A Bournemouth University student is bidding to make history for a second time, as he prepares to take on one of the most prestigious 10km events in the world.
David Clarke, a fourth year retail management student, will travel to Addis Ababa to take on the Great Ethiopia Run in November and is set to become the first person to complete all 17 of the United Kingdom’s ‘great events’ when he crosses the finishing line.
It’s not the first time Clarke has been featured in The Rock. The 20-year-old also made an appearance last year, after he and fellow retail management student Peter Cooper became the first men to cycle between all 92 football league grounds in one go – covering more than 2400 miles in the process – in aid of Clarke’s family charity, Edgar’s Gift.
Not content with one record-breaking attempt, Clarke decided at the beginning of the year to take on a fresh challenge, and has been ‘Doing the Greats’ – from The Great North Run, to the Great London Swim – since January, a process that will have spanned more than ten months by its end.
“There are one or two challenges – or 17 to be precise,” he joked. “Off the back of ‘Cycling the 92’ last year I think that gave me the bug to do something else and I’ll probably do something every year now. “But it’s the case that once you’ve done one you get into it so I was always looking for something to do.
“I was going to do 25 challenges or something similar, and then I saw the Great North Run and started to look into it more and found out that there are a lot of them [‘Great’ events]. So when I found out there were so many, I wondered if anyone had ever done them all.
“I emailed the Great run organisers and asked about it, they confirmed that no one had so as soon as they said that, I was sold.”
Speaking about his preparations leading into the events, the 20-year-old said that the order that the events had followed had allowed him to build up his fitness, although some of the disciplines had been harder to cope with than others.“The first one, the Great Winter Run in Edinburgh was in January and that was a 5k [kilometre], the second was in Ireland in April and that’s a 10k so it was the case that I could use one event as training for the next one.
“I hoped I would be able to do a 5k, which I was, and then worked my way up from there, but the swims were a hell of a shock. I didn’t do any training really for swimming – one of my friends had a swimming pool but it was really short so I couldn’t really get an idea about my breathing or anything, so when I jumped in the water, it was like a cat had been thrown in but I did finish it – I think that [the Great North Swim] was probably the hardest mental challenge I’ve ever had.
“I just thought about the time and money I’d put into it and couldn’t live with going back and saying I’d failed it so I had to get through it.” His family charity, Edgar’s Gift, was set up in 2010 after his stepbrother Ben died following a battle against the rare muscular cancer rhabdomyosarcoma, and provides cancer sufferers with respite by paying for ‘gifts’ – which cover days out, holidays and other experiences.
Aside from raising funds, one of the most important and satisfying parts of Clarke’s work has been spreading the name of the charity, and he admitted that he was taken aback by how far word of the charity had travelled.
“We’re currently at £1,300, so I’d like to get to £2,000 – that would take my personal total up to £20,000 for the charity which would be nice.” Clarke revealed that the challenge is likely to have set him back £3000 with his trip to Africa accounting for nearly a third of that total, but he insisted that he hadn’t questioned his motivation for undertaking the challenge at any stage.
“I’d never done a mass-participation run before and they are ten times different than running on a treadmill or going for a run on your own because as soon as you do one of these events, something clicks and you get really into it – as soon as you do one, you start wanting to better your time and beat people. I’ve certainly got into the runs a lot more and I want to improve my swimming now.”
After finishing the Great South Run at the weekend, the trip to Ethiopia is all that remains for Clarke to complete his challenge, but heading to a completely different environment, he revealed that he wasn’t certain about what to expect. “I haven’t got a clue,” he admitted. “It’s the fifth highest capital in the world and it’ll be a nice change of conditions – I think it’ll be around 23 degrees and November is the lowest month for precipitation so it should be nice and dry.”
Within a month, Clarke will have two record-breaking fundraising efforts to his name, but far from wanting to stop there, he suggested that his next challenge was already taking shape.
“I will probably do something every year – it’s a bit irritating. I’ve got an idea in mind, it’s a bit of a silly one, but we’ll see have to see nearer the time.”