In 2007 Swindon Advertiser editor Dave King took on the unusual challenge of running around the British Isles in 80 races. The project resulted in a book which has raised funds for charity and helped further nationwide awareness of autism

HOW do you fancy taking a year out to go running around the British Isles?

It’s hard to imagine how 12 months ago I had just come to the end of a gruelling athletic challenge – a project which had been 18 months in the planning, beginning at three minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve in 2006 with a 2km race in Derbyshire.

That was the Bryan Clifton Memorial Race, which is held in the town of Milford on the edge of the Peak District.

It is the last and first race of the year in the UK, since you set off on the brisk run to the village of Duffield in one year, and then finish outside the Milford Social Club in the next year.

So it was with a straightforward and almost understated “Are you ready? Go” that my 12-month running adventure got under way in the Derwent Valley.

That New Year’s Eve race in 2006 was cold and damp.

After a few hours’ sleep I jumped in the car and was heading for Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall, to take part in the devilishly tough New Year’s Day race, the Brown Willy 6.

This involves taking on the Duchy’s highest point at 1,293ft.

It was a gruelling slog across unforgiving moorland where the weather changed from glorious sunshine to a fierce hailstorm halfway through the run.

Those two races set the template for an incredible 12 months of running.

It was an amazing tour which took in races as far north as the Cape Wrath Challenge – five races in six days along the stunning coastline of north west Scotland – to the summertime St Levan 10km around quiet Cornish country lanes, just a stone’s throw from Land’s End.

During 2007, I ran in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Wales, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.

They included mass participation events, such as the Bupa Great North Run and the Flora London Marathon, to lower-key gatherings such as the Tickhill Gala Run, in South Yorkshire and the Spilsby Show 6, in Lincolnshire.

I went in search of historical hoe downs like the Blaydon Races, in Tyneside, the Braemar Highland Games, in Royal Deeside and the Wenlock Olympian Games, in Shropshire.

Among the 80 races was the Nationwide Swindon Half Marathon which went brilliantly and which I rated, along with the Lancashire-based Freckleton Half Marathon, as the two best organised races in the UK.

No challenge was passed up. The Terminator, The Grizzly and the Sleepwalker Midnight Marathon over the Brecon Beacons were each taken on and ticked off.

The Welsh monster, which required head torches and a map, was the most frightening and hardest of all the 80 races.

Several times I stumbled and fell during the course of this 20-mile torture, gashing my face as I climbed the gruelling 2,000ft hill in the pitch dark, weighted down by a rucksack.

Possessing very limited map-reading ability, it was a miracle that I managed to find my way back to the finish in Talybont on Usk, exhausted and almost at my physical limit.

I had a lot of fun too, road racing, cross country, fell running, orienteering and even hashing.

I ran dressed as a banana chased by hundreds of runners in Milton Keynes for Leukaemia Research, and took part in the UK’s biggest Santa run in Liverpool.

I even ran with a dog in the sport of Cani-X from Salisbury Plain to Stonehenge who, a mile from the finish, demanded a pit-stop and would not budge!

Remarkably, I won one race, inside a prison! I cantered to a 10km victory against inmates based at the Immigration Removal Centre, in Gosport near Portsmouth.

The race was seven laps inside a barbed wire fence.

The challenge came to a climax back in Milford on December 31, 2007, when I returned to the Derbyshire town for the 2km race which had begun the whole adventure.

And, at 12.03am on January 1, 2008, the whole project was completed.

It was an amazing journey, meeting some remarkable people along the way and visiting parts of the British Isles which I have never been to before.

This was a voyage of discovery when I ran just short of 700 miles and travelled more than 22,000 miles around the British Isles. Without doubt, it was the most worthwhile thing I have done.

l See more from Dave’s book launch in Snapped, Page 31