How many times a day do you think, “I just wish I could get away…”? I’m actually scared to count. I’m an escapist and so my default setting whenever life gets stressful, I’m having a crisis of confidence and anxiety is making it hard for me to breathe, is an overwhelming urge to run away.
It’s a strange sensation, the desire to be anywhere else than where you are, right now. I’ve tried to put it into words many times, largely without success. It’s the feeling I get when I’m sitting on a beach and I’m looking out to sea, and all I can focus on is the horizon, and all I want to do is swim towards it. I’m mesmerised by ‘the line’, the edge of the world that’s always just out of reach because instead of getting closer to it, all that happens is that you move further away from where you began.
So it wasn’t hard for me to identify with my mate Jamie Ramsay, a former colleague in PR firm Instinctif Partners-turned boxing partner-turned genuine friend, when he first revealed to me upon completing an 8 day unsupported 250km run through Vietnam, that he was planning his next adventure: An 18,000km run through the Americas, from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, over an estimated course of 600 days.
Now, that’s escapism.
But not only is running the activity that brings real happiness to my friend of just over 4 years, but this expedition is a chance for him to experience life – and I mean really experience it – in all its uncertainty, beauty, difficulty and ecstasy.
Naturally, I was 100% behind him.
During the months that preceded the moment he finally cut the purse strings and handed in his notice, we would sit together discussing his plans. And yes, my opinion was often sought, as I’m not known for keeping it from people. If I think something’s a shit idea, I’ll say so. But when I opened an email from him a couple of months ago entitled ‘CALM’, I was genuinely surprised at its contents.
You see, back in April I hosted a party at my flat for around 50 friends, and held a raffle to raise money to be divided evenly between Cruse bereavement care, which had been so supportive to my uncle and aunt after the suicide of my cousin in 2011, and CALM, an organisation that has become very dear to me since discovering it via a work initiative I devised and ran during Social Media Week London in September last year.
Jamie was one such friend that had made the effort to come along and support my fundraising efforts, learn about the reasons behind it and, of course, get drunk in the process. (Deptford is quite possibly the only area of London in which you can still get a double spirit and mixer for £2.50.)
And while I knew he’d had fun at the party, what I hadn’t appreciated was the lasting impact it had had on him until I opened his email and read that he wanted to make CALM his fourth and final expedition charity. As he put it, using his run to raise awareness of the issue of male suicide “might actually make a difference”.
It did make me reconsider though whether he had a deeper, more meaningful connection to the cause. After all, we engage with issues that we understand, and we understand best those things that we’ve experienced ourselves, personally. And 18,000km, that’s a long way to run. ‘What is he running from?’ I thought.
But he says, “I personally don’t like to view this expedition as running away, I see it as running towards something. I am running towards an adventure that could fundamentally change my life.”
And Jamie’s quite right of course. This isn’t about running away. This is about tackling something scary and not being afraid to ask for help.
On Friday, Jamie began the journey that will put his body through the most gruelling challenge of his life. Injury, dehydration, homelessness, hunger, these will all be daily threats. But what scares him the most?
He is running alone.
He explains, “To many the big numbers – 18,000km, 428 marathons, 600 days – make the expedition challenging, but that is not the case as they can all be broken down into small manageable segments. It is the mental aspects that are going to be the true challenges that I need to overcome.”
For far too many men, this is the case every single day; constantly questioning their ability to keep going, feeling unable to reach out to people, reluctant to rely on others, ashamed to reveal what they’re really feeling when the expected response to ‘Hey, how are you?’ is ‘Fine cheers mate, you?’
So Jamie may be running the Americas, but what he’s also doing is starting a conversation. By keeping a video diary, the highs and the lows of the trip will be laid bare for all to see. Going everywhere he goes (his only companion in fact is a running trolley containing absolute essentials) will be a white board upon which he’s going to write or draw how he’s feeling and also encourage others to tell him how they feel.
By running the Americas, Jamie may well – as he hopes – be running towards an adventure that will change his life. As his friend, I couldn’t be more proud. And whether he pulls a muscle in Seattle or completes all 428 marathons of the route, when I’m chatting to a stranger in the pub, sharing one of his blog updates on Facebook or even telling a client, what makes me so proud is that he’s getting people talking.
Follow Jamie as he runs the Americas on www.jamieisrunning.com. You can support him by buying a day of his epic journey, by spreading the word of his expedition, or simply by getting in touch with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or via his website.
Follow Jo Furnival on Twitter @JoJoFurnival
Follow Instinctif Partners on Twitter @InstinctifCNSMR
Check out All About The Cause HERE
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