There is something instinctive in human nature for the amateur to celebrate the professional. Radcliffe. Farah. Bolt. Kimetto. Rudisha. We watch in awe as the extraordinary achieve the extraordinary. But there is something more extraordinary than this: the ordinary achieving the extraordinary.
I am not saying Colin Dear (pictured below) – or Mr Dear as he is known to pupils at Royal Russell School in Croydon – is ordinary. Ordinary humans do not run ultramarathons; in Colin’s case: the South Downs Way 50, the Thames Trot 50, and – on his own – the 66-mile Vanguard Way. But Colin is no Kimetto. But then Kimetto is no Colin Dear. On Friday, Colin will run out of the red gates of Royal Russell, gain a 152-mile path that circumnavigates the capital called the London Loop, and proceed to cover a marathon. He will then go home and put his two children to bed.
The next day, he will run a further 50 miles, punctuating his journey where the Thames in the faraway east of London dissects the Loop.
I can scarcely imagine the state of his legs.
The next day, he will run 28 miles to home.
He does not know the route, of course. This is an ordinary man, after all. What person with a full-time, often seven-day-a-week job, a pile of marking and planning, and a wife and two children, has time to make wild forays across London to find a single track that threads its way innocuously through often grim outskirts? Colin’s navigation will be the navigation of hope. He will rely on route markers. On day two he will put his faith in the hands of a bloke with a van and a mountain bike; at others times he will rely on teaching colleagues who run a bit.
At least he has done some training – as much as (don’t forget) a man with a full-time, often seven-day-a-week job, a pile of marking and planning, and a wife and two children, can. When he is on duty in a boarding house on a Sunday, Colin cannot leave the school site – a scenario not conducive to training for ultramarathons. His solution? He devised a one-mile loop around school, never more than five minutes from the boarding house, and he runs it again and again and again. Twenty is his record, often capping off 60-70-mile weeks.
As a teacher, hundreds of children come and go. Some you remember; some disappear into a blur of faces and jumbled recollections. For Colin, one of the many was Sadie France. Wherever pupils go after school, whatever they do (and however much they resisted your attempts at education), you hope – as a teacher – that they will be okay: get a job, fall in love, be happy. But some are not okay. Sadie wasn’t. Aged 23, she was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. She died in April. And you – as a teacher – are left with the aching knowledge that that girl – that bright, lively and of-course-she-had-her-frustrating-moments girl, whose coursework you slaved over and whose name you repeatedly registered – is no longer.
Colin is running for Sadie, running for the Teens Unite Fighting Cancer charity that helped to give her a joyous conclusion to her life.
And, perhaps, to show that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
To sponsor Colin, please visit the following link. And do watch the YouTube clip below.