Like most kids, I had a lot of energy and I used to run everywhere. My brother was older, always stronger and faster, so I had to, just to keep up. I am well used to never finishing first and learned young that the joy was in just giving it your all.
But we were made for sprinting, not long distances. Grandpa used to stagger running races so that we had close finishes. Dropping a handkerchief from 100 yards was his starter gun. Between us we won five years of consecutive pancake races in our village and my brother even made the paper.
I had a mate at school whose parents were in a long distance running club. They were lean, ultra fit parents who ate granolas for pudding instead of desserts. I was asked to join them one evening for a training session. I think I must have enjoyed it because I entered the local 10K race with my friend. I must have been about ten. I came last. By a long way. But the villagers who had lined the streets all stayed on to cheer me in. It was an amazing feeling. I had run through stitch, run through a blister, run through the despondent state of mind you get when you lose sight of the second from last runner, run through the water station while they were packing up. To then run up the high street and receive a hero’s welcome. It felt good.
I just smiled, like a Quentin Blake illustration of a boy in his prime. I was proud to have come last because I was the youngest in the race and I didn’t give up. I hobbled back home for a warm bath.
That’s what I do, that’s how I am finding success in this life, by never giving up. As an inventor it’s something that I have to do as the odds are so heavily stacked against me. I am still smiling too, even though I rarely win.
One thing people often ask me is, where do you get your energy from? Well, I don’t waste it worrying about things that I can’t do anything about. I don’t spend my time passing judgement or seeking the negatives to make myself feel better, I like to look for the merit in everything, in everyone. Where I struggle, I strive to make things better. I have discovered that the most effective way for me to maintain a positive frame of mind is to simply go for a run. Anywhere, anytime, with anyone. Going for a run has quite simply, only ever made things better. And it’s free.
I run when I’m up, I run when I’m down, I run when I have a cold, I run when it’s miserable, I run when I’m out of ideas, I run when I’m stewing through problems, I run off hangovers, I run through despair, I run through injury, I run to calm myself down, I run to pep myself up, I run in the mornings, in the midday sun and I run at night. I run away from trouble, from conflict and from greed. I run towards my fears and I run to give myself hope.
I’m not in a race. There is no great competition. I’m not trying to get fitter, I’m just trying to stay me. I do it because it makes me feel good and if I think it will help, I try to encourage other people to run too.
The better I feel, the fuller I am. The more I have to give and the kinder I become, to myself and to others. All this makes me more creative, which is what gives my life purpose, to dream up wonderful ideas that inspire people to live life more fully, more balanced and compassionate I guess.
Just over a decade ago, I lost running completely. I suffered a terrible road traffic accident. It left me unable to walk more than a mile for well over a year. I didn’t know what to do with my mind. This was difficult, but a challenge sent to test me, to make me stronger, to make me grateful about what I had, which is why I fought so hard to get my running legs back. It took me years to recover, over a thousand hours on a cross trainer, in an air conditioned gym. But I did it, slowly and surely, step by step, by digging deep and never giving up.
What I realised when I was unable to pound the pavement or pace a new trail, was that running had become a meditation to me. It was where I shuffled my thoughts into neat little piles, where I let ideas take flight, it gave clarity to my emotions and made me feel more alive. The meditative state of running was where I felt most hopeful about everyone and everything.
A few years later, I had fully recovered. I was stronger than before. I was on an evening run at the end of autumn, it was one of those runs where I felt like Forest Gump. I was foraging blackberries from the hedgerows to put an extra few miles in the tank. The only thing I was racing against was the setting sun. I live in the sticks and the pavements on the way home aren’t all lit by street lights. Cars whip by at such a speed they almost blow you over. It was then I wondered if I could use some of the energy I burn when running to power lights that would keep me safe. Worn like an amulet if you like, except engineered to really work.
Over the following weeks, as the winter nights drew in, the problem became more prevalent and I started to research a solution. But it wasn’t as easy said as done. I made lots of prototypes and had to consult an expert engineer or two. Not only did my design need to be bright enough to keep me visible in the dark and in miserable weather, but sensitive to small movements and slow running; the design had to be desirable so runners would want to wear it, lightweight, silent and non encumbering too, so you wouldn’t be able to feel or hear it.
As an inventor, sometimes I just make things to work, to solve a problem for me. I wasn’t planning to make it a reality until I met an inspiring man called Charlie Dark, who’s the enigmatic founder of Run Dem Crew.
Here’s the moment we met.
Having met Charlie I took my time to get it right and after several months of tinkering and as many sharp weeks of hard design effort I have perfected my invention, which I called Million Mile Light. It’s so simple. Just clip it on and go. It keeps me safe and shining bright and it uses no batteries, I’ve engineered it to never give up.
But I can’t keep this great idea to myself. I want to whole world to know about it. So I’m launching it for crowd funding this summer, in time for delivery this winter. My dream is for Million Mile Light to become a global phenomenon, to be seen as a symbol for sustainability, for freedom of spirit — for runners everywhere. Can you imagine how beautiful that will be?
Million Mile Light is just one way to help inspire each other towards a safer & more sustainable path.
So these days I run a couple hundred miles a month, rarely use the cross trainer and have found my zen state. But you know what, I’ve become rather fond of the struggle. It keeps me keen, keeps me going on. But I don’t ever want to be hit by a car again and for once, making this idea a reality is a challenge I am determined to win.
If you’re a runner I think you’ll like it and goodness knows I need your support — www.millionmilelight.com — please sign up for early bird offers. We launch on 24th August 2015.