By Paul Hammond
An inspiring story of ultra-running, adventuring and motivational speaking.
My vision is to inspire others to fulfil their potential and live their dreams, by encouraging them to face their fears and make a Life Leap to transform their world.
My Embercombe story began four years ago. I met a guy in a hostel in Athens, and we linked up on Facebook. Some months later he posted a message asking if anyone in Exeter could offer him a lift to Embercombe as he was volunteering there. He invited me to come along. I hadn’t heard of Embercombe, but I fell in love with the place from that very first visit. About a year later I took part in one of the Experience Weekends, and began helping out with some maintenance work on site. I began to connect more deeply to the place and the people there.
I felt I needed some help and guidance, and decided The Journey was exactly what I needed to move forward. The course helped me in many ways. It was the first time I’d spent thinking about who I truly am. It helped to start my new journey of self-development and taking action in the world, using my gifts and developing what I love to find my own contribution. The location and facilitators were amazing.
I’d gone through painful experiences in my life. Five years ago, my family and I went through our hardest time. My younger brother passed away following a sudden brain haemorrhage. We spent two weeks beside his bed trying to encourage him and support for him to pull through. But there was too much damage for another operation. He never woke from his induced coma. We had to say goodbye. He was declared brain dead, and we had to make a decision to turn the life support machine off.
It made me realise that life is short. Life is precious. You’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and take on challenges. You’ve got to go for what you believe in. You’ve got to go for your dreams and what makes you happy, and use your gifts to help make a difference to others and our world. I’ve got two sons. They are and always will be my biggest achievement. I want to inspire them to make the most of every opportunity life gives them.
But what could I offer? From an early age I’d always been interested in running, an interest which has developed over the years. Though life sometimes gets in the way with jobs and family commitments, I always make time for personal challenges. Running is my way of getting out, enjoying nature, having time to think and explore new places.
My first London Marathon was 20 years ago and it was a big challenge. I didn’t really know how to train, what to eat or prepare so I just pushed myself through it. It hurt… a lot!!! …but I got around. Six years ago, on my fourth London Marathon I was pushing hard approaching the finish line when something happened that made me think I would never run again. I felt a huge pain in my chest… like I had been shot… I later discovered my lung had collapsed. Anyone that has ever run will know you need your lungs! That day I managed to finish the marathon, but running for the rest of my life was in doubt. After an operation and a few months recovery I gradually got back to full fitness.
About two years ago friend said to me, “If you want your ultimate running experience, you’ve got to do the Marathon Des Sables.” It is known as the Toughest Footrace on Earth. A truly gruelling six day adventure. Running 250km (156miles) in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments – the Sahara desert – through endless dunes, over rocky jebels, and across white-hot salt plains with temperatures regularly reaching 50 centigrade. You are self-sufficient and carry all your own food and equipment for the week on your back. Communal goat’s-hair Berber tents are pitched every night and water is rationed. I managed to get a place through a charity and took part in the 2016 race.
It was the biggest challenge of my life physically and mentally. There were times during the event where I felt, ‘I can’t do this’. I felt I’d hit rock bottom and it took every ounce of my will to get through. What kept me going was the desire to achieve this for my two sons and as a tribute and honour to my brother.
A week after finishing the Marathon des Sables, with the biggest blisters I’ve ever had, I ran my fifth London Marathon. I knew I wasn’t up for a fast time, so I decided to run it in fancy dress. I stayed up late the night before the race finishing off making the costume, which meant I had no experience running in it. I dressed as Big Ben! The costume got a lot of attention and I even got a World Record for the fastest marathon dressed as a famous land mark!
Through the tragedy of losing my brother, I understood that life is short and very precious. We need to step up and take a leap, to set ambitious goals and refuse to take life for granted. We never know when our time is up. It has inspired me to push on, no matter how hard things are. I want to inspire people, to continue to motivate my sons, friends, family, everyone. We all have gifts we can use and offer to help make a difference for a purposeful life.
I needed a new challenge. I wanted to create a platform to inspire others and help our world. To be able to make a difference I knew I needed to share my story, but my biggest fear was public speaking. To help me overcome my fear and help me understand the story I wanted to tell, I signed up for the Speaking out course at Embercombe. I was taking a leap out of my comfort zone, but knew if I didn’t face my fear I wouldn’t be able to grow, learn and help others. The course gave me a lot more confidence to be able to stand in front of a group and tell my story.
Less than a week later I pushed my fear further by booking to give a talk in a school assembly. The kids and the teachers loved it so much, they asked me back this month to give another assembly this time to the whole school of over 500 people. As with any new thing you do, practice gives you more confidence to grow and learn. I feel it’s now time to take my next life leap.
I have two main passions… running and travel. For my next challenge I decided I wanted to incorporate as many countries as I could.
I plan to be perhaps the first person to complete a marathon in every single country of the world. There are 196 sovereign states, and I want to include Scotland, Wales, Northern Island and Antarctica to make it 200 marathons. As well as lots of travelling and running, I plan to meet and interview people from all over the world, learning about their stories and finding inspiration for myself and others.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and really encourage you to use 2018 to take on your own Life Leap Challenge to transform your world.
If you would like to follow my challenge my website is: www.lifeleapchallenge.com
And on Facebook: Life Leap Challenge