THIS time last year Edinburgh-based teenager Ben Liddall was putting in the hard yards at the breakdown as a back-row player, but now he is putting in hard yards of a different kind to bolster his fund raising efforts.
With the snow and ice having been around at the start of 2021 and then the latest national lockdown announced on January 4th, many of us have had a slow start to the new year when it comes to fitness – but the opposite has been the case for Liddall, the Trinity Academy S6 pupil who plays rugby at school and for BATs Rugby.
“Why I chose 1042 miles is the first question that most people ask me,” said the 17-year-old. “Well, one of my main passions is rugby and as I am running this distance around the time of the 6 Nations and also in support of Doddie I decided to run the distance of Murrayfield to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, to the Principality Stadium in Wales, to Twickenham in England and then back to Murrayfield which is, you guessed it, 1042 miles.
“This means I will be running around 10.42 miles every day – sometimes more, sometimes less – and, all being well, finishing on April 10th.
Like many, Liddall found the first lockdown tough and needed something to fill the rugby-shaped void.
“Before the first lockdown came late last March rugby was the main sport for me,” he explained. “I did a bit of cycling with my friends, but rugby was the real serious sport that took up lots of my time and I loved playing in matches with my friends for the school and for BATs.
“BATs brings together players from Broughton, Edinburgh Accies and Trinity Accies to play at youth level and I really enjoy joining up with guys from different schools and playing as one team.
“As I have grown up, flanker has become my favourite position and I enjoyed the routine of training and matches before everything was stopped in its tracks last March.”
Cycling initially filled the gap and was enjoying getting out on his bike with friends when he could until an accident in July.
“We were cycling in Princes Street Gardens and there was a hill that I thought I could cycle down – well it turns out I couldn’t,” he recounts. “To cut a long story short, from that accident I ended up with quite a bad concussion and I don’t really remember the incident.
“I was out of hospital quite quickly, but as part of my recovery I was confined to bed for two weeks with no technology, no exercise, and no exertion.
“During that time – when I had a lot of time to think without distraction – my girlfriend Claire was running 5 kms [3.1 miles] quite regularly and was enjoying them.
“I had never really run before and when I went out for my first run with her after my recovery I was terrible, but it focused my mind and I wanted to set myself a challenge to aim towards.”
On August 25th, Ben ran a marathon [26.2 miles) – heading out to South Queensferry and back – and although he says that he did not enjoy it, what he did enjoy was the sense of achievement on crossing the finish line.
“I have always needed to set myself goals and after that marathon I realised that running was something I had become quickly passionate about and was something that I could use to help others,” Ben states.
“So, I decided to set myself a new goal – run 1042 miles in the first 100 days of 2021 in support of the two great MND charities.
“Being a big rugby fan, I knew of Doddie’s story and his MND before, but while I was resting up after my cycling accident, I read his book [My Name’5 Doddie] and his courage and attitude blew me away.
“That made me even more determined than previously to set myself goals and now I have started the running challenge I will just keep on going until April 10th.
“The support I have had so far from family, friends and the rugby community has really blown me away and I just want to raise as much money as I possibly can over the next few weeks, thanks to everyone who has got behind me.”
As of 13th January, the challenge has raised just short of £2,500.
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