I did not take this dramatic picture that links to the video of today’s interview with William. To my eye it perfectly represents the incredible ordeal that comes when you have been running 18 hours a day for more than 6 weeks.
At the same time, as William has said repeatedly, at this time of night he is at his best. His body drenched in sweat, fatigue etched across his brow, but inside something beautiful and profound is taking place despite it all.
William lives on one of the most secluded places you could ever imagine. Sanday, is just one of the many islands that spread out from the northern tip of Scotland. It is a place so incredibly different from his current habitat it almost defies comparison.
Asked if it is possible to get lost there William says yes, but of course that was before they improved the signs. “It is lobster shaped and there are quite a few circular routes that you can use to train. It is quite convenient from that point of view.”
“I have always been an early riser so I try and get out about half past 5 and then I like to do my meditation. I always like to say that I have had a good day by 9 o’clock.” William says that he doesn’t do a lot of training. Put into context he says that because he has been training for 26 years and done 106 ultra marathons and 20,000 miles racing, he doesn’t need to run far each day.
I tell William that his wikipedia page has so many accomplishments it is hard to follow. “I have trouble myself. When I get back from racing it takes quite a few weeks to sort it all out. I have 2 or 3 statisticians that help me.”
He says that accumulating records keeps him motivated and in the sport. “I use the records to set a framework for my running. His original goal was 60 records by age 60 and then 165 records by age 65. Unfortunately he was able to get more than he had originally anticipated.
“So then I came up with the last one, Journey to 750. Basically all the records I set here 4 years ago I have been able to beat. I know I have 70.”
I joke with William that the race has been described as everything between heaven and also the direct opposite. “I am in all of them. Sometimes I feel that I am in prison and sometimes I am in heaven. I always say that I like the hours running between 9pm and midnight. “That is when I run my best. That is when I come alive, the race quiets down a bit.”
“I think in reality we drift between all those things, at different times of the day.”
“Now what I am doing is focusing on accomplishing a few more record points. I am not just focusing on the suffering and the prison aspect. At the same time I am dying for home.”
“I was just thinking just now. There are so many things I haven’t done for 2 months. I haven’t earned a penny, as a self employed man. I haven’t handled money or even made a cup of tea. So many things of normal life. It is quite scary.”
“This is all such an unusual experience, in every possible sense. Both athletically, physically, and mentally. It is such an unusual thing to do. There are only a handful people in the whole world that have ever done this.”
“But those are the experiences that you take with you to the grave. But you have to do them to get the benefit that they will always give back to you.”