Danny, thank you so much for joining us today! Can you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself…
I am a serving Fire Officer in Plymouth with over 20 years’ service experience. Having spent over 20 years playing rugby – age and injury finally took their toll…the weight started to increase as well as other factors (described later) and I pushed myself to actively lose weight! To do this I took up running.
Since that decision I have continued to look for ways to push my mind and body to the limit, all the time trying to raise awareness, money or simply to inspire others.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am taking part in the biggest challenge of my life – the Marathon des Sables in April 2014 and at the same time organising my own endurance event, Hope24, in Plymouth as a way to raise funds towards the challenge.
In the future, we are looking for the next big thing and there are a few I am considering including running from John O’Groats to Lands End.
That’s incredible! Apart from losing weight, what inspired you to start running?
As a fire-fighter, we are exposed to sights of destruction, death and the resultant fall out of such events. Not to dramatise the job too much but it doesn’t happen every day. However, when it does it can have a lasting effect. Nothing could have prepared me for the events surrounding a particular fire in Warwickshire in November 2007. Requested to attend from Devon & Somerset as part of our Search & Rescue Team, who’re trained to work in collapsed and dangerous structures. We were part of the national response to the incident that claimed the lives of four firefighters, three of whom were still in the building. We had many roles at the fire in the ‘body recovery’ phase of the incident, but specifically I was involved in the actual recovery of our fellow firefighters. Roll forward 5 years and a bout of depression flicked the switch that effectively turned on the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The PTSD was directly linked to the incident and a series of therapy sessions and running allowed me to fully recover from the condition.
Running allowed me to take myself away and also having a focus on events and challenges allowed me to keep looking forward.
What an awful scenario you were faced with!
You’re about to run two marathons! Can you tell us a little bit more about them…
The Marathon des Sables is actually about 6 marathons in six stages over seven days. It takes place in April every year and this year is its 29th time, but my first. [This year it begins on the 4th April, ed]
You have to run each stage carrying all your provisions, equipment, food etc. The only thing they provide is water and a tent (more a sheet over some poles). With the back-pack weighing anything from 7-15kg (mine is around 7.5kg) you cover a stage each day ranging from 30km (18 miles) to 75km (45 miles) in heat up to 45 degrees centigrade.
It is the ultimate challenge for myself and will test my body and mental mind to the limit.
I am speechless right now! Are you running it by yourself or do you have a running partner?
I am running with a group of fire fighters from two services. There are three colleagues from Devon & Somerset and three from West Midlands Fire & Rescue Service.
We are known as Team Hope, a close link to the charity we are raising money for, Hope for Children.[At the time of publishing, Team Hope have raised a phenomenal ~£42,000, just under their target of £45k!, ed.]
How fab that you are all doing it together. It’s nice that you can all support one another along the way! Can you tell us about the charity you’re raising money for…
Hope for Children (HOPE) is a UK based charity which works towards a world where children’s rights are realised and they can reach their full potential. They actively identify disadvantaged children and communities by working with local partners.
Through empowering, collaborating and learning together they aim to build a sustainable future for the children and communities they serve. Their focus is to reach as many children as they can and deliver to them the childhood every child deserves.
I like how you have named your team after the charity! Why did you choose to raise money for this charity in particular?
I have raised funds previously for both small and large charities.
My last major challenge was running the 62 miles from London to Brighton! It was for Cancer Research UK. However, throughout the lead up and after the event, I got little assistance from their local supporter network.
Post event there was not even a thank you, especially as I had raised over two and half times my target and raised close to £1,800.
With Hope for Children you definitely get the sense that everything you do makes a huge difference to their work and the children they aim to support.
How can people support both yourself and the charity?
The charity is based in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and they are always on the lookout for volunteers to assist them (www.hope-for-children.org).
Individually, I can be sponsored at the following address: https://teamhope.everydayhero.com/uk/danny-slay
Are you hoping that your experiences will help to raise awareness?
I am lucky to have met some amazing people throughout my challenges and along the way many have supported me.
I have a group of 18 people walking London to Brighton in May this year all raising funds for Team Hope and subsequently Hope for Children.
In addition, the endurance event I have organised, Hope24, allows runners to raise funds in return for free entry or for a lesser target to receive a free Buff. This has brought more than 25 additional fundraisers to Hope for Children. Therefore, with everyone supporting all these people the awareness of the charity is growing across people who normally would never know they existed.
That’s great that you have gained extra support to spread the word! Can you talk us through the preparation…
The preparation has been hard with lots of long runs and latterly running with a heavy back pack. The kit is expensive but having planned this from 21 months ago I have been able to spread the cost. It is a science, as I look to conserve as much weight as possible and for this I must forego some luxuries.
There is compulsory equipment to carry and rules state that you must carry a minimum of 2000 kcals of food for each day. The final aspect of training is heat acclimatisation, normally there is access to heat chambers, but being remote in the South West, this will be achieved looking rather dodgy in running kit in a public sauna!
Do you have to mentally prepare yourself too?
They say on ultra running events it is 10% body 90% mind.
I can concur with this and I have been in many long runs where I could easily have quit. For example, on the London to Brighton I broke a nasty blister and bled at around halfway. The pain was uncomfortable and I still had around 28 miles to complete. That is like running a marathon with an already blistered foot. I had to dig as deep as I can ever remember into my mind to get to the end. In my view, with the issues I have had and the people I have around me I can find a ‘happy place’ to put my mind into in those dark hours.
[Running in the Beacons Ultra, November 2013]
That is THE ultimate will power I am very impressed! What’s the next challenge for Danny?
I would have to say ‘walking’, after the Marathon des Sables! BUT in all honesty, we will see how the Hope24 runs as I enjoy organising events for others. The South-West is a hot bed of runners, but with very few events out of the ordinary.
I like the fundraising model for events as you can raise awareness and develop a positive attitude towards participation sports at the same time.
As for pushing my own body, watch this space, as nothing is out of reach for anyone!
I am very impressed in what you are doing Danny and I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like to endure a journey like this. However, I can only imagine that the feeling of accomplishment is unbelievably rewarding!
Wishing you and TEAM HOPE the best of luck!
Thank you so much for joining both Danny and myself on Junior Style this week for CCT! Tune in next week for more chinwagging people <3 Kate –x-Follow Team Hope on:
- Team Hope – Marathon des Sables 2014 :- http://team-hope.co.uk/
- Team Hope – Twitter :- https://twitter.com/teamhope2014
- Team Hope – Facebook :- https://www.facebook.com/teamhope2014
- Team Hope – Merchandising for Charity :- http://team-hope.co.uk/merchandise/
- Hope24 Challenge (entries close 5th April 2014) :- http://hope24.team-hope.co.uk/
- Hope for Children charity :- http://www.hope-for-children.org/
Images courtesy of Danny Slay.