30 half marathon challenge - Paul Scraton

Approaching the end of the road… for now!

Since January, Berlin-based Paul Scraton has been running one half marathon a week in support of our #30For30 campaign and has raised over £3,500. As the final run of his 30 half marathons approaches, he explains where the idea came from, his motivations for running, and the support he’s had along the way.
Paul Scraton has certainly earned his 30For30 champion medal

"The time between Christmas and New Year is a good time for new ideas. Nothing is happening. It feels like the world is in limbo, as the week between the holidays drags on and on. And, let’s be honest, it can be a time of too much to eat and too much to drink, the very things that push so many of us, as the calendar flicks over from one year to the next, into a new pair of running shoes or a gym membership that we are most definitely going to use. Oh, yes. The new year will be different from the last.

It was in those days of limbo that I was mulling over a new running challenge. In the few years that had gone I had taken part in a relay that covered the 160km of the Berlin Wall Trail, completed my first marathon, and decided to see if I could run every day of the advent period as if adding something to the physical bank ahead of the gluttony to come. For 2021 I needed something new, and at the same time, I had decided I was going to do somethingI had never done before – complete a running challenge in the name of a good cause.

As I tried to bring shape to the running part of the challenge, the cause was already clear. I had known about the Pahar Trust Nepal for a long time, thanks to its Ambassador Chris Hughes, a family friend who was also, for a brief time, the deputy head of my primary school. When I was a child we would spend summer holidays with Chris and his family, mostly on the Welsh coast in sight of the mountains of Snowdonia. In adulthood, with a daughter of my own, I have returned to those same places, often still in the company of Chris, where I learned about Pahar Trust Nepal, its vital work to improve education access, and Chris’s own journeys to the country to see what was happening on the ground.

At this point it is worth noting that of all the countries in the world that I have never been to – and there are many – Nepal is perhaps the one that has occupied more of my daydreams than any other. Those summer holidays with Chris always involved days in the mountains, walking and occasionally climbing, and though I never became a mountaineer like my parents or Chris were and are, I did develop a love of the high places that remains a strong source of inspiration to this day. And nowhere has high places like Nepal does.

But if the cause was clear, I still needed a challenge. Berlin is probably one of the flattest major cities in Europe, but there is a hill built out of the rubble of a Second World War Flak Tower, about a mile from our apartment. So, I wondered about running up and down it, until I’d covered the altitude gain of reaching the top of Everest from sea level. A few minutes with a calculator put paid to that idea. And then I learned of the 30 For 30 campaign. It suddenly seemed so simple. 30 weeks. 30 long runs. How about half marathons? Okay, done. The challenge was set. Although I would be lying if I said there hadn’t been moments, in the last thirty weeks, where I wished Pahar Trust Nepal was only 20 years old…

A chilly start to the campaign

The runs began in the first week in January and have continued – with a week off due to injury – to today. At the time of writing, I have completed 29 half marathons and on Thursday 5th August 2021, we’ll reach the end of this very long road. By my calculation it will be thirty weeks and a day since the first run. After all that distance, I suppose it’s okay to be a day late. On the Just Giving page you can scroll back through the short run reports and will see that, as you might expect for a challenge that started in January and ran to the height of summer, we’ve completed half marathons in minus degrees, trudging through the Berlin snow; in rain storms that soaked us without stopping from kilometre one to kilometre twenty-one; and in temperatures so warm we decided to start at 6am in order to have a chance of completing the half marathon before it got too hot.

You might have noticed in the last paragraph the most important word of this endeavour. We. Throughout the 29 half marathons I have had company on all but a handful. Some people have run for 10 km or another distance of their choosing, others from the beginning to the end. I have friends who have completed their own half marathon in another country, a solidarity run on the same morning that I was once more trudging the streets of Berlin. Without them alongside me, on the pavement and in spirit, I don’t know if I could have done it, so it is important to thank them by name. Jim and Neil. Charlotte and John. Rebecca and Jared.

Some of Paul's running friends
Support from Liverpool too!

And then there has been the support of everyone who has joined in on social media, sharing details about the challenge and the donations. It really feels special to have dreamed up a challenge that seems to have brought a lot of people together, people who share my love of running, of the mountains, of the Nepal of their own experiences or, like me, their imaginations, and most of all, who share an appreciation for the great, vital and important work of Pahar Trust Nepal

So here we are. One more to go. And yet, I somehow have the suspicion that this is only the beginning. I would love to remain involved withPahar Trust Nepal in any way that is possible, and I’m sure I can come up with another idea dreamed up after too much beer and Christmas food. Just give me a few months to recover…

In all seriousness, it is so inspiring to see the work Pahar Trust Nepal does in a country where the situation is often tough, even without the catastrophic recent events such as the earthquake in 2015 or our current, ongoing pandemic. It is such a privilege to be, in a tiny way, a part of it. And I’ll be running for each and every one of the team both here and in Nepal, the teachers, the staff and the young people, when my friends and I head out one last time on Thursday morning. I really, really hope I have the chance to finally come and visit you soon."

Berlin through the seasons

"We have been delighted to have Paul's support through the 30For30 campaign and have looked forward to seeing each run completed in all weathers. I have been impressed by the positivity and commitment that Paul has maintained over the entire challenge, as well as the great encouragement from his friends and supporters. I look forward to meeting Paul in the near future when travel allows, possibly in Nepal!"

Tim Mitchell, Chair of the Trustees for Pahar Trust Nepal.