Behind every runner’s miles there is a story. For Tony Holland, it started in 2007 after his son, Jack, was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome and he became involved with Northumberland Down’s Syndrome Support Group (NDSSG). Fast forward seven years and Tony has taken part in the Bupa Great North Run, completed several ultra marathons, set up his own charity and opened a specialist running store in Northumberland.
The journey began after Tony realised NDSSG were operating without government funding, surviving from coffee mornings and individual donations. Inspired by their work, Tony decided to enter the Great North Run to support the charity and begin training for the 13.1 mile event.
Tony told northernrunningguide.com: “I started training on my treadmill at home and was confused thinking my treadmill was in miles when in fact it was kms. One brisk march morning in 2010 I left the house for my first training run, all the gear and no idea. I managed less than a mile and stopped to walk for a moment. When I got home I thought about why I was doing this. Was it to get fit? Was it to win races? No! none of them, it was to raise money for my son’s group .”
“Since that first thought why, I have been able to use running to raise awareness and money for some fantastic charities and causes. I found that the further I ran the deeper peoples pockets would be and the more I would raise. My ultra journey had begun. Like anything in life you have to want to achieve before you start which is a mindset I use when running any distance and like I always say to people I meet. “Distance is just a state of mind”
In 2012, Tony and his wife set up Disability Activity, a charity that aims to enable children with Down’s syndrome to experience outdoor activities. From personal experience, they became aware how much their son, Jack, enjoys, interacts and learns from being out in the hills, either when walking or being towed in his cycle trailer around Kielder Water.
Just one year on and the pair opened The Ultra Runner Store, a specialist running outlet based in Northumberland. While the name pertains to distances over 26.2 miles, it caters for runners embarking on their first 5k to 100 mile ultra marathon. In addition to stocking a comprehensive range of clothing, footwear and accessories, the Ultra Runner Store has trained staff on hand to provide accurate gait analysis. More recently, Tony has branched out into event organisation, with a series of exciting races planned for 2015.
Tony said that the inception of the store was only possible after he decided to leave a comfortable job as a sales executive. While the demands of running the shop means he now gets up at 5am, and works around 15 hours more a week, nothing can match working for something you feel so passionately about.
You can visit the store here.