110 miles in and finally the A30 is disappearing into the distance behind me. That road is long; I have pounded it relentlessly since January began and am only at the end now February is looming into view. I’ve done all of this without leaving my hometown.

What?

This is virtual running. I’ve been aware of the concept for several years but until now it was always something other people do. Some love virtual running, some have it thrust upon them. I completely fell into the latter camp. I didn’t see lockdown 3 coming – it crept up with incredible stealth and blindsided me with a solid blow to the chin. As my senses slowly returned and the new year was almost here I felt determined not to spend another winter in a state of lethargy after an initial buzz of motivation.

My running mojo had returned after years of only coming out for special occasions when I enlisted the coaching services of one Nathan Flear. Under his expert guidance I went from a very modest state of fitness to being confident of achieving a sub 20-hour 100 miler around a running track. I reckon I would have done it too if it hadn’t been for a knee injury at the eleventh hour. I first met Nathan when he ran a race I co-organised in 2016; Ham & Lyme 100k. I say ran… he actually won and smashed the course record in the process, his grin on the finishing straight unsurpassed even by the Cheshire Cat. He didn’t seem too surprised by the course record, although his partner Tori couldn’t have been prouder.

I remembered that Tori and Nathan, along with a few helpers, organise the ‘End to End’ virtual challenges. When I looked at Land’s End to Jon o Groats and saw one was starting on 1st January I weighed up the scenario. 874 miles in 12 months seemed doable. I mentioned it to my parents and they seemed intrigued. One thing for it….

Fast forward to 21st February, I’m around 143 miles in (122 of them in January) and I’ve loved every minute. An unexpected bonus of the whole thing has been the phenomenally supportive and fun Facebook group for participants. Nath and Tori make it clear in the group rules that they won’t stand for any negativity but I’m not sure there would be any even if they hadn’t. It reminds me of the early days of social media when Myspace ruled the net and I told everyone Facebook would never catch on… the point is that it’s everything social media could be – a fun place where people share, nobody trolls and all are treated with respect.

Following my progress on the map is like a treasure hunt from the 90s and I’ve often found myself running on days when without the challenge I would have taken one look out of the window and said a resounding “Naaaaahhhh, mate!” Oh, and my parents are doing LEJOG as a walking challenge – they’re not far behind me. In summary, End to End virtual challenges are heaps of fun, great motivation with a supportive community and are everything life should be but sadly isn’t a lot of the time. Well, I’m 2 miles from my hometown of Taunton so here I will bring an end to my ramblings. Time for a run….

By Dave Urwin (Participant in LEJOG 9)