Going Back to the Mountain


Hello again, I was invited by GrownUps to share the story of my journey from brain bleeds to marathons. It’s a journey I have been documenting called Back to the Mountain. 

You can find more of the story on my facebook page of the same name.

In my previous instalments on GrownUps I have talked about how at the age of 16 I suffered a major brain bleed, a life impacting event that changed everything but how through circumstances and being confronted to try new challenges at the age of 50 and not having run for over 30 years, I found myself taking on the iconic Coast to Coast Mountain Run and the New York Marathon.

My attempt in February of 2014 to complete the Mountain Run had me missing the cut off time in the race with my guide and good mate Tim James, we both ended up being helicoptered out, it was disappointing and it felt unfinished. I also believed I could, if given the chance to go back get over the mountain.

In November of 2015 I went to New York with Achilles and went the furthest I had ever walked in my life when I completed in just over 8.5 hours the 42k of the NY Marathon.

Lance Walker CEO of Cigna in New Zealand and my guide for the New York Marathon asked me a couple of days after that event.

“So what’s next for you”? I told Lance that I was pretty keen to go back to the Mountain on the Coast to Coast and finish what hadn’t been completed last time.

Although I told him, I would need a different approach, I had to change my way of training, I needed coaching, next time it needed to be with two guides not just one, more specialist movement training for my affected left side, and I needed different gear set up including a chest harness for the technically difficult spots.

Lance suggested I put a proposal together which I did and I was very fortunate and grateful when Cigna stepped up and agreed to support me for another attempt of the Mountain Run. With Cigna’s backing it meant I could look at going back giving my full focus to training and making the other changes I would need to make to get over that Mountain.


I first met Menno at the prize giving of Coast to Coast in February of 2014, Tim who had been competing in the event, and I ended up sharing a table with Menno and his wife Leslie who as it turned out were also from Petone, in fact they lived just around the corner from us.

Menno had suffered his own health challenges leading up to his own competing in the Coast to Coast including seven heart attacks over a five-year period.

Hearing his story Tim and I were both a bit gob smacked, heart attack and Coast to Coast is not something you expect to hear or would want to hear in the same sentence. Tim looked at Leslie and asked

“Weren’t you worried about him going out training let alone doing this event”? Leslie just gave a smile and replied “I would rather have him dead on the mountain than grumpy on the couch”.

It was to me an inspirational response of guts and determination, of a never say die attitude in the face of potentially dying and a reminder that we only get one life, live it, take your opportunities, challenge your limits, do what you love. It also for me captured the spirit of the Coast to Coast race.

If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.

 Menno competed in the Longest Day that is the full 245k one-day event in 2015 with a podium finish.

When I began looking at a second attempt the first thing I knew I needed was a coach I knew who I wanted that to be. I managed to track down where Menno lived and went around and knocked on his door. His Coast to Coast days had finished, I asked him if he would be prepared to train me and maybe also consider coming with me and Tim as another guide, I told him if he was prepared to coach me I would commit to do whatever he said. He asked for a couple of days to think about it, I am grateful that his answer was yes, he was in.

Menno is a man who if you say to him

“If you train me I will do whatever you tell me to do”, you better do it.

Since February of this year he has had me on a strength and endurance program. Training has been at times up to 6 days a week and at least a minimum of 4 sessions a week. Menno has had me on a track of constant improvement a continual upping of the intensity to get to where we need to be to get over the mountain.

coast-grownups-1Having accountability to Menno has also meant that when I would rather have been sleeping in or when it’s been cold and wet I have pushed myself out the door to hit the trails reminding myself that discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

I can say with complete confidence that I am fitter and stronger than I have ever been in my life. In the last couple of weeks, I have been able to complete over 30k training walks, being out on the trails for up to 8 hours at a time and we still have work to do.

I have a chest harness set up sorted, I have settled on my trail shoes, my nutrition for the race is set. Perhaps most importantly this whole experience has challenged me mentally more than anything has in my whole life. Last time we went to take on the mountain I wasn’t really sure what to expect or what it was really going to take.

This time I know exactly what to expect and we have trained and prepared for exactly what it’s going to need, there are no surprises.

I am going into this challenge with every expectation of completing what we have set out to do.

I was asked to share my story because it is to some inspirational, it’s not to me, that’s not a false humility or the great kiwi shrug off, it’s just been my life and experience but I have also learnt that whatever our age, condition or circumstance we can all experience a different level in life if we just try saying yes instead of looking for an excuse to say no.


I want to make special mention here of my wife Antoinette who undoubtedly has been my greatest supporter, she is also the one left at home when I’m heading out the door for yet another training session.

It’s something she has got use to but she has also made sacrifice, her love, encouragement and support has been rock solid.

My mate Tim is lining up again, we have been friends for over 35 years and when I said I would need someone to come with me, he didn’t hesitate the first time and he’s coming back again to help me achieve my goal as is Menno, Camden, Mo, Jos and Cigna, its taking a team to make it happen.

If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.

All of this being said, life gets in the way, things don’t always go to plan or the way we might want so while we have done our best with our preparation and planning it’s not all been “smooth sailing”, there are times when I have been sick or injured or tired of training, or just tired or hurting or asking myself what the hell am I doing this for?

But thinking about making it to the finish, getting to Klondyke corner and over the finish line and how good that is going to feel, that’s what I’m focused on, that’s what keeps me going.

I’m am I going to get over that mountain?

I’m going to find out in February of 2017, I will keep you posted.

Have a great Christmas (I’m training boxing day) and have a safe and happy new year.




Read more of Richards posts here…