By the time you read this, Simon Malley will be facing the biggest challenge of his sporting life – making sure he doesn’t fall down any mountains as he begins the Dragon’s Back Race down the mountainous spine of Wales.
Simon, a 44-year-old public health officer in south Wales, is taking part in the six-day event – dubbed the toughest mountain race in the world – from Conwy Castle to Cardiff Castle to raise money for the ME Association.
Today, Monday 5th September – and tomorrow, he'll be running over the high peaks of the Snowdonia National Park. “The first two days in the mountains will be very, very hard. It’s the most dangerous part of the event”, he told us before setting off.
Over 400 runners have entered the race and a third of them are expected to fall by the wayside “I don’t know the size of the entry last year but I heard that 90 people dropped out during the race, most of them in those first two days.” said Simon.
Simon, who represents Great Britain in his favourite sport of the triathlon, has taken up this latest challenge because his younger sister Danielle has had M.E. for some years. Danielle is seen with her two youngest children in one of the photos.
Recognising the struggle that mother-of-three Danielle and many thousands like her go through every day of the year just to keep things together, he wanted a challenge that was way out of his comfort zone.
“Like M.E., it’s all about beating the worst of the pain and exhaustion and the challenges to your mental health day by day. People with M.E. never have it easy. And for me, a trained athlete, it’s also about the adrenalin rush that gets you through the unknown.”
Until he started working in public health earlier this year, Simon had been a chef for all his working life, and ran his own restaurant in Cardiff for nine years. He has been married to Hannah for three years and comes from a very close-knit family.
Danielle, who lives in The Wirral, has been kept busy looking after his Facebook and GoFundMe pages. You very quickly learn that she is ever so proud of her older bro. And dad Rick (68), who bought a motorcycle not so long ago to celebrate the new-found freedom of retirement from work, feels much the same:
“We will be with you in mind and spirit all the way, even in the hardest most miserable moments we will be along side you in our hearts. Me and your mum are so proud of you. Stay strong Son Xxxx”, Rick wrote on Facebook.
The ME Association's wishes go out to you too. Have a brilliant race, Simon, and the very best of luck!
To keep in touch with Simon’s progress step-by-step, visit his Facebook page here.
To put a few bob into his fundraiser, please visit the link below
For people with ME/CFS who are thinking about taking on a physical fundraising challenge, or if you are organising an event that might involve people with ME/CFS, please read this notice from Neil Riley, Chairman of the ME Association.