Cobus MD takes on one of the world's toughest marathons for charity

By Cobus Communications | Posted: 16 Jun 2017

“…Earlier this month saw Cobus Managing Director Michael Smith and local charity ‘PAUL for Brain Recovery’ founder Paul Spence embark on a fundraising trip to China to take on one of the world’s toughest marathons. The Great Wall of China is one of the worlds most iconic structures and it promised to test them to their limits both mentally as well as physically. Michael explains how this thrilling adventure and awesome challenge came about and just how difficult it was in the build-up and the event itself:

In late 2016 we [Paul and I] had just finished a circa 90-mile hike of Hadrian’s Wall in a respectable time of less than 3-days and no sooner had we finished we were contemplating our next challenge! I remember Paul saying what’s a bigger wall than Hadrian’s Wall? Following a brief pause we both looked at each other and said The Great Wall [of China], it started as a bit of a joke but the more we discussed it the more exciting it seemed and following a fundraising meeting at Cobus with the PAUL team it was decided, we are doing this! Now I’ve always stayed as fit and healthy as possible with rugby and the gym etc. but never done the running thing – other than the Hull 10K each year! …It was now mid-February and just over 3-month until the race date, best get training for it then! We started training together each Monday and pushed hard to get my cardio fitness improved and get some road miles in. We didn’t have a lot of time so I trained most days and we monitored each other’s activity on our online fitness belts. After years of rugby playing my knees are not the best so I needed to train hard but without too much high impact training so I concentrated on low impact exercises such as cycling and cross training etc. and just ran once a week with Paul on Mondays. The miles increased every week as I started on 7, then up to 10, and 15, and then up to a maximum of 20 after a couple of months – it was tough and It needed Paul, who’s an experienced runner, to encourage me and push me hard and remind me why we were doing this! It was an intense training program and I trained whenever I could that resulted in 87 workouts in 96 days burning 106,678 calories with an unintentional weight loss of 30 pounds!

Before we knew it, we were on the plane and heading to the far east, we stayed in Beijing and went via coaches to a mandatory ‘race inspection meeting’ the day after we arrived. It was apparent afterwards that this was to allow runners to experience a relatively short 5K walk of the Great Wall and understand first hand just how steep the elevations were and just how hot, humid and exposed you are to the scorching and unforgiving elements – following this 85 runners, many with marathon experience, downgraded from the full marathon to the half marathon distance that was now in just two days’ time. We had to be up at 4am on race day and following breakfast we boarded the coaches and travelled to the race point – the atmosphere was electric with a buzz of activity and excitement as almost 2,000 runners squeezed into Yin Yang square for the final race briefing. Our group was wave four and set off at 8am – the beginning was a 5K steep climb on a winding tarmac road that brought you to the edge of the Wall, it was then an assault course of ups and downs before coming off the wall and heading into the small local towns and countryside. On reflection, I’m not sure that you could have done anything to prepare for the conditions, the baking heat that hit a maximum of 43 degrees on the course! the humidity, and the dry dusty air, oh… and those 5,164 steps, elevations, climbs, terrain, and the almost seemingly unimportant 26.2 miles!

I was 100% dedicated to the challenge and although I did hit-the-wall more than once not finishing was never an option! it went much deeper than the more obvious charity fundraising and awareness, we both knew of the important messages that we wanted to get across to the brain injured and help them to understand and believe that with the right application, commitment and dedication you can push to achieve things that you never thought possible. It could be said that the biggest wall you must climb is the one you build in your mind!

I’ve got to say that the feeling crossing the finish line to a cheering crowd, receiving a medal, and Paul expressing his admiration did make me realise that all the training, commitment, and logistics of getting there did put everything into perspective and made it worth the pain and hours committed.

Paul commented “I can’t thank Mike enough for his selfless commitment and the time and energy that he has put in to help the charity, he’s gone from only ever running a 10K to a marathon in just 3-months, what an awesome achievement and positive message that will inspire others. I’d also like to say a massive thank you to Cobus Communications who have funded the entire trip that means that all funds raised go direct to the charity and the brain injured to help with their recovery, without Cobus and without Mike this wouldn’t have been possible”

We are still collecting funds raised and taking donations and will soon be publishing the total raised but expect this to be around the original £10,000 target set once we have everything in, a fantastic achievement and something that Mike and Paul are extremely proud to have achieved together. If you would like to donate, then please visit the Virgin Money page at the following link: http://.uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Cobus-China-Marathon If you would like to know more about the work that the PAUL for Brain Recovery does then please visit http://www.paulforbrainrecovery.co.uk/ and more information can be found about Cobus Communications at www.cobus.co.uk

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