1000 miles to celebrate NHS 75

Mat Drew from the Communications Team is taking part in the NHS 1000 miles, a challenge to mark the NHS's 75th birthday. Those taking part are asked to walk, run, swim or cycle (or a combination) the distance of 1000 miles this year. That’s an average of 2.74 miles per day. As well as being a great way to mark the birthday, physical activity is good for your body and mind. Find out more about the challenge and the NHS 75 birthday celebrations here.

Here Mat talks about his journey on the challenge so far.

Brian Clough once famously plied his Nottingham Forest players with champagne the night before a cup final, which they then won. He supposed they should be relaxed to play at their peak. It's an approach I enjoyed too. My lockdown circumstances had the appropriate effects on my waistline and my head. My out was to spend time with my housemates doing what young people do on Friday nights, but then to get up in a morning and take on some Sheffield trails to the bewilderment of my hungover comrades.

It was great. I was happy, fulfilled and fit. I found adventure and hedonism through both activities. Much like Cloughy's team I hit heady heights. I ran the Percy Pud and Sheffield Half in times I could have only dreamed of.

But in August last year a mix of overconfidence, dehydration (not from the night before) and an ill placed tree root sent me to A&E with a broken elbow and wrist. I faced a long period in the doldrums. I was heavy in every sense. This was my championship, my league one, my years in exile from the big time.

I tried so many things to get back on track - I bought more kit, I researched training plans, I planned routes in far off lands - but nothing seemed to click. And then at the turn of the year suddenly it did.

In reality it was a multitude, a whole squad of little pushes, motivations and techniques that eventually got me on my feet again and seeing a route back to where I used to be. The NHS 1000 miles was absolutely one of those. It's a hell of a challenge but suddenly it feels achievable, albeit one I'll have to work hard towards. I've made a lot of progress from cycling to work a few times a week and now I'm feeling fit enough to take on extra runs, rides and walks in my own time. I'm 160 miles in, so about on track after two months. I just have to make sure I keep plugging away throughout the year!

The day after I broke my arm I went to Forest's first game back in the Premier League after 23 years in the wilderness. I know it seems like a stupid thing to do but I'd bashed my head in the fall too so couldn't have any stronger painkillers than paracetamol and, honestly, distraction was the only way to cope.

Is all this a way to shoehorn in some chat about my football club? Maybe, but it's the best way I can describe my story. It's a tale of old heights, new lows and the eventual stepping out from darker days. I feel the euphoria of the 30,000 fans I was among that day when I'm out running again now. Long may it continue, up to and beyond the thousandth mile.

Mat Drew in cycling clothing smiling off camera