For most people, getting to an away game might involve booking your seat on a coach, making sure your away kit shirt is clean and belting out some killer tunes on the motorway.
But for Burnley native Scott Cunliffe, it meant making sure his gym kit and running shoes were ready to go.
Over the course of the 2018/19 Premier League season, 45-year-old Scott created and completed The RunAway Challenge – 19 runs, all starting from his team’s home ground, Burnley FC’s Turf Moor.
‘When I returned to the UK in April 2018, I wanted to do a challenge that would make me strong, happy and healthy,’ he says. ‘I also wanted to do something that had not been done before. The idea was inspired by others that have cycled and run to games before. I took it one step beyond running to one game. The idea was born in June 2018, just six weeks before the start of the season.’
The shortest run came in at a mere 26 miles to Huddersfield Town, the longest 279 miles to Brighton, taking Scott nine days to complete. He finished his final run last Friday to the Everton home ground. His total mileage? An incredible 3,092 miles.
Scott says: ‘Physically, the hardest runs were the first runs to Southampton and Fulham, when my body was not used to multiple days of over 30 miles per day. Over time the body adapted to this reality. Mentally, the hardest run was going to Watford. This was because I failed to prepare myself for this run.
‘As it was the 5th time I’d run to London I took it for granted, but it was really tough. After three days I had to have a long, hard word with myself to regain focus.’
Training involved a mixture of running, yoga, HIIT classes, hiking and cycling as well as mental training, teaching the mind to be ‘resilient to pain and boredom.’
Amazingly, he rarely listens to music as he believes the mind becomes stronger in the face of adversity but, if he did ever pop on the odd tune, his go-to was drum and bass, ‘particularly by Burnley’s finest Marcus Intalex, RIP.’
Scott says he turned to running because of its benefits to both mind and body. ‘I did this because I know, from personal experience how running is a powerful tool to achieve positive mental and physical well being,’ he says.
After spending over two decades working for charities and organisations like the UN and Search for Common Ground, in parts of Southeast Asia seriously affected by violent crime and poverty, it took a toll on Scott’s mental health.
His experiences left him with both PTSD and depression – and running becoming a huge part of his recovery.
‘I’ve suffered depression for a decade, it comes and goes, he says. ‘Running in wild places has been a big part of my therapy. I really love being out for long days. The RunAway Challenge allowed me to do just that.’
Scott didn’t always do it alone either. Like Forest Gump, he inspired others.
‘I had many people run with me, some planned, some unplanned. Five people ran their first marathons with me, that was very special.’
Scott is currently at 96% of his £38,000 fundraising target, with the money going to Burnley FC in the Community – the official charity of Burnley FC.
‘The club have been very supportive from the start, providing away tickets, great media coverage and lots of other support,’ says Scott.
Burnley will distribute 50% of the funds raised by The RunAway Challenge to local charities in Burnley. The other 50% will be divided between the community trusts at each of the Premier League clubs Scott has run to.
As Scott explains: ‘This way, I hope the challenge will leave its mark on communities across the country – not just here in Burnley.’
You can donate to The RunAway Challenge’s page here.
You can follow Scott on Twitter and Instagram: @sekott.
For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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