Londoner runs 55 miles for 55 days across America in memory of mum
‘I pretty quickly took running to an extreme,’ admits William Goodge, 29, from London, who decided to run across America in 55 days, doing 55 miles each day.
When William’s mum passed away in 2018 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer, he was distraught and running was his way of coping.
He pushed that outlet to its limits when he decided to take on running challenges, having never been a runner before.
‘I first started running in 2018. I actually hated running before, I played rugby and running for me was actually a punishment – if I was late, I’d have to run laps of the pitch. So it’s quite interesting where I am now,’ he tells Metro.co.uk.
‘My mum passed away from cancer at the start of 2018 and I found myself running as a way to deal with it. I wasn’t very good at talking to people about it, so everyone thought I was doing okay.
‘Being 23 at the time, I had a good excuse to throw my life away because I’d just lost the most important person in my life, but out of respect to her, and because she was the most important person, I had to make it mean something.’
William’s mum had a history of the disease, having battled it three times before she died.
‘The first time she had it, she didn’t even tell us. I was 13 at the time,’ William remembers.
‘She protected us from it at that point. Then she was in remission and it came back when I was 21, then went into remission in the summer of 2017, which was the happiest moment of my life.’
When he got the good news, he was abroad in LA and had just done his first ever run, having felt jet lagged and in need of physical activity at 4am.
‘If there was ever a time for a run, it would be along a beach watching the sun rise over the Malibu hills,’ he remembers.
‘I got back from this run and that’s when she called to say she was in remission. I’ve been trying to get back a piece of that happiness with every run that I’ve been on.’
After her death, he ran a marathon, then across the UK, then America.
‘I always feel a little better better after I run,’ William says. ‘I got positive reinforcement from it – the first Christmas without her, I ran a marathon for Macmillan Cancer Support and raised £20,000.
He shares it was ‘negative’ in some way though, as he was ‘trying to hurt’ himself through running at a time when he was struggling to process her passing.
But now, he’s continued those charitable efforts, going bigger each time.
Across America, William ran 3,076 miles in 55 days – he finished in May this year. He started in California, then went to the Mojave desert, then New Mexico – where there was snow and peaks of up to 9,000 feet high – then down into Oklahoma, and ever further.
Physically, it was hard on his body to say the least.
‘I felt most of the time like my lower half had been used as a boxing bag for Mike Tyson in his prime,’ he jokes.
‘All muscles in the legs were extremely tight and tender to the touch, as well as feeling heavier than they were.
‘Doing the same movement over and over and never stretching (advised by my physio) meant I kept my stride short and snappy. Every step gave feedback of pains of varying degrees in different areas at different times.’
He had to ‘manage minor injuries’ along the way, such as muscle and joint pains.
Mentally, having so much time meant he really went ‘through everything’.
‘Fantasising about finishing and everything I was going to do was one of them,’ he says.
‘Going through the memory bank of time spent with my mum was another and even memories I had since forgotten came back which was extremely beautiful at times. I was pretty obsessed with time, numbers and miles too.’
Most days he ran on a straight long road, while two support vehicles tracked his progress so that he’d have somewhere to sleep each night at the back of one of them, and a friend to prepare his food.
Despite the physical challenges, for him, it was nothing compared to what those who go through cancer experience.
‘People fighting life-threatening diseases, they didn’t choose to be in that position. Whereas, I chose to be running there everyday. When it gets tough, the question is: can I take another step? The answer is always “yes,’ he says.
‘There’s up and downs, but the human body is amazing at adapting – I never got any bad injuries.’
Next he’ll be doing the Berlin marathon in September, then next year he wants to do ultra-races that are around 100 miles long and upwards. He also plans to do more runs across Europe.
‘Personally, it’s made me more confident, having been through something that’s so challenging,’ he says. ‘I feel ready for anything.’
So far, he’s raised about £88,000 – and he’s still going, with more donations accepted. The total is being split between the American Cancer Society and Macmillian Cancer Support.
Money goes to help those undergoing cancer treatment, from support through helplines to financial grants to cover travel to appointments.
Having watched his mum experience it first-hand, William knows just how vital these services and charities are.
To support William’s fundraising, click here.
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