I love it when I have the opportunity to share inspirational stories on this site. Last year I was particularly fortunate, as I was lucky enough to meet Paul Pritchard and Peter Wheatley, as well as joining the team from Just Like Jack in the Point to Pinnacle.
I thought it was about time I share the story of another amazing guy I have been lucky enough to meet in the last year. I am not shy about saying I consider myself a pretty decent runner, but I am in awe of what Ben Hirst is capable of.
Despite the amazing things this guy has already achieved and his knowledge that there is still more he will accomplish, Ben is a very humble and down to earth guy, who is always encouraging of other runners regardless of their abilities.
You’d never guess it of someone as fearless and positive as Ben, but he has actually fought his own difficult and long-running battles with depression in the past.
Humble guy that he is, Ben says little about the undoubtedly extensive personal courage and effort he must have needed to pull himself up. But he does speak enthusiastically about how important and transformative his decision to take up running was for his mental health.
So much so, that he now actively works to share his experience with others. His Run for Mental Health page chronicles his ongoing efforts to seek out challenges and to shine a light on mental health. It offers an honest insight from someone who has been there and I would strongly recommend everyone check it out.
Last weekend, Ben attempted his latest challenge, a solo 217km trail run through some of the most brutal terrain Victoria could find. Sadly, after 23 hours battling hellish terrain, he was forced to withdraw in the middle section of the race, when it became apparent he was falling too far behind the cut off time. While all of his friends and supporters are incredibly proud of him, it would be trite of me to say, he has no reason to be disappointed.
An ultra-endurance event is a considerable personal investment, requiring hours on hours of training, no shortage of pain and of course the sacrifice of time with friends and family. After all of this, the decision to withdraw midway through the race is not an easy one. In one sense, it is actually harder to admit defeat than to keep battling through in denial of the pain and fatigue. Because as much as it hurts and you want the pain to stop, you don’t want it to have been ‘for nothing' (not that it ever is, but that's how it feels at the time). Many runners- desperate not to accept failure- will keep going beyond when they should stop- and that is when they often injure themselves.
I have written previously how much I value my own failures and I am glad Ben had the courage the stop. He has too much else to achieve to let himself be slowed down by serious injury. And while he must be gutted right now, he knows he has a proven ability to pick himself up again.
So despite the fact that your latest adventure did not go quite to plan, I would like to join with many others when I say congratulations, Ben, not just on your latest incredible effort, but also for the arguably even more difficult achievement in overcoming your depression and becoming the great guy that you are today.