Think You’d Never Be Able to Attempt the Fitbit Fifty? Read This

(Image credit: Unknown)

You don’t build up the fitness and mental toughness to attempt a non-stop relay run and ride from London to Edinburgh and back in 50 hours with a six-week body-transformation plan. You start somewhere and keep going and going and going.

When we got to know our competitors, we were surprised where some of them started. It turns out you don’t need to have been born riding a bike – once you’ve been bitten by the challenge bug, you can amaze yourself with what you’re capable of. Each of the 12 Fitbit Fifty challengers made their own way to this point, but below are the stories of three in their own words.

Will Lockwood epitomised a common post-university tale, where gainful employment plus leisure time minus the loss of uni sport clubs equalled weight gain.

Holly Seear, on the other hand, had never been that sporty, spending more time on the corporate treadmill. But a decision to learn how to swim so she could take her kids to the pool led to her first triathlon just six months later.

Perhaps Dean Ramsden’s is the most incredible story of all. Back in 2007, an undiagnosed back condition meant he could barely walk – now he has a new lease on life.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from all the competitors’ stories, it’s that endurance feats are about grit, determination and just having a bash.

Will Lockwood, 30, London

It was a drunken 3am conversation on a Dundee street around five years ago that got me into running and fitness. Randomly, I bumped into one of my old rowing mates leaving a nightclub. He’d also put on a bit of beef and we were discussing what we could do about it. He mentioned he’d done a half marathon, and while at that time it was completely beyond me, I reckoned if he’d done it I could at least give it a crack. We started meeting up for two-or three-mile runs and I just kept plugging away.

About five months later, a group of us did a half marathon on the Isle of Skye. It was my first running race and I had no idea if I could complete it, but it felt really good. It was so beautiful there and crossing the finish line was amazing. Before I knew it, I was signing up for a marathon.

My first marathon in Belfast, four years ago, seemed like the pinnacle of sporting achievement – I thought I’d peaked. But then I moved to London and joined a group called Run Dem Crew. They were doing all these crazy things, like Ironman triathlons and ultra marathons. I thought challenges like that were beyond me, but then I realised the people doing them were just normal. What was stopping me? I’ve now done three ultra marathons – the longest was Belmead Trail Fest, 50 miles through the woods of Virginia – eight marathons and I’m about to do my first Ironman in Weymouth.

activity tracker

(Image credit: Unknown)

Weirdly, it’s the things that make endurance events so horrendous that also make them so attractive. I like the scale, the length, how gruelling they are. I like to test myself and go further or faster each time. I’m never going to get a podium finish, but I can suffer with the best of them.

If you’d told me at three in the morning a few years ago that I’d be running and cycling from London to Edinburgh and back in 50 hours, I would have called you a few choice words or called the police. Then again, when I did my first triathlon last year even the idea of an Ironman sounded ludicrous, but that’s just about to happen.

I’ve never done anything as long as the Fitbit Fifty – time or distance wise – but I think the team aspect and camaraderie will really help.

Holly Seear, 40, Staines

I signed up for the Fitbit Fifty after I got back from the TransAlps Challenge, a seven-day mountain bike race across the Alps. I had the post-race blues and was looking for my next adventure. I was so excited when I got the call to say I was in, but my kids just shrugged – they’re used to me going off doing something crazy every weekend. I like that being active and adventurous seem normal to them, though. Sport and fitness weren’t really a part of my life growing up – I didn’t discover exercise until later in life.

I had a corporate job working ridiculous hours and I didn’t think I could fit it in, then I had two children. After the kids, I wanted to lose a bit of weight and get fitter. I was going to take them swimming but I couldn’t swim myself, so I signed up for lessons and it escalated from there. I made friends in the gym, who persuaded me to go for a run with them, then a bike ride, and gradually I got sucked into more and more things. Almost by accident, I went from having done very little exercise at all to doing my first triathlon in six months.

People often ask how I managed to fit the training in with two young kids, but you just need to do a bit of juggling and have some good friends. I’d get up early and go on the turbo trainer in the house before they woke, or meet friends in the park and we’d take turns looking after each other’s kids while we went for a run. As the children got older, they started coming on their bikes while I ran, and now it’s even easier because I have turned my passion for cycling into a job. I’m a self-employed cycling coach, so my work hours are more flexible.

The Fitbit Fifty may sound like a big challenge, but it’s all relative. The first time I did a 5K it felt massive and the first time I swam in open water it felt massive – even just running around the block was enormous the first time.

I haven’t been doing much running this year, and I could have used that as an excuse not to enter, but if you wait until you’re ready you’ll never get anything done. You’ve got to throw yourself into it and take a chance.

Dean Ramsden, 48, Bolton

There was a point in 2007 when I was feeling really down and I remember thinking, “I don't know if I can cope being like this for the rest of my life.” At the time I was suffering from undiagnosed ankylosing spondylitis, a condition that causes the vertebrae in your back to fuse. I was off work for 18 months – I couldn’t walk or go to the toilet without help, and I couldn’t sleep properly or play with my kids.

I’d always been quite active and played football, but suddenly all the things you take for granted – basic things like walking around – I couldn’t do any more. When I finally got a diagnosis and the correct medication, it was like a miracle cure. Within two weeks of my first injection, I started to feel normal again.

I got a new lease of life and that’s when I first took up karate at a local club. I got fitter and fitter, and my karate went from strength to strength. Then I watched my friend do the Ironman UK in Bolton.

I've always been very determined and competitive with myself, and once I’ve decided I’m going to do something I’ll do it. That Ironman was four years ago, and I’ve competed every year since – every time I go to pick up my bike afterwards, I sign up for the next one.

The karate has taken a bit of a back seat while I concentrate on triathlons, and the best thing is my wife has even got involved. She’s been supporting me for years, but in the last nine months she’s starting coming to my triathlon club and has signed up for the Ironman UK too. Not that I’m going to let her beat me!

When I saw the Fitbit Fifty, I thought it sounded like a great challenge, particularly in that time frame. It’s going to be tough, but that’s where being in a team is going to really help. We’ll be able to look out for each other, help each other and give each other training ideas. You can’t pay for that.

Charlotte Thomas

Charlotte Thomas is a freelance journalist and health and fitness blogger at Lunges & Lycra.