Most people look forward to their summer break as a time for rest and relaxation. Tish Joyce, a businesswoman and grandmother from Otley has other ideas that don’t involve laying by a pool and soaking up the sun’s rays.
To celebrate her 50th year, Tish will complete the first stage of her incredible dream to ‘Run the World’ by completing a solo run across Europe – a total of 2,000 kilometres across seven countries. On July 19 she will fly to Hanover and travel on to Bad Salzuflen. The following day will mark the start of ‘the most amazing run of her life’ which will take her six weeks to complete.
Not one to take it easy, Tish planned this new challenge after running the gruelling 250k Marathon Des Sables in the heat of the Sahara Desert last year, where temperatures can reach over 100 degrees. Renowned as being one of the most difficult footraces in the world, she finished in the top 20 per cent of female runners and in the top third overall, competing against 1,250 others.
What makes her achievements even more remarkable is that Tish, who is programme director for a European credit management company, completed this ultra-marathon last April, just seven months after undergoing foot surgery.
Tish had a navicular stress fracture that required surgery – a very problematic injury for runners that literally stopped her in her tracks and caused her to fear that her running days might be over.
But three months after surgery at the Spire Hospital Leeds, a CT scan showed the fracture had completely healed and Tish was able to resume her strict training regime.
“There was a period when I thought I’d never run again, and after almost five months of being unable to run. Having the surgery enabled me to get back to running and makes me thankful every day. It’s made me realise anything is possible. It’s given me the confidence to plan this new challenge.”
Tish took up running just before her 40th birthday when she decided it was time to give up smoking and alcohol, lose weight and get fit.
“I carried on for a few years with a rollercoaster of healthy vs unhealthy but as my career got busier and my home life more complicated, and as my marriage broke down, wine, not running became my ‘stress relief’. I has a constant battle between ‘being healthy’ and ‘enjoying myself’ – the two things didn’t seem compatible in my world,” explains Tish.
But it is her family that inspired her to take up running and to challenge herself.
“It took the death of my stepfather in December 2015 to remind me how precious life is.
“My father and brother had both died in their early 30s and as I approached 50 I felt I owed it to them to make the most of my life.
“Though outwardly successful I was unhealthy, unhappy and unfulfilled. I knew I was capable of so much more and owed it to myself, my stepfather, father and brother, all of my family, to be the best I could be and make the most of my life.”
As a young woman, Tish was a victim of domestic violence, which really affected her self-esteem. It is only recently that she has felt able to talk about what she went through and is now determined to try to reduce the stigma surrounding domestic abuse.
“People often think I am confident but I’ve had low self-esteem since I was young. There is no one thing to pin it on, loss of a parent, life challenges; but suffering domestic abuse when I was younger certainly exacerbated the problem.
“Low self-esteem led to excessive eating, excessive alcohol consumption and excessive working as I tried to prove that I was good enough, but never really feeling good enough.
“Running has helped me take back control of my life, and my self-esteem improved. The shame has gone, it was not my fault and I’m no longer embarrassed to talk about being abused.
“Realising that made a massive difference and enabled me to find balance for the first time in my life.”
Tish’s efforts will support her chosen charities, Women’s Aid and Calm, and raise awareness about domestic violence and male suicide – both of which are causes close to her heart.
“My goal is to continue to inspire my granddaughter Marley, who’s nearly 10, and others, to realise that however difficult life might be today, if you can look within, find that ounce of energy and take a single step towards being a better you, it will make all the difference. I want to use my running as a platform to speak out about domestic abuse, so that we start to talk about it, and do not feel ashamed.”
Tish’s training now involves a more holistic approach, focused on breathing, yoga and physical and mental training as well as physical health.
She runs five to six times a week with extended three to four-hour back-to-back sessions at weekends.
“There’s nothing like a 2,000 km run to focus the mind. This is without doubt the most challenging task I’ve ever set for myself. I feel excited, scared and giddy all at the same time. My dream has become a reality and I’m confident that I will make it happen.”
Once the European leg is completed, her focus will turn to another continent for 2019, in her bid to Run the World.
For anyone wishing to donate visit Tish’s JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/Grannyrunstheworld18 or to follow her journey visit her blog runtheworld.live
For more on Women’s Aid visit www.womensaid.org.uk
Run Europe started with a 233k run from Schiphol Airport to Essen in Germany and another 150k run to Eversberg from Essen. She will continue through Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Kaliningrad (Russia), Latvia, and finish in Estonia.
The total will be around 2,000k. She will complete another 100k ‘training run’ before the event. Tish’s unique route will include varied terrain – roads, cycle paths, coastal trails, beaches, capital cities and forests. She will run six days a week, staying at camp sites or hostels. She will stay in touch with her family via a satellite communicator and navigator which will also enable her to call for help in case of any emergencies or injuries on route.