THE EARLY DAYS
I came to running quite late. I was an all-round sports child, but Rugby was my first love and the only running I did was while training for other sports.
It is quite a story how I first became a runner. Back in the day, it was compulsory for UK secondary schools [11 to 16 years] to hold a cross-country run each year as part of the physical education program.
Well, not being a runner during the first two years I never completed the three-mile event, I and many others would run to a thicket on the course, perhaps half a mile, and hide in there until many of the runners had passed us on their way back and then slip into the bunch for the return journey. Of course, we thought we were so clever.
In year three, now thirteen years old and an accomplished rugby player, things changed.
Crossing the finish line in my usual manner my rugby coach, Mr. Pallister, pulled me to one side and said “Willis you are a waste of space and a disgrace to the school and yourself. Do you think we don’t know what you boys are up to? We expect it from many of the lazy so and so’s but not from the likes you”
I took it to heart and decided to show him who was a lazy so and so.
The following year, several months before the cross-country run I started to train myself, I was going to show him what I was made of.
On race day I set off like a mad thing, probably not how I should have but I had no race experience. To cut things short , not only did I run well, I actually came home in first place in a very mixed bag of close to one-thousand boys.
But that was not good enough for me, I made a beeline for Mr. Pallister, I needed to make sure he knew exactly what I had achieved. As I approached him, in a voice loud enough to ensure I heard him, he turned to another teacher and said “I told you Willis had it in him, he just needed a kick in the pants” he then turned to me and said “Willis, my office first thing in the morning, I will explain what your duties are now that you are the captain of the school cross-country team”.
And that, as they say, was the beginning of something great. Running as a youngster gave me real pleasure and pride. I was never the best, but I was very competitive and had my share of wins through the years. I suppose my greatest moments back then was representing my district and London at a school-boy level.
I continued cross-country running, I didn’t enjoy track running, perhaps because I was not fast enough at short distances and the longest distance run then for my age group was one mile, until I entered university. As I was not intelligent enough to learn and spend the many hours of training that I needed to remain competitive I stopped competitive running.
I continued to play rugby, cricket, and a little football for many years, but I never got back into competitive running, I just run for fitness and pleasure never more than ten miles and usually much less.
I cannot say I missed running because my life was full in other ways.
FAST FORWARD A LIFETIME
After retiring I moved to Malaysia, for no other reason than I love the country and its wildlife, my second passion.I got back into running purely by chance. I was working my way through my bucket list, I had ticked off all those that took little effort like, white-water rafting, parachute jump, bungy jump and now at the top of my list was Run a Marathon. Five or six months of self-training and off I went in the Penang Bridge International Marathon at the grand old age of sixty-four.
In this way I get to run in different countries, running different types of event and pushing my boundaries. It is so true that if you don’t push yourself to the limit you will never know what your limit is. Having fully invested into the local running scene here in Malaysia in normal times there are a multitude of events to choose from and there isn’t a month that goes by without me running at least one event but, it is the adventures into the unknown that we both relish.
Trail running the foot-hills of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, a Marathon on the grasslands of Mongolia, a Himalayan road marathon at 4200m in Bhutan, a New Year double – half on New Years Eve and a half on New Year Day, in Texas, a daylight half-marathon at Midnight in Iceland, the most scenic run at the Cape Town Peace Trai, a three day trail event in Western Australia, two attempts at the Xterra age group world championships in Hawaii and two second places 65-69 & 70-74 – must try harder in 2024, of course there is my biggest ‘failure’ to date only completing 190kms of the 350km Delirious WEST in Australia – there will be revenge, and my proudest moment – commemorating my father by running ninety-nine kilometers during lockdown on a seventy meter course around my home. I ran it on the day he would have been one-hundred years old had he not been taken from us just five weeks earlier.
So, something and somewhere new a multi-day semi-self sufficient trail race in Romania and what is better than running with my newfound family.
Route 68 100 mile virtual 6x 25km time trails plus 1x 18km sprint
Xterra on-road duathlon 5-30-5 virtual Set 5k PB [0:21:07] and ruined the duathlon
Ultra Race Romania HALFOWEEN Set PB [1:42:53] and met my new family
Kuala Lumpur SC Marathon virtual Set PB [3:55:10]
Covid cancelled all event actual events
Delirious WEST 350km trail, Western Australia Longest event, DNF only completing 190kms
Xterra Age Group world championships, Hawaii 70-74 Second again
Backyard Ultra, Malaysia A great experience that I will return to
Lakeland Trails Ultimate 25km trail, England First competitive trail run back in my own country
Bangkok 10 mile road race, Thailand First 10 miler since I was still studying
Route 68 100km road, Malaysia First 100k and finished 8th overall of 320
Malaysian Women’s Marathon, Malaysia First time pacing a lady 2:25:31 target sub 2:29
Vietnam Mountain Marathon, Sapa Successfully defended my 60+ title
The Magnificent Merapoh Trail 70k, Malaysia Run to protect the magnificent limestone stacks
Loose Goose 90km trail, Australia First multi-day event. The elevation was crazy
Pembrokeshire Coastal Ultra, Wales Brilliant fighting the wind along the cliff-tops
Xterra Age Group world championships, Hawaii 65-69 Second
Back2Endurence, Malaysia First 12hour endurance event
Jalapeño Half Marathon, Texas, USA First run with my wife, she did the 5km
Powerman Duathlon 10-60-10, Malaysia First full distance duathlon
Gunung Nuang 50km Ultra, Malaysia 5k up the mountain, 5k down, repeat
Muang Thai Half Marathon, Chiang Mai First race in Thailand, where I spent my honeymoon
Putrajaya Night Marathon, Malaysia First night marathon in the dark
The Most Beautiful Trail, Borneo Just wonderful but renamed The Most Brutal Trail
The Great Kuala Lumpur Relay, Malaysia A scratch team made up on the internet that have . remained great friends
Xterra Malaysian trail age group championships Winning qualified me for the world championships
Singapore SC Marathon First ‘Big City’ marathon, hated the crowded course
Cape Town Peace Trail, South Africa Stunning views for the whole race
Blood Runner obstacle race, Malaysia First obstacle race, even though I won the 50+ category
it will be my last
Midnight Sun Half Reykjavik, Iceland First experience running at night in the daylight
Castle Howard Cross Country, England Proper running, like being back at school
Bhutan International Punakha First race at altitude and first age group win
Allen Double, Texas, USA part two
Allen Double, Texas, USA First double header
Penang Bridge Int. Marathon, Malaysia First sub4 marathon
Half on the Head, Co. Kerry, Ireland First run in Ireland, first podium finish and wonderful vibe
Surf to City, Invercargill, New Zealand First run in New Zealand
Ross Half Marathon, Tasmania First run in Australia
Xilinhot Grassland Half, Inner Mongolia First run in China, absolutely stunning experience
Penang Bridge Int. Marathon, Malaysia First Marathon
Phú Quốc Half, Vietnam First international run and first multi terrain event, road/dirt