A marathon effort
31/01/2019 News | Blog
Scout Adventurer Sean Conway is no stranger to running. He’s already completed two ultra-events, which were both over 800 miles long, but strangely he has never run a marathon. That’s why we’re delighted he’s agreed to run his very first one - the London Marathon – for the Scouts. Sean shares his thoughts on adventure, running and his connection to the Scouts, which goes way back.
People call me an adventurer, which covers the world of exploration on the one hand, and sports and athleticism on the other. Having swum the length of Britain and cycled around the world, I think the best description for me is an ultra-endurance adventurer.
I think swimming the length of Britain was my hardest challenge. For the most part people ignored me, laughed at me or tried to stop me. It wasn’t just a question of swimming ability, it was organising the logistics that proved most challenging. Fortunately there were people who truly believed in me, and I repaid that faith by completing the challenge. You can read all the gruesome detail in Hell or Highwater.
There are always dangerous moments on any big adventure. I was chased by gangsters while cycling around the world, nearly sank off the coast of Cape Wrath. Probably the scariest encounter was when some people tried to drive us off the road in some mountains in Mexico.
So why did I choose to support the Scouts?
I have a special connection with the movement in that my great uncle, Sir Charles Warren, helped Baden-Powell start the Scouts way back in the early years of the 20thcentury. He fought in the Boer War with him and when they were both back in England, Sir Charles gave B-P some advice. He started one of the very first Scout Groups himself, the 1stSt. Lawrence in Kent, which thrives to this day.
What the Scouts do is so valuable. It teaches you resilience, thinking on your feet and leadership. It gives you the character to keep going when it’s cold and wet, as well as key skills like map reading. I’ve always been an outdoorsy person. My dad was a rhino conservationist in Africa, so I suppose you could say adventuring is in the genes.
I’m really looking forward to the London Marathon, but it’s actually the first one I’ve run. It sounds boastful, and I honestly don’t mean it that way, but marathons have always been way too short for me. I’ve only done two proper runs in my life. One was 1,000 miles and the other was 850 miles, which was the ultra-running leg of the world’s longest triathlon. That formed the basis for my most recent book, Running Britain.
For me, road running is a real challenge, because you use the same muscles all the time. With trail running you use a variety of muscles, which minimises the risk of injury. Pavement smashing isn’t something I’ve done a lot of.
I have so much respect for everyone entering the marathon. When it comes to preparation, from a physical point of view, you’ve just got to get the number of miles under your belt. I think the best advice for runners is to just enjoy it. Get out and just run. Do the miles you need to do and don’t expect result results yesterday. We live in a society where you get things instantly; that doesn’t translate to running. Put the hours in and do the legwork. Mileage makes champions.
My biggest hero is a guy called Tommy Godwin, who once cycled 75,000 miles in a single year, 1939. That’s over 200 miles a day! Even the guy who broke his record in 2015 with state of the art equipment said he couldn’t have done it in those pre-war days with bad lights and poor roads. I’m going to take some of Tommy’s spirit with me on my marathon.
Supporting young people
I’m determined to do my best for the Scouts. I’ve heard a scary statistic that nearly 60,000 young people are waiting to join. That’s not right. If I can raise awareness and funds to help those young people get the chance to benefit from the Scouts, then I’ve done my job.
You can support Sean’s London Marathon fundraising here: https://bit.ly/2SedACX