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Running the South West Coast Path For CALM

Ultra runner, Mark Berry, is running 630 miles of the South West Coast path for CALM, hoping to set a new record in the process. Here he gives us a bit of background about his running career and why he chose to support us...

I started running in January 2012 as I had recently turned 50 and decided I wanted to run a marathon, I soon discovered that I really enjoyed running and living in Bishops Tawton I particularly liked the hills over Landkey, Swimbridge etc.

The first race I entered was the Bideford half marathon in March 2012 the day after I did the Star Trek night walk and was very pleased with my time of 1.38 by that time I was mainly enjoying off road running and entered the Arlington 10km which I loved despite the weather.

I found out about the North Devon Road Runners online when I was looking for local running groups. It took me a few months to pluck up the courage to go to the club but I haven't looked back since, I now try and go most Tuesdays and have met some very good fellow nutters who enjoy the sweat and pain as much as I do.

During 2012 I entered several races with most of them being off road trail runs and to my amazement I was getting placed in my category on a number of occasions. I am not a particularly quick runner but discovered I could keep going and could run most hills. I completed the Budapest marathon in October in 3.38 and was very pleased with this as by this time I was not relishing spending this time on tarmac with no hills!

I had it in the back of my mind in January 2013 to do an ultra marathon but was unsure of whether I could run for that long, however having completed the Grizzly in March 2013 in a very respectable time of 3.17 this gave me the nudge to enter the Endurance Life ultra marathon at Heddons Mouth. The run was 34 miles long and graded as extreme by the Endurance Life team and is part of their Coastal Trail series, I came third overall in this run – so that was that, no looking back I had been bitten by the bug of ultra running! Following on from this I did a 60 mile Ultra in June 2013 then my first 100 mile ultra in September 2013.

Subsequently I have completed several ultra trail runs around the country and some in Europe with the highlight being the Ultra Trail Monte Blanc. This is one of the ‘must do’s’ for Ultra trail runners – a 104 mile race around the French, Italian and Swiss Alps, the total ascent being the equivalent of running up and down Mount Everest then finishing off by running up and down Scafell Pike!

The missing experience of my relatively new desire for running is doing a multi-day ultra. Having researched several different events I thought that there would be no better thing to do than run the south west coast path which is 630 miles of mainly trails. There is no official organised race but I have discovered that the current record is 14 days, 14 hours 44 minutes. My aim is to beat this and having just finished walking the whole of the coast path in Poole (Dorset) with my wife, Lorraine, I thought I could start at Poole and run ‘home’.

Having confirmed this challenge in my own mind, I then decided that I wanted to run this for charity and immediately to mind came CALM. I became aware of CALM doing the ‘Tour de Test Valley’ cycle sportive in 2013 and 2014. I love the service they provide and what they aim to achieve, also suffering from depression in the past I am aware of the acute need to raise awareness and support for people who suffer from mental ill health.

Also what makes it particularly poignant for me is as we were walking the South West Coast Path we lost count of the number of plaques and memorials dotted along the path remembering young people who had died. It was not detailed why the plaque was placed in that particular area; was it where they took their own lives there or was it simply their favourite spot? Either way it shows that the coast is an important place for a lot of people whilst also being a stark reminder of how fragile people’s mental health can be and what a tragedy it is if it results in a life cut short.

You can donate to help support Mark's epic challenge here: