I’ve got my work cut out over the 18 month challenge with juggling a full time job, family life with a wife, a 5 year old daughter & a 6 month old baby boy & on top of that ultra marathon training, life is very busy & sleep isn’t quite what it used to be haha!
Here's my story of why I’m fundraising & how running has helped during the most difficult times of my life & hopefully it can help someone else going through similar experiences...
My mother sadly lost her short battle with cancer in July 2011 aged 50. I was 24 at the time and before she passed away I wasn’t one to worry about my current or future health.
I was overweight, ate unhealthily, I used to enjoy a drink, probably drank way more than I should, smoked regularly and they were usually the things I would turn to during difficult or stressful times. When my mother passed away I packed in the cigarettes and limited my drinking but had no real coping mechanism. I didn’t want to hit the self-destruct button but I didn’t know how to cope or deal with the loss. It was the darkest time of my life.
It was only when my daughter was born in October 2012 did I realise how precious life is and started to make a real effort to start looking after myself. By this point in my life I was thinking to myself, ‘if I was to die at the same age as my mother, I’m already passed the half way point’ and that was a scary thought.
I tried many different things to help improve my physical and mental wellbeing. Even with my beautiful daughter being in the world, the amazing support from my wife, dad, sister, brother in law and many other friends and family, deep down I still felt like I was struggling to cope and didn’t know what to do with my thoughts.
It was 2016 when I really came to terms with my mother’s loss. I started running in June 2015 and ran my 1st half marathon in Cardiff in October 2015. I decided then that in 2016 I would raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support in her memory. During that year I ran 4 half marathons (Merthyr Tydfil, Llanelli, Cardiff and Swansea), 3 full marathons (Edinburgh, The Wales Marathon in Tenby and Gloucester City marathon) and The Gower 50 mile ultra-marathon.
Before I started my marathon challenge I didn’t realise the positive impact that year and running would have on my life. I had found my coping mechanism. My last surviving grandparent, my grandmother (my mother’s mum) passed away after a short battle with cancer in May of 2016, as devastated as I was, I was in a much better place mentally to deal with her loss.
After 2016 was over I realised that running and exercise is an amazing tool when life gets tough and it can really help improve your outlook on everything. That year changed me and my whole attitude towards all aspects of my life and really helped me grieve the loss of my mother & grandmother.
Sadly, in April 2017, my dad passed away suddenly aged 67. He died from the effects of undetected heart disease. I was 29 at the time & a lot more mature & self aware! Being in this position before and understanding what grief can do to someone, I wanted to allow myself to experience the pain of losing my dad but I didn’t want it to take over my life. At the time my daughter was aged 4 and my wife was around 10 weeks pregnant, I couldn’t let the grief consume me as it did in the past.
I knew by running and exercising regular not only would it be good for my physical health but more importantly my mental wellbeing.
Spending the majority of my time each week working and looking after my family gives my mind a huge distraction from grieving. But, this is also why I always make time for a run or some form of exercise. Whether it’s a 4am run while my wife and children are asleep or a run on my lunch break during work or any other time I have a spare hour to myself. I make sure I get it done because the mental toughness running has taught me is invaluable. When I’m out running it’s just me and my thoughts. It allows me the time I need to think about what’s happened and to grieve.
Since losing both of my parents at relatively young ages, it’s given me the motivation to look after myself and regularly monitor my health, it frightens me to think of my children growing up without me.
Unfortunately, my dad died very suddenly and his heart disease had gone undetected so there was nothing that could have been done to save him. Not every story of heart disease ends so tragically though. Many people live happy healthy lives with heart conditions and a lot of that is down to the amazing research and hard work carried out by the British Heart Foundation.
Wanting to turn my grief into something positive I’ve decided to take my love of running and I will be attempting 7 ultra-marathons between January 2018 and June 2019. The distances vary between 32 miles to 100 miles.
I completed ultra-marathon #1 Brecon to Cardiff 11th Feb 2018 43.9 Miles in 7 hours 22 mins and #2 The Vale Coastal Ultra 7 April 2018 33.6 miles in 6 hours 17 mins - 2 down 5 to go! Next up #3 The South Wales 50 mile 23 June 2018
18 months of fundraising for The British Heart Foundation charity in memory of my amazing Dad, Jack Williams. Gone but forever in our hearts.
Karl Williams, aged 30.
From Aberdare, South Wales, UK