Catching up with World Record Runner, Yvie

Yvie running at Loch Ness
Photo credit: Yvie Johnson

A few months ago, we shared a story about a courageous member of our community named Yvie who was on a mission. Well, two actually. The first: run the equivalent of twice the length of mainland Great Britain to set a World Record—running from Land’s End to John o’Groats and back. The second, and most personal, to bring awareness to mental illness through her journey.

On July 5th, 2016, after the last 35-mile stretch of her Fierce Mind run challenge, she reached the finish line. We caught up with Yvie to hear about her incredible experience, and to find out what she’s planning to do after having accomplished this amazing feat.

First and foremost, congratulations Yvie! How do you feel about having reached your goal?

Deep down, I always knew I would reach the finish line, settling for a ‘when’, rather than an ‘if’, because of the obstacles that appeared each day. Finally completing it has been a mixture of relief—knowing that the anxiety of dealing with the next day’s logistical, physical and emotional task was over and I could finally get home to my family—and of longing for more days to discover more of the country, more of nature, more interesting people, all whilst on foot, the best mode of transport.

What was the hardest part about the experience?

The hardest part could never be narrowed down to one thing. There were several aspects which were very hard to deal with, but almost completely different in nature. It was very difficult to keep going when the shin splints made themselves known (I’ve never had shin splints before, and honestly never want them again). My lower legs were so swollen and bruised, lasting three quarters of the northbound journey from Day 2, that I could not stand up straight without support; I would fall backwards. A lot of bum-shuffling and moon-walking required. Keeping the thoughts that this could already be over within week one was fairly depressing, so finding the strength to physically move each day, knowing that I was going to be in pain requiring painkillers, and yet remain positive about completing the entire journey, was certainly no mean feat.

I don’t particularly want to revisit that pain again, but I also survived it, so pain in itself is not the end of anything. Conversely, once the pain was gone, it was the days where I was dealing with the fear of the main roads that were the most dark and despairing. I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I ran on the main road, whether into the traffic or with it, that it would be the end of me; I was very afraid of the near misses becoming hits. On these days, my mileage reduced because I couldn’t pull myself away from a pit stop and get back out onto the road. The fear was pretty paralysing. On these days, I was also solo. As soon as I was joined by another runner or with vehicle support, the fear of drivers was never as strong.

A pause from the run to contemplate nature
Photo credit: Yvie Johnson
What was the best thing about your run?

The best things would be many – the best part of the day would always be the end where I am scooped up by a wonderful human being who would open their home, their heart, and share their food with me so that I could rest and recuperate. There was also the occasional day where the run itself was soul-reviving. When this happened, when I was distracted by the smells, colours, sounds of my surroundings to the point that I had to take a photo and just absorb it, then I knew I was in a good place, physically and emotionally. You can’t get that feeling from behind a windscreen.

Did the pep talks you got from friends, fans, and followers help?

The pep talks made me smile because they were always unexpected, and they would usually happen when I had just stopped for a break and was near a random bystander, which would often make me laugh. Having my phone talk to me as my only company was an absolute joy.

How do you feel this World Record setting achievement has impacted your cause?

I believe the full impact of this challenge has yet to be realised. A few times on the run I made mention in my daily synopses that I had no idea if they were being read, if what I was doing was making any difference because I often felt very alone and insignificant compared to the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that would pass by without so much as a wave or other hello. I wondered if what I was doing mattered. Eventually, however, the message of what I was doing began to reach people who would contact me from all corners of the UK, they shared their stories, their difficulties with their own mental illness or of someone they love, and to wish me well.

I would hope that this challenge, now realised, will help others to recognise that with determination and belief, anything at all can be achieved, and that this will confirm that a diagnosis is not the end of the story. It is simply a new chapter.

Run to the finish line to set her World Record
Photo credit: Yvie Johnson
What are you looking to accomplish next?

I told myself that I would not allow myself to consider another challenge until I’d officially finalised this one. I’ve now the admin task of collating my evidence for Guinness World Records. There’s a lot of evidence to gather, as well as write out the anecdotal stories that came with each day so that the nuggets I had learnt can be shared. However, being the person that I am, getting back to racing will certainly be on the cards, and I intend to make use of my newly-created ultra-running pins on the hills, trails and mountains of Wales. Micro-adventures are always there for the taking. As for adventures taking me to new places and to another level, that is yet to be decided.

Any advice for others looking to take on a challenge like yours?

I couldn’t find the ‘How to’ book of ‘solo-running without a support crew, but with as much support as I could muster along the way‘. So I decided to write it. The lesson I learned from my very first triathlon was that if I made all of the mistakes in the beginning, then I’d become an expert very quickly. Now that I have made all of the mistakes with this challenge – from routes to nutrition, clothing choice to timings – I know my next adventures will be much slicker.

I guess, if you want to take on a challenge that is greater than your expectations, expect it to go very differently to your plan. Plan A is not the plan, it’s just a plan. I think, by the time I finished, I was somewhere near Plan W. Which means I still finished within the plan. Result!

Yvie, words cannot describe how humbled and honored we are to have been along with you on this awe-inspiring journey. Wherever your next adventure takes you, we know you will always face it with a fierce mind, kind heart, and indomitable will.

To help Yvie’s cause, you can donate here, and to learn more about how to get involved, please visit Mind, BiPolar UKSAMH, Place2Be, and Young Minds.

– The Endomondo Team

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