TOM WHITTLE

The Northern Light Runner

DOB: December 1989

Place of Birth: Exeter, UK

Occupation: Endurance Athlete

Meet pioneer Tom who turned from lawyer into life enjoyer and first class world adventurer. He cycled the length of South America (12.500km) and ran across Iceland (700km) in 10 days without preparation.

Tom found where he is happiest; moving, exploring the world and exploring his boundaries. This inspiring pioneer wants to show the world what can be achieved when you dream big and push just a little bit harder. Keep an eye on this diamond of a do'er!

"The harder I run, the more I feel at peace"

How did you go from lawyer to runner, how did it all start?

When I was a lawyer my day consisted of sitting in an office for around 12 hours each day, normally carrying out a task I had little passion for. The job paid well and I think it made my parents proud but after a while those positives start to lose their effect on your happiness. I had become fairly miserable with the prospect of practicing law for another thirty years and only then being able to do what I wanted. Society’s norms say that is what must be done but two friends and I decided to challenge that by quitting our office jobs and cycling the length of South America for charity. Since completing that challenge, I’ve started my own business which I couldn’t have more passion for. It’s allowed me the flexibility to take on other physical challenges too, the Run of Fire and Ice being the latest one. There is much less security with the route I’ve chosen and there are no guarantees of success but, for me, not trying this would be a failure in itself.

What motivates you?

I want to sit at the end of my life, look back and say I gave everything I could to achieve what I was dreaming of. Knowing that you’ve given everything you possibly could, whether you win or lose at something, I find extremely satisfying.

"I want to sit at the end of my life, look back and say I gave everything I could."

How do you feel when you run?

When I run I feel peaceful. What might sound strange is the harder I run, the more I feel at peace. When you’re going full out you have to be fully focused and in the moment. Any worries or problems I may be carrying disappear and for just that moment it’s me and my run. I find it really difficult to reach the pleasurable feeling of emptying my thoughts but running is where I do that best.

"I want to sit at the end of my life, look back and say I gave everything I could."

How do you prepare for a run through Iceland?

Something a lot of people don’t know is that I didn’t actually do any specific training for Iceland and I started with a knee injury. Cycling the length of South America and training for an Ironman in one year had left me with no time at all to dedicate to it. The longest run I had done in advance of the challenge was two hours, covering 20km. Covering over 700km I put down to the mental improvements I made in the last year - putting belief in myself that no distance is too great.

What you did seems pretty impossible for most people, what is it that kept you going? Does it charge your mind, body and soul?

One of my biggest motivations for completing the run was my nephew, Sonny. He passed away last year due to a rare form of cancer, aged 1. Needless to say it was an awful event for our family but his death has made me feel really grateful to be here, alive with control over my body and how far I could go. I wanted to finish Iceland knowing I’d pushed the limits. With a four hour marathon to my name five years ago and having no other real running experience, I surprised myself and I think others would too if they started to push. I honestly believe the majority of people could do this - the hardest bit is just convincing yourself that you might be able to.

The run has given my mind, body and soul a real confidence in anything I do. I felt the odds were against me leading into the run but consistent and dogged persistence got me a long way. I’m taking these lessons into my work and other sporting challenges coming up.

What advice would you give to people who want to break free like you did, but are not doing it?

The lights will never all turn green at the same time. There will always be a reason to play safe, remain a bit longer and take the road more certain. But if you know it’s not what will ultimately lead you to your best and happiest self, stop waiting and make the change now. Figure out as much of a plan as you can in advance but a lot of it will have to be made up along the way.

What was your most memorable moment in your run?

On the penultimate day I had 127km to go. I tried to run it in one shift to see if I could really set new boundaries and achieve something I’d never dreamed of. Around 65km in, my body collapsed and I knew I couldn’t go any further. Technically I’d failed to achieve that aim but I couldn’t feel happier knowing I’d found a limit. I’d given all I could give and I took true satisfaction and pride in that. As I lay on the side of the road looking up and reflecting on my effort, the Northern Lights started to dance above me. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.

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