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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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I left pub and ran 30 miles - now I’m running Death Valley

This feature is about 9 years old

Dan Barrow-Fields (pictured below) once left his mates and ran 30 miles for no reason. He's now taking on the toughest race on the planet

Impulsive behaviour runs in my blood. I once left the pub after drinking a good few shots on a Friday night and ran 30 miles. I had this overwhelming urge. Nearly killed me. But I just had to do it.

My dad did that kind of thing too. And my brother once left a job after three hours. So it runs in the family.

But while many may see this as a problem, I often see it as a virtue. For example: volunteering. I hate doing the same thing, the same routine all the time. And I love change so I volunteer for a number of charities, raising funds and thinking up increasingly more hazardous challenges.

I’ve been there and done the parachuting, the abseiling, the marathons, the bath of beans, the walks, the cycles, the gap years… I could go on. But I haven’t run through Death Valley. And that’s going to be different.

Badwater 135 is the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet. And I’ve just signed up to compete in it.

It covers 135 miles non-stop from Death Valley in the Mojave Desert to Mount Whitney, California.

Even the landmark names along the course make you grimace: Furnace Creek, Devil’s Cornfield and the Devil’s Golf Course.

Temperatures will reach 115 Fahrenheit so it’s not about your pace or your time; it’s about being hydrated enough to stay alive and making sure you don’t get sunstroke which in itself can be a killer.

At that temperature your body can go into the same shock as hypothermia. It shuts down in the same way. So you’ve got to be clear of the warning signs.

The end is as bad as the start: you might no longer be in searing heat, but you’ve to ascend over 8,300 feet to the finish line.

At 35, I’m fit. I run. I cycle. I jog. But temperatures in my hometown in West Lothian aren’t any match. So I’m spending a month in June in California to acclimatise and to get some miles in.

The point of it all is fundraising for The Red Cross. I do IT consultancy work for the organisation in Switzerland and heard how a fellow colleague did the Marathon des Sables – one of the toughest ultras in the world – to raise cash for its work in Haiti. I unashamedly want to go one better: I want to do the toughest race in the world.

You just don’t know what will happen during the race. Injury is always an issue – you fully expect to put yourself through extreme levels of inhumane torture but as long as it’s just pain and doesn’t prevent you from putting one leg in front of the other, then it’s always bearable.

Anyway I couldn’t take the ignominy of failure; if need be I’ll crawl the 135 miles.

My target is to raise £3,000. I’m a third of the way there.

The biggest problem is I go back to work two days after I return. Not sure how I’ll cope with that. Think it may take a good bit longer to recover.

That might be the bigger challenge.