Tori Attwood speaks to the clubber-turned-runner ahead of his 4000km Africa charity run
Brendan Rendall is not your typical athlete. He doesn’t confess to an extreme diet nor does he credit his success to a vigorous exercise routine. In fact, his passion for fitness was completely unexpected.
“In 2006 I started running after a drunken bet that said I couldn’t run a half marathon.”
“I’d spent ten years on the Manchester club scene and did everything that it entails: debt, drugs, drinking. Running gave my life structure. I went from years of being overweight to being a runner.”
In three short months, Rendall went from having no previous running training to completing the Manchester half marathon in an impressive 1 hour 24 minutes – most beginners can hope to complete the distance in two-three hours.
The triumph triggered a new sense of motivation in Rendall.
“Running was something that I finally discovered I was good at.”
But it didn’t stop there. Since his first run, the Salford athlete has completed a host of ambitious challenges – including running the full length of Malawi (708 miles), in just 27 days back in 2016. Six weeks later, Rendall ran the distance of Great Britain, from Land’s End to John O’Groats, totting up a further 962 miles in 35 days.
Whilst the clubber-turned-runner admits there’s an addictive adrenaline buzz from running such extensive distances, his main motivation comes from the charity he supports. Rendall’s 2016 Malawi run raised £35,000 for Friends Of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO), a Preston-based charity that creates children’s facilities in Malawi.
“In 2008 I did a charity cycle ride in Malawi and was taken in by the kindness of the people there. When I came back, I found a local charity in Preston that supports children in Malawi - Friends Of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO). I was impressed that every penny goes towards their projects and wanted to support the charity.”
It’s this desire to support the charity that is driving Rendall’s latest challenge; a gruelling coast-to-coast 4000km route across Africa. The distance is equivalent to 94 marathons and will see Rendall run on average five to six hours a day for three months from 1 June. The journey will start in Namibia before crossing Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and finishing off in Mozambique. Rendall again plans to raise funds for the FOMO charity, this time to support plans for a new accommodation block for the young boys the charity supports.
So, how on earth does the athlete train for 94 marathons?
“At the moment I’m trying to do 15/20miles a day,” explains Rendall matter-of-factly. “But I count this as time I’ve been on my feet. So, this includes a three-mile walking commute to work and then I run ten miles home, so that by the time I get home in the evening I know I’ve been on my feet for 15/20miles. I have one day off a week. Over the next six weeks I’ll gradually be increasing the distance, but I’ll try not to be over-trained for the event – you get a lot fitter as you do the run.”
With such an incredible challenge looming ahead, many would think that Rendall’s exercise regime would be supported by a strict diet. But the runner has a very relaxed approach to food.
“It’s funny - even though I do all these runs, I don’t follow a specific diet. I’ve always battled with food and so I try to be healthy. I eat lots of carbs, proteins and always try to get three balanced meals. I’d probably eat porridge for breakfast and try to get all my fruit and veg in throughout the day and then will have something like a jacket potato for dinner.
"Of course, I’d recommend eating a healthy diet and going to the gym, but you have to be realistic. I’ve never bothered with protein shakes. But you have to do what works for you. I like a big bag of crisps and a chocolate bar like anyone else does. Though I don’t drink alcohol.”
Through running I discovered areas of Manchester that are so beautiful.
Whilst the funds Rendall has raised have made a substantial impact on the lives the charity supports, Rendall says running has also had an impact on his personal outlook.
“Running has taught me that you only get one shot at life, so you have to grab it with both hands.
“I think today we live in such a fast world, especially with social media, everyone is on a treadmill just waiting for the next thing to happen. Running taught me to live in the moment, to take things in, to enjoy my surroundings. Through running I discovered areas of Manchester that are so beautiful. And you get a huge adrenaline rush once you’ve finished, especially with the longer distances, you feel on top of the world. It’s a powerful, natural high.”
Brendan is proof that anyone can don a pair of running shoes and complete a race – no matter what their previous lifestyle.
“With everything in life, a huge element is mental barriers. But you’ve just got to dig deep and have the self-belief to push through.”
“Forget speed and time; just enjoy the run. Enjoy getting outside, in the park, wherever. Take small steps. You can set big goals, but just enjoy the small steps that get you there.
If I can do it, anyone can.”