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UWTSD student runs 10 marathons in 10 days

Gary Howells

Gary Howells, a first year BSc Sport and Exercise Science student at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), is close to completing an epic charity challenge – running 10 marathons in 10 days.

A highly experienced athlete and popular running coach, Gary Howells from Llanelli is undertaking the challenge by running on a treadmill in his house and is determined to raise as much money as possible for the Brathay Trust, the NHS as well as numerous other local charities.  He’s already managed to raise over £6000 thanks to the generosity of local donors as we well as numerous donations via his Just Giving page.

Gary completed his first marathon on May 8th and will finish on Sunday, May 17th.  However, he has indicated that if the money continues to come in, he would consider carrying on for longer!

In 2008, Gary took part in the gruelling Marathon des Sables and having completed that arduous ultra-marathon, he wanted to push himself even further and complete 10 marathons in 10 days.  Work and family commitments meant that he couldn’t find the time to undertake this challenge – that was until lockdown. With time to spare, Gary decided that this was his opportunity to push himself physically whilst also raising money for good causes.

“I’d always wanted to do it but never had the time, but at the start of lockdown, I started doing virtual runs.  The Brathay 10in10 has always appealed to me but I’ve never been able to get the time off to fit in with it. So having a treadmill in my garage the thoughts started to turn in my head. What better way than raising money for some amazing charities whilst challenging myself to 10in10 on a treadmill?”

The original Brathay 10in10 is a tough endurance challenge that requires athletes to run 26.2 mile circuit of Windermere 10 times over 10 days but Gary has adapted this and is instead running 10 marathons in 10 days on his treadmill at home in Llanelli.

“Alongside me, many friends and family are also joining in and are doing other 10 in 10 challenges.  Some are doing 10 half marathons, other are doing 10 x 10k runs and my children are even joining in and doing 1 mile every day for 10 days.

“I have a Just Giving page and people are being very generous.  We’ve also had a lot of support in terms of sponsorship from local companies.  I broadcast part of my daily runs on Facebook Live and I’m overwhelmed by people’s support.  People all over the UK are messaging me to say how I’m motivating them which is fantastic.  I’m trying to motivate as many people as possible and it’s great to be able to encourage people to do something positive.”

Gary, who left the Army in 2007, set up his own run coaching business and has been working with clients, preparing them for triathlons and other running challenges ever since.

A running movement specialist, Gary recently decided that he wanted to broaden his knowledge of the body so decided to return to education and enrol to study the BSc Sport and Exercise Science programme at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Carmarthen campus.

“I decided to go back to University to gather more knowledge and gain a better understanding of the science behind it all,” says Gary.  “During my first year, I’ve realised that there are some coaches and trainers out there offering advice but have no evidence or science to back it up.  If I‘m telling someone to do something, I want to understand why I’m asking them to do that particular exercise.

“The course has really changed my view on training people – I don’t tell them just to do something, I explain why they’re doing it and have explored the science is behind it.  It’s really changed my view on training and has given me a knowledge based approach. After all, one size doesn’t fit all.

“I’ve really enjoyed the first year,” continues the 38 year old father of two.  “There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t looked forward to going in.  Going back to University as a mature student means that I’m doing it because I really want to do it.  I can’t wait to back to year two.”

Geraint Forster, the programme director of the BSc Sport and Exercise Science at UWTSD believes that Gary’s experience, coupled with his academic knowledge, is really helping him with his current challenge.

“Gary is a great example of the type of mature student that our degrees cater for,” says Geraint.  “He was already an accomplished ultra-runner with his own running coaching business, but wanted to be able to progress his coaching to the next level by furthering his academic knowledge.

“The knowledge he has developed already on the course is helping him with his current challenge. I VO2max tested Gary earlier in the year in our Physiology Laboratory, and our analysis of these results has helped Gary to be able to pace himself to ensure that he can achieve this phenomenal challenge of completing 10 marathons in 10 days. He is also using this challenge as a personal experiment by analysing his sweat rate and composition so he can more accurately hydrate himself in future events, such as a multi-day ultramarathon in the Grand Canyon that he is taking part in later in the year.

“Gary’s enthusiasm and commitment is also rubbing off on the other students. Having relatively small group sizes and a nice blend of mature students and school-leavers makes for a really motivated and cohesive student cohort,” adds Geraint.