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Graham connolly

 

Rat Jaw from the fire tower - Barkley 2019.

Rat Jaw from the fire tower - Barkley 2019.

During my 20s I took part in MMA and was a team member of the Dinky Ninja Fight Team. Google them. They’re totally badass! It was a huge part of my life. Not just the training but from a social perspective too. We were family. When I gave up fighting I had a pretty big hole in my life. Something was missing. I suppose I kinda lost my tribe when I gave up fighting and a big sense of purpose. My why. Me, my bro and one of my friends kinda fell into running and decided to run the WHW over 3 days. Cliché mid-life crisis stuff! This just so happened to be the same weekend as the WHWR and I’d recently become friends with a guy running it. Davie Gow has a lot to answer for! All good stuff right enough. It wasn’t long before running started to fill the hole fighting had left and I started meeting my new tribe.

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Me and John living our best life.

Me and John living our best life.

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My highlights so far have to be Pyllon Endeavour and Barkley.
— Graham Connolly

I spent a lot of time training for our WHW adventure in the Kilpatrick hills so obviously it wasn’t long before we were scooped up by Davie Gow, the Laird of the Kilpatrick hills. He talked me and John into trying an ultra. He reckoned if we ran an ultra, 3 days in a row one would be easy! Made sense. I ran the Devil in 2014 and the hook was in. Davie Gow, James Stewart and my brother John all started with Paul Giblin as coached athletes at the same time. I think most people reading this would agree that being associated with James, Davie and Paul within your first 18 months of running is a pretty good place to start! This coupled with the knowledge and experience I’d gained casually hanging about with some of the best MMA fighters in the country got me off to a decent start. Due to work it was 2016 before I had the opportunity to start with Paul. I started in July and after 4 months in October he put me on my very first podium at Jedburgh. The journey we’ve had since then has undoubtedly been one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. And that’s probably very little to do with the races and results. Due to a combination of the friendships I developed early on, the tutelage of Paul and the knowledge and experience I already had as a fighter I feel like I’ve had a bit of a fast track apprenticeship. I’d went from walking with giants in one sport to walking with giants in another.

When it comes to my preferred surfaces to run on I’m a bit of a mixed bag. In training I absolutely love a flat interval session. It’s the first thing I look for when my weekly plan drops on a Sunday. They’re the sessions I physically find most difficult and where I think I have the biggest potential for progress. They’re beautifully brutal and there’s no hiding. It’s just you and a bunch of metrics which appeals to the Engineer in me. For my long runs I do whatever I think is race specific and will benefit me best which usually means running lots of trails. There are worse places to spend most of your Saturdays than the Iconic West Highland Way. If it’s a running pornography day, it’s the mountains with John. We don’t manage this as much as we’d both like but with our different races and training loads it’s not always easy to deconflict. That’s part of the sacrifice you make for progress I suppose. Most of the time running is training but every now and again we manage to put one together and it’s always pretty awesome no matter the weather.

My highlights so far have to be Pyllon Endeavour and Barkley. I suffered with poor mental in the past so getting the opportunity to be part of the team running a double West Highland Way to raise funds for SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and stimulate awareness was very important to me. The day itself was one of my favourite running experiences to date as I got to walk with some of the giants of Scottish ultra-running. However, it was the build up to it that made it really special. Some of the interactions we had leading up to the event and the stories we heard were mind-blowing, heart breaking and truly inspiring. I strongly believe we helped a lot of people and that feels pretty good. We did something good, something bigger than ourselves, and for no other reasons than it was a good thing to do. 

Barkley. I still don’t know what to say about it except if I’m lying on my death bed smiling about Barkley I won’t be surprised. It was one of the most interesting, challenging and engaging things I’ve ever had the honour to be a part of and I really miss it. When I was a kid the first thing I’d do with a Kinder Egg was throw away the instructions, and for 21 years I’ve been employed as a professional problem solver. I identify, diagnose and fix problems. I don’t think I’ve ever been so suited to a task as the one of getting to the yellow gate with only a Netflix documentary as a starting point. This was similar to Endeavour in that it was the people involved and the journey to get there that made it so special.

This year is all about building for my first go at the West Highland Way race in 2020, if I’m lucky enough to get through the ballot. I’m running the Devil in August (again!) and I’ve got Jedburgh in October. Jedburgh was my first race with Team Pyllon 3 years ago so it will be nice to see how much progress I’ve made if everything goes well on the day. My only other plan is to get myself on the waiting list for the Barkley Fall Classic. I really need to run around that damn park.