Running For My Life

Running For My Life

Jordan Wylie
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
This is not a tale of someone running away from the Mafia but of a young man traumatised by his days as a soldier in Iraq and wanting to put something positive back into the world. Following medical discharge and suffering from depression Jordan, his life in bits and his marriage disintegrating, he is close to taking his own life. Pulling himself back from the edge, literally, he sits down to reassess himself and comes to the decision that he would like to do something for the children in war areas. He decides to run half marathons in three of the most dangerous countries in the world Somaliland, Iraq and Afghanistan with the latter being a full marathon. Unarmed and with no back up team he takes these on raising large sums of money to be spent on war children in situ. An amazing story of a driven man.

Jordan Wylie served for 10 years in the Kings Royal Hussars, initially as a tank crewman then into Recce and Int Sections. He served with the KRH in Iraq and that tour was to come back and direct his life later down the line.

Born and brought up in Blackpool, with few job prospects after a mediocre school time and no certificates to talk about he joined up. Wylie enjoyed army life and was set for a full career but picked up a back injury which, while not enough to give a full medical discharge, he did not relish the idea of being in an admin post for the remainder of his career. He was married by this time and had a young daughter and with them settled in to civilian life. Wylie looked at and became part of the security industry, specialising in maritime security protecting merchant shipping from Pirates. A well paid job but one that kept him away from his family for long periods. While there was good money coming in the separation put a strain on the family which initially Wylie ignored – he was providing well after all, in his mind. Finally his wife had had enough and they split up – not an unusual tale so far for ex servicemen.

Wylie then finds himself on top of a hotel roof in Dubai, life falling apart and not knowing what to do – the edge of the roof looked very tempting and he started edging towards it, time to end it all. Just then he gets a text from his mother which pulls him up! Realising that he needs to do something about this he seeks help. Refusing to believe he has PTSD although he does recognise that he has severe depression he starts a course of counselling and medicine. Life for him then is very much up and down and he spends time getting to grips with his illness. Going back to security work he starts to rebuild his life. Part of that was looking at what he could do for others and he hit on the idea of helping children in war zones. He had seen enough children in Iraq and knew they needed help in education and living standards. The way Wylie decided to do this was to run three long distance races in what are considered the most dangerous Countries in the world: Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. May sound daft, but daft is not something Wylie is and he sought out the best advice from athletes to help with the running element and his contacts in security for the doing the job in these countries. He was determined to run, unarmed, no protection team and no support team. The first two runs were to be half marathons and the final in Afghanistan a full marathon. He also sought and got backing from many organisations who, when they heard what he was doing and what he wanted to achieve so he now had the financial backing to get the job done.

What I have described above takes up a good three quarters of the book with the final quarter actually dealing with the time spent in these countries, the people he met and the runs themselves, which in fact are a very small, yet important bit of the story. After all, what can you write about putting one step in from of another for 13/26 miles! He does cover the issues and strains but the bulk of this bit of the book is about the people he meets in country who speak to him, help him and welcome him in to their house. Different cultures and different ways of meeting people. For instance, the run in Somalia was due to be held in Mogadishu but after talking to a local businessman about the dangers of running in Mogadishu he was persuaded to move the run to Somaliland, a country split from Somalia and still technically in a civil war with them. He soon found that the tension in Somaliland was a lot less than Somalia and running there was safer, but not guaranteed safety. Women in Somaliland were treated much differently than Iraq and Afghanistan and they have much more freedom to speak to strangers and invite them to the family meal without having to clear it with the male of the family. It was bits like this that Wylie submerged himself in.

In each country at the place he was running he made the point of visiting a local orphanage, as after all it was the children he was running and raising money for. He did not judge the orphanage on what the authorities running it showed him but on the smiles of the children and the cleanliness of the surrounds.

When I first picked up this book, I thought it would be another ‘PTSD and How I Beat It’ type of book, but far from it. This is a well written book about a man who, having hit the lows in his life, decided to something for others. The three runs he undertook raised in excess of £100,000 which he shared with selected Children’s charities. He also set up his own charity with the express view that it be run completely by volunteers, all monies raised going to the reason the money is raised and not on wages. However, he realises that if he wants to expand, he may have to revisit this view.

These three races are not the only events that Wylie has taken part in for charity: he has climbed Kilimanjaro, barefoot, canoed across the Bab el Mandeb Straits between the Horn of Africa and Yemen. A strait usually the hunting ground of pirates. It is hard to keep up with the next extreme event that Wylie will undertake, running a marathon in each of the UK’s 15 National Parks on successive days being one. In all he has raised in excess of £1 million for his charities. He is an Ambassador for several products and mentions them in the book without being fawning to them; he acknowledges the great help they give and how it helped him but is not sycophantic. He is also an Ambassador for the Army Cadet Force.

Wylie is a bit of an extreme character, larger than life but his story is one that is worth reading and this book is certainly recommended to you to read.

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