.
By Friday, I had to walk backwards down the hills as my knee was in agony and 5 hours in I was told I had to stop as the speed I was doing was not quick enough.
Not finishing the course is a big disappointment for me, however I’m very proud of what I achieved. 165 miles and about 65 hours later I can easily say that I see why the Dragon’s Back race is called the ‘hardest race in the world’.
I had a lot of time to think about mental health and Jamie. One thought worth repeating is that plain and simple support can do so much. In my low moments it was great passing a farmer who told me I could do it. Simply encouraging each other and trying to be kind, understanding and supportive can mean so much to someone on the receiving end.
What I have thought about since Jamie died is how the small things in life matter so much and I think there is something that can be gained from trying to live with the kindness, honesty and compassion that Jamie lived with.
Maya Angelou, an American civil rights activist and poet, once said:
‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’.
Although we will miss Jamie so much I know we will always feel the love that Jamie had for us and feel strength if we can live with some of the amazing qualities Jamie had.