Written By Dan Keeley
Dan ran 1,250 miles in 65 days from the Colosseum in Rome back to the London Eye (solo & self-supported) to share his journey of recovery on a national scale and play his part to inspire thousands of others to speak up about their own personal battles.
In 2017, after a 5 year battle with bipolar disorder and seeing the power of vulnerability time and again by speaking openly about his experiences, Dan ran 1,250 miles in 65 days from the Colosseum in Rome back to the London Eye (solo & self-supported) to share his journey of recovery on a national scale and play his part to inspire thousands of others to speak up about their own personal battles.
Even though Dan ticked off a few ultra-distances whilst on the adventure, he’s never officially considered himself an ultra-runner – that is, until completing the 50km Spring Trail Series by Ultra X race last weekend in Surrey in just over 5 hours. Not bad considering the conditions!
Now one of the UK’s’ most sought-after mental health activists, keynote speakers and endurance-runners, we asked Dan to freestyle around his story and how he’s managed to harness and channel the strengths that he found from his adversity into endurance running
Rome to Home
Rome To Home had such a big why behind it – to share my story in the biggest way possible to empower as many other people as I could to find the courage to speak up when they’re suffering. That was my fuel from start to finish, the purpose which kept the legs ticking over when the energy levels dropped and the daily reminder that the adventure (and the fundraising for CALM) was never really about me but rather a platform from which a story of hope, resilience, vulnerability and overcoming adversity could be shared in such a way that it would speak to the hearts and minds of those that had lost all hope for themselves. And despite being out there by myself for most of the time, it was one massive team effort behind the scenes.
Five years earlier, after burning out and pushing my mind to the limit for over 6 months, I was stopping traffic from the middle lane of a major motorway near Lake Garda believing I was The Chosen One in an attempt to force the world to ‘slow down and follow our hearts’. I lost my mind. After time in the psychiatric wards both in Italy and back in the UK, and after being discharged with the diagnoses of bipolar disorder, I then faced a crippling battle where I lost all hope for myself. Life seemed pointless – I was depleted, exhausted, embarrassed, overwhelmed and ready to check out – and without the love and support of those closest to me coupled with the professional support I was so lucky to receive given I was critical, I wouldn’t be writing these words. It was a tough chapter.
Speaking up about my experiences and discovering minimalism was a game-changer for me – stripping it back, starting again and removing as much excess from my life as I possibly could to live much more intentionally, with as much capacity as possible to focus on the things which really matter most in life: our health, relationships, passions, growth and contributing to the lives of others. And the parallels with taking on adventure and ultra-distances became a no-brainer, most-importantly the community aspect and how we’re ultimately ‘alone together’ and lighting up every one of those ‘five neon lights’ when we sign up for these challenges…
Our physical and mental health… our relationships with ourselves, those closest to us and those we’re taking on the challenge with… our shared passions and the purity of experiencing nature in this way and moving how we were born to move… our personal growth with every training run, nutrition-plan and every step whilst out there on the trails… and how we’re lifting everyone else up with us. It’s a beautiful beautiful thing which I know so many of the Ultra X community share in bucket loads.
In my day-to-day life now which flows between the mental-health and endurance-running worlds, I’m fascinated about everyone else’s journey and how others have found the meaning from the pain we all inevitably experience in life; to dig deep and re-write the story about why this was meant to happen to us so we can draw the strength and determination and courage and empathy and compassion and grit and gut and toil and endurance that comes from going through these experiences, and then channelling these gifts through the soles of our feet to journey through these stunning landscapes together whilst championing everyone else around us to reach that finish line.
This is what it’s all about, these stories of resilience and overcoming adversity which light me up the most, and I know I’m preaching to the converted (with my feet on the ground, don’t worry) when I say that we’re all on this ‘mental adventure’ together.
See you out there!
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