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CALM “Forrest Gump” is running The Americas

Way back in August last year, CALM supporter Jojo Furnival wrote for thecalmzone.net about her friend Jamie Ramsay, who was setting off on an extraordinary 18,000 km running odyssey through The Americas, from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, in aid of CALM. 12,778 km and 293 days later, here’s an update from the man about whom Stephen Fry recently exclaimed on Twitter, “What a guy”…

Jamie, “What a guy”…that’s what this tweet from Stephen Fry says about you! Didn’t everyone’s favourite Scottish breakfast hostess, Lorraine Kelly, express the same sentiment once upon a time? Firstly, the fact that someone as popular and influential as Stephen Fry even knows I exist is startling. I literally received 80 donations within 24 hours and it was great motivation for me to keep running. But we can’t forget that it was all down to others (Scott and Rax) for being proactive and making it happen. The Lorraine Kelly interview was back in 2013 and to tell the truth I was a little starstruck! She is so lovely. That came after a 240km run through Vietnam raising money for The STV Appeal in Scotland. I had originally signed up for a competition but it got cancelled. Rather than give up, I just went to Vietnam and ran for 6 days on my own. It was an amazing experience and I think that the disappointment of that experience ending was the seed for this expedition.

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How does knowing that your efforts have caught the attention of one of the world’s most well known commentators on depression make you feel? At first we had those who suffered or suffer from depression who started to talk about the issue, now we are starting to see other celebrities and public figures do their bit to help. The next step I would like to see is businesses and organisations acknowledging depression and other mental health problems, and put in place the support and necessary tools to help employees. This would also help to break the stigma. It’s more than a mental health issue though. Everyone gets down, everyone has problems – EVERYONE – and if we can acknowledge them, accept them and start to ask ‘what can we do to solve these problems?’ then we will all be in a better place.

We’ve been following your progress on your dad’s website – UNBELIEVABLE! Tell us, are you a machine? Haha… no not at all, though sometimes I wish I was. My dad’s website is awesome. Giving up a good job to go running through The Americas is probably not the future my father dreamed for me but he can see that I am happy and he is supportive of that. For all the amazing detail his website has, it doesn’t show the more difficult sides of the expedition. There are times when the running can be overwhelming, the desert daunting or the magnitude of the whole experience just plain scary. However, while you can feel alone it is reassuring to remember that there are always people there to support you, wishing you well or helping in some way. One of the lessons I have learnt is that no matter how isolated you feel inside, there is always someone willing to help.

Your newsletters are filled with such incredible stories… You recently got a police escort while crossing the desert in Peru, how did that come about? I have been very lucky on this expedition, but there is no escaping the fact that certain stretches of road are a little dangerous. The 212km from Piura to Chiclayo is notoriously dangerous and just a month before I arrived there I had been warned of armed gunmen on the road. In these situations you find yourself staring down an empty road not knowing what lies ahead. As I inched forward, the warning from the locals were getting more frantic and graphic, so it became increasingly difficult not to freak out. In the end, the police came to the rescue. They talked to me, found out what I was doing and then, without asking, cobbled together an escort across three different regions. To be honest I never saw a threat but having them there was a real comfort.

Running on average of 44km per day, the impact on your body must be immense; any injuries so far? The body is an amazing piece of kit and continually adapts to what I am asking of it. Of course I have had some niggles but nothing that perseverance, a little TLC and resilience haven’t been able to overcome. Amazingly I still have all my toenails and have never had a blister.

What about the effect on your morale being on your own for so much of the time? Do you get lonely? I am a positive person (most of the time) but of course being solo does come with its difficulties. I get asked a lot about loneliness and being alone. Of course, I am literally by myself but I am far from being alone. The support I am getting from friends, family, complete strangers and of course Stephen Fry is amazing. If I get into a difficult situation or feel that things are getting tough I reach out to friends, family or my girlfriend and ask for help. Normally, by just talking to someone a problem will either diminish in severity or disappear altogether. If I fixate on a problem, it tends to grow larger and seems more difficult to overcome. You know what they say about a problem shared [is a problem halved]… I’ve come to realise that I am not the only one who has had these problems. Someone else has been in my situation before, learned from it and probably also worked out how to overcome it, so asking for help is the smart thing to do.

What’s been the toughest thing about this challenge to date? The challenges change as the expedition progresses. At first I had to fully comprehend what I was undertaking; then it was being alone, then it was the mountains and currently it’s the desert. My way of dealing with challenges is to view them as training for what lies ahead. When I was running across The Andes in Ecuador (3800m) I told myself to see the value in what I was enduring because when I got to The Andes in Chile the altitude would be 4800m. This meant that I was extracting the positives out of the difficulties and in a sense preparing myself for the challenges ahead.

Your newsletters list acts of kindness that you’ve received that month. These people are mainly strangers aren’t they? Have you been surprised by the reaction and the help you’ve received? Surprised doesn’t cover it! I have been overwhelmed. The culture here is to help people who need help and that doesn’t matter who you are. I have been offered food by people who clearly don’t have enough for themselves; when people see me running across the desert they stop drinking their water and hand me the bottle; the police have even given me half-drunk bottles of soda. People are good and people want to help.

You vowed not to cut your beard while you were running. Give us an update, is it down to your knees yet? The beard is coming along well! There are some easy comparisons to Forrest Gump to be made, but in fact it was my best mate who challenged me not to cut my hair and beard for the whole expedition. The plus side is I can economise on sun cream. Though sometimes I feel that people are more impressed with the beard than they are with the expedition… Maybe I could have just sat on a beach for 18 months…

CALM understands that you recently gave up drinking. Was this difficult for you? What was the thinking behind this? I have given up the booze, yes. I am not sure for how long but I was interested to see what the difference would be. I obviously spend a lot of time thinking and pondering and I realised that alcohol probably had too big a part in my life. Since I have given up the booze I have felt clear minded, motivated and am managing to run about 20% more each day. The hardest thing to overcome is being around people when they are drinking, but when you learn that you can be the fun interesting person that you are without a beer inside you then it just gets easier.

You must have a lot of time to reflect while you’re on the road, to think about where you’ve come from, why you’re here and where you’re running to. To all of the guys (and girls) that are reading this, what words of wisdom can you share? I have had a lot of time to think, but more importantly I have had time to listen to a lot of interviews with people that inspire me. The key thing I have learned (so far) is to make sure that everything you do is somehow going to contribute to your life in a positive way, essentially to be the best person that you can be!

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @jamieisrunning, visit his blog at jamieisrunning.com, check out his route and progress on his dad’s website here, and like his Facebook page /jamieisrunning (this really helps him with corporate sponsorship). Donate direct to CALM or to his expedition via jamieisrunning.com.

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