The only person in your way is you. That's the realisation Wiggle Challenge ambassador Matt Hooper came to as he committed to changing his life.
We're proud to be supporting Matt as he takes on a host of exciting run challenges this year. Here's a bit more about him.
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My name is Matt Hooper. I am 34 and currently a researcher working out of Abertay University in Scotland.
I have been running for three years and, so far, my biggest achievement has been finishing the 2019 Edition of the Highland Fling in 11 hours and 36 minutes.
The rational for taking part in the 2020 Challenge Campaign was to show that the only person in your way is you and the benefits you get from physical activity in the long term seriously outweigh the discomfort felt in the moment.
Even if you are reading or hearing about these challenges and think to yourself, ‘there is no way I can do that’, I want to demonstrate that the only person who is stopping you is you! It is about unleashing potential and showing yourself what you are capable of doing. Therefore, I offer my journey as an example of this.
So, where better to start than the beginning and why I decided to take up running.
"There were challenges to overcome in the lead up to the Fling, particularly around nutrition"
October 2016; the scales topped out at 26st 5lb - a hefty weight! A massive change to my diet, coupled with starting to run/walk six or seven miles a week soon started to see the weight come off. Things became easier, allowing me to push myself more and more and going further and faster!
After somewhat successfully progressing from five and 10km to half and a full marathon (the latter without its own share of suffering), by April 2018 I started to think about 2019, my goals and wondered how far I could really go. This, however, seemed to hinge around the London Marathon draw.
It just happened that the day the London Marathon ballot results were announced was when the Highland Fling race ballot opened. As I was unsuccessful in the former, I decided to put in for a spot and, to be honest, I have not looked back.
The Fling is a 53 mile Ultra from Milngavie to Tyndrum along the West Highland Way. During the event you are presented with iconic views of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. There were challenges to overcome in the lead up to the Fling, particularly around nutrition and what worked best for me, but the problem-solving aspect of it intrigued me greatly.
The Fling itself, looking back on it, was unbelievable. But again, like many marathons, it was the experience. I am sure that, like many people, when they finish something and it does not go to plan they vow, ‘never again’. But like others, it’s the moments of reflection which show how much the event was enjoyed and you go back thinking, ‘yep, I’d do that again!’.
Matt's 2020 challenges:
While Matt still hopes to take part in the West Highland Way, here are the races he has already confirmed:
- Highland Fling: 53 miles from Milngavie to Tyndrum
- Loch Ness 360°: 80-mile ultra
- Devil O’The Highlands Footrace: 42 mile Trail Ultramarathon
Once again, the first major challenge is the Highland Fling. As mentioned above this is 53 miles from Milngavie to Tyndrum along the lower half of the West Highland Way at the end of April.
At this time, the second challenge I will be attempting will be the inaugural Loch Ness 360°. This is a newly formed 80-mile ultra around the banks of Loch Ness with a 24 hour time-cap. Taking place at the end of May, this should be an exciting event. This was not my first choice as a challenge and had to enter, as the ballot for the West Highland Way race was not successful in the first instance.
"The timeframe for these challenges is daunting, having just five weeks between the Fling and the Loch Ness 360°"
There is still hope, albeit extremely slim, that a place will be available in the West Highland Way race. This is 95 miles along the entire West Highland Way route running South to North. Over the 35 hours, participants will truly discover what they are capable of, which is what drew me to enter.
The Devil O’The Highlands Footrace in August is the final challenge for 2020. This is the northern portion of the West Highland Way, running from Tyndrum to Fort William, with a length of 42 miles. Participants have 12 hours to complete this section, but there are some large climbs, particularly as you traverse the Devil's Staircase from Glencoe to Kinlochleven.
The timeframe for these challenges is daunting, having just five weeks between the Fling and the Loch Ness 360° is going to test my resilience and the recuperative abilities of my legs and body to ensure I am good to take on the 80 miles.
But this is all part of the fun and it would not be a challenge if it did not push all aspects of the process.