In July 2016, Brendan Rendall became the first man to run the full length of Malawi, running 708 miles in 25 days, raising over £35,000 for FOMO (Friends of Mulanje Orphans). Having achieved such an amazing feet, Brendan clearly developed a thirst for more and returned to the UK to take on his next sensational challenge…to run from the most northern tip of Scotland, John O Groats, to the furthest southern area of England, Lands End, another mammoth journey that saw him clock up well over 700 miles for the second time this year.
Amazed by this man’s dedication, and captured by his inspirational acts as he raised thousands of pounds for his fantastic charity, I had to speak to the man himself to find out more about his legendary achievements. In all honesty, I could have spoken to Brendan all day about running, but I tried to stick to a handful of core questions which I believe give a great insight into his life-changing journeys.
Q1. First thing’s first Brendan…you have raised a staggering £38,000 for the Malawi charity Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO). Hats off for that level of fundraising! But what I really wanted to know was what first brought this charity into your heart?
“Malawi has had a very special place in my heart since I first visited it back in 2008. 15 of us went with ActionAid and completed a 400km charity cycle followed by visiting their projects. This was my 1st introduction to extreme poverty. On returning to the UK I was inspired to continue to support and raise money. I also wanted to return to Malawi and find out more. In 2009 I returned to visit FOMO an orphan care programme that provides food, health care and support to 4,500 orphans in Mulanje, South Malawi. I have been involved with this small charity ever since as I know the money goes directly to the projects, so #RunMalawi was fundraising to build the science block for their secondary school. The fundraising topped 35K from the Malawi run alone and the science block is now completed.”
Q2. Visiting such a poverty-stricken part of the world clearly had a huge effect on your life and your running. So much so that 708 miles across Malawi clearly didn’t have you completely satisfied. Having completed #RunMalawi in July, what superman recovery tactics got you ready to run the length of the UK just 2 months later?
“After finishing #RunMalawi I didn’t actually run for several weeks, I returned to the UK in the middle of August. It wasn’t until the week before I started that I put a few miles in. The first few days in Scotland were tough and my legs were heavy, but I think the rest/no training in between the 2 runs certainly helped. By week 2 I was really comfortable and relaxed so the long rest between runs seemed to work this time.”
It sounds like you got the training/rest balance spot on! There’s definitely a lesson in there for many of us crazy runners, myself included!
Q3. I can see that FOMO made running Malawi a very clear choice for you, but what put John O Groats to Lands End next on your bucket list?
“I cycled JOGLE (John O Groats to Lands End) 5 years ago. I originally wanted to run it the following year 2012, but instead went traveling. So 5 years on it seemed fitting I would go back and run it.”
You’ve already done this journey on your bike?…I don’t think we are dealing with any ordinary man here!
Q4. Having cycled this journey previously, was running the same distance an even tougher physical challenge?
“Yes, cycling and running it was 2 very different experiences. Physically I found them very different. I think after running Malawi I had more confidence going into running it. When I cycled it I only trained for 3 months beforehand. I do think physically running it took more out of me than the cycle but also the mental preparation to run at least a marathon every day takes a lot of preparation. Also the advantage of cycling it is that your legs can have a much-needed rest when you go down hill.”
Q5. There must be so much to plan before embarking on a journey of the proportion of your two epic runs. What’s in your backpack of absolute essentials to get you through all of those miles?
“Luckily, I didn’t have a rucksack or bag with me during #RunMalawi so I could concentrate on the running which I needed to do as it was a slight race each morning to beat the heat. On this run, I tended to make sure I would eat a large meal in the evening, usually consisting of rice, beans and chicken. I would usually run 13/15 miles then eat breakfast which consisted of coffee, peanut butter jam rolls, and a rice type porridge. I would usually have another 10 minute break at mile 20, usually having another snack.
My good friend Emma Timmis (who has run coast to coast in Africa) had a basket on her bike which had the GoPro, plasters and a few energy bars/gels.
When running Great Britain, it was much simpler as I would carry everything in my rucksack including plasters, phone, whistle, and other clothing.”
Q6. You mentioned Emma Timmis and this leads me onto my next question and one thing that I always wonder when hearing of people completing such demanding running adventures…Did you have yourself any kind of support crew to help you along the way in either Malawi or the UK, or were you flying solo?
“JOGLE was a solo mission. What was great about running Great Britain was that I inspired Jane to have an adventure (we met previously whilst packing a large container aid that is sent to Malawi) and she joined me by driving John O Groats to Lands End – it made my life a little easier as I could change running trainers and had a change of clothes if I needed it. From Bristol to Lands End I went completely solo having my family join me in Glastonbury which was great to have my parents cycling and my nieces and nephew running a little.”
“Malawi was different as it was very much a team challenge. I had an incredible team…Emma Timmis, as mentioned previously who had ran the coast to coast of Africa was supporting me on her bike. She was fantastic! Providing me with water, snacks and space when I needed it. We had a jeep that would follow me more closely, with Mary the founder of FOMO, her husband and a driver. We also had a truck with 10 members supporting us helping with the cooking, putting up tents and making the whole experience so very special. We camped at schools so they would also go ahead and meet the school. It was so incredible to be greeted at the end of each day/marathon by all the children.”
Q7. 27 days of running a marathon distance every single day in Malawi and 35 days doing exactly the same thing in the UK…mentally, that is one a hell of a journey! How did you motivate yourself when the going got tough?
“In Malawi, it was a tough challenge. I did not have the luxury of showers and hotels, instead camping and washing in buckets of water. The heat also made it tougher but luckily in the shade it was fine. Also witnessing extreme poverty was emotional, so running Great Britain seemed less of a challenge in some ways. Mentally I knew I could get snacks when I wanted, I didn’t have the heat and I knew at the end of each day I would get to sleep in a bed. I think I ran Great Britain very relaxed and this seemed to help me avoid injury and it also kept me strong mentally, never doubting that I could complete the run.”
Q8. Having just run 2 marathons in 8 days myself, I am suffering from an ITB injury. Surely, your legs are now in need of a good rest, or is it quite the opposite? Dare you ease off too much on the mileage?
“I strangely finished running Great Britain feeling strong, injury free and not too tired. I have adjusted back by only running a few times per week. After Malawi however, I experienced leg problems. They both swelled and I had fluid on them. So, in some ways I could’t run for a while after that. I am actually more mentally tired now after running the UK, so until January it will be smaller runs and other cardio activities.”
Q9. You have taken in some beautiful sights along your way, but if you could choose to wake up to one single view from each of your journeys, where would they be?
“Running Great Britain has been so beautiful. The weather was also a factor that made it very special, to have only got wet for 1 hour in 35 days was certainly very lucky. Running the Great Glen Way and West Highland Way in Scotland were both highlights. Running down the old A road from Glasgow to Carlisle had dramatic scenery and obviously the lakes and canals from Kendal to South Manchester are equally stunning. Ross on wye down to Glastonbury, Dartmoor all made this run so visually beautiful, but if I had to choose one place that you could wake up to in the UK it would be somewhere on the south west coastal path between Porthtowan and Gwithian. This really is a dramatic coast line and has stunning views of the cliffs and sea.”
“As for Malawi, the whole country is so beautiful, but it’s hard not to be drawn to Lake Malawi – undeveloped and unspoilt areas of stunning beauty. So if I had to choose one place to wake up to it would be somewhere on the Lake side.”
Q10. You will no doubt inspire others to take the plunge into their own running dreams. What advice would you give to anyone wishing to tackle a challenge similar to this one?
“Anyone planning a challenge or inspired following others doing these bigger runs/cycles/adventures my advice would be to do it. You really can make these runs cheap, by wild camping and eating sensibly, they don’t have to cost much. If you are inspired to do something like a bigger running challenge, go ahead and do it! You never know where it might lead and what you may take from it. For me, life is about collecting experiences and memories. Anyone really can achieve these things, with drive and passion any thing is possible. Take the plunge and have no regrets.”
The Final Question and I am sure the one that is on everyone’s lips…what’s next for the man who has run the length of Malawi and the length of the UK?..I dread to imagine what those poor legs are going to be put through next!
“Whats next? That’s a question I have been hearing a lot. I want to spend the next year racing again over 10km – marathon. I am looking at the Wales coastal path as I feel like I’ve left that out. I also need to run Hadrian’s Wall and I have entered UltraGreatBritain, which is a 200-mile Coast to Coast ultra.
But the long-term plan is to build up to run the Coast to Coast of Africa, and my dream is to eventually run from Cairo to Cape Town.
Holy frickin’ smokes! And I thought I had an ambitious appetite but you really are aiming high when it comes to clocking up the miles in your running trainers!
Well Brendan, I certainly feel like the Sprint Kitchen readers now have a firm grasp on the man behind the madness! You have achieved legendary status in my book and I know you will continue to inspire so many others, myself included. It has been a pleasure to speak to you on SK and I wish you all of the look in the world with those upcoming challenges! You have certainly thrown some more fuel onto my ambition fire!
Thanks for tuning in folks! I hope you enjoyed reading about Brendan’s ventures, and I would love to hear how his story has spread inspiration into your day. You can visit Brendan’s blog here to keep up with his amazing journeys.