WHEN businessman Richard Burkitt found his international travel plans grounded by the pandemic he decided he should do something useful with his unexpected free time.
So the hours he would have spent on long haul flights around the globe were put into preparing for his first ultra marathon, a 100 kilometre challenge that has raised more than £1,500 for our patient care.
“Work carried on for me and I have been very busy but the fact that I wasn’t flying off all the time allowed me some time to start training,” said 45-year-old Richard, who lives with his family in Dore.
“I have run in the past but then children and family and work come along and I hadn’t done anything for quite a while.
“But now I could make time so I started off running to Beauchief and back, which is around 3.4 kilometres, then I did five kilometres and then 10 and then 15, then a half marathon distance and a full marathon and then I realised I should do something good with all effort.”
That’s when Richard decided to put all the hours of practice to the best use by signing up for Race to the Castle, the famous 100k ultra marathon.
The epic route takes runners through the hilly woodlands and moorlands of Northumberland National Park, with a finish at the spectacular Bamburgh Castle, overlooking the North Sea.
And as Richard’s wife Kathryn is our Director of Income, Media and Marketing, there was never any question which charity he would be running for.
Some ultra marathon runners break the challenge down into sections but Richard decided to complete the run at one go, starting at eight o’clock in the morning and pushing through in 17 hours and 23 minutes, crossing the finish line at around one the following morning.
“I’m told the route take in some beautiful scenery but I saw nothing of it,” Richard said.
“I was just focused on getting on with it and it didn’t help that while the rest of the country was enjoying good weather, we were running in 11 degrees with a north easterly wind.
“it was a challenge but you don’t pick an ultra marathon if you don’t want a challenge - and if there isn’t a significant chance of failure is it really a challenge at all?
“I knew I had one job to do and that was to keep putting one foot in front of the other and even though you do go through peaks and troughs, knowing that you’re raising money for a great cause helps to keep you going.”
The only real casualty of the adventure has been Richard’s big toe nails, but he’s hoping they might be growing back by next year, when he intends to set off on his second ultra marathon.
“You may well tell yourself at the time that you never want to do it again but I’m already thinking about next year and am planning some half marathons and marathons to get me ready” he said.
“It will be a different route, perhaps the Peak District, but I really am starting to look forwards to it.”
There’s still time to support Richard. Simply visit Race to the Castle