Bristol Rovers marathon man treasures Mem’s roar as reflection of seven extraordinary days

Five days after his epic charity challenge, Gashead Nik Weeks turned to his uncle Tony, who had been accompanying the Bristol Rovers marathon runner on a bike as he racked up the miles. “We only have two marathons to go,” Nik said.

“Do you realize what you just said?” was the response, somehow capturing the absurdity of running seven marathons in seven days, as well as the 38-year-old’s determination to achieve a goal that many would consider impossible.

Weeks, a lifelong Rovers fan and police sergeant at Bristol Harbor, is not new to running. In 2020, he covered the marathon distance five times in five days by running to and from his Coalpit Heath home on both sides of his shift.

That challenge raised money for TOFS, a charity that supports children born with swallowing difficulties, as well as the Bristol Rovers Community Trust. All Gasheads have at least some understanding of the great and important work the charity does, but Nik gained a much deeper insight into the organization during his first fundraising mission.

So much so that he wanted to do more, and three years later he was running the streets again, this time running seven full marathons around Bristol and South Gloucestershire in the span of a week. The Community Trust and cancer-stricken Rovers player Nick Anderton would be the beneficiaries.

Weeks said her admiration for the trust centers on its work for people of all ages, particularly its support for the isolated and vulnerable in Bristol during the pandemic.

And Anderton, of course, was one of the promotion’s heroes helping to generate one of the most glorious moments in the club’s history last season, returning to League One with a 7-0 win on the final day. Anderton’s subsequent bone cancer diagnosis rocked the fanbase and the Gasheads’ support is unwavering as the 26-year-old continues chemotherapy. A solidarity head shaving kit raised over £45,000 for Anderton and his young family.

“I am continually proud of the Community Trust,” Nik said when asked why he challenged himself to such extremes. “I don’t think they get the credit they deserve and I thought it would be great to raise more money for them. I got a good idea of ​​what they do when I did my challenge earlier and I have a great relationship with Adam Tutton and I wanted to take that forward.

“I felt I could do something, so why wouldn’t I? That was the main reason behind it; I can help and I thought I should. Supporting a football club isn’t just about football, it’s about it is about the club as a whole, including the charity.

“It’s great and it puts the club in a good position and I’m very proud of what they do. The club has real family club foundations, which I think is important that we have and try to maintain as things progress and the community Confidence is a big part of it.

“And then finding out more about what Nick is up to. It just struck a chord; he has two little boys and I have two little boys.

“Nick was living my dream playing for Bristol Rovers and now he’s living my nightmare, so I just wanted to help. With the blessing of the Community Trust, we’re going to commit some of the money to their fund.”

Obviously, the human body is not naturally conditioned to run one marathon, let alone seven, without a strict and detailed training regimen. Nik embarked on his in August with the encouragement of his partner Gashead Grant Rees of Planned Fitness Goals. Rees is an expert in triathlon training.

Preparation, of course, highlighted a lot to run, but there was also strengthening to do it, both physically and mentally.

“We started with a strength and conditioning phase at the beginning with shorter runs and as time went on we increased the mileage week by week, increasing the load,” Nik said.

“Believe it or not, I only ran my first marathon six weeks ago and that was just knowing psychologically that I could cover the distance. It was a lot of 16-mile runs, sometimes on back-to-back days and then building up on the week and going down again with days consecutive training sessions to put my body under stress.

“Grant was also very good with psychological coping mechanisms. I was going to go through some very dark times, which I did, and it was about how can I cope with that. It was about learning and recognizing what was going to happen and what could do to get out the other side”.

Nik Weeks handed over the match ball after completing his seventh and final marathon.(Image: Will Cooper/JMP)

From a physical perspective, Nik knew it was going to be grueling, though he thinks he managed relatively lightly when it came to wear and tear. Mentally, it was a very demanding 24/7 routine.

“My ankle swelled up on the third day for some reason, it hurt a lot,” he recalled. “My hamstring on my left side, I was worried that it might be pulling slightly off the back of my knee, so I had to take care of it, being very careful with my step.

“I had pain in my joints, my ankles, my knees, and for the first time, I had really bad pain in my hips. It was very tight in the center and around my hips, but it was something I knew was going to happen and we talked about it. and I got over it.

“Trying to decompress was really hard and because I had to stay very hydrated I didn’t sleep well at all. My legs ached and fidgeted where I couldn’t calm down and my brain just wouldn’t turn off. It was a 24/7 Challenge and long story short, the On the last day my girl came in and said ‘Dad, am I going to see you again now?’

“It struck a chord because for six months, Grant described marathons as a lap of honour. It was the six months before when I’d finish work and pick up the kids from school and then have to go train for three or four hours. , by then they are already in bed, so that affected the family a lot, it was not just that I dedicated time to it and it was very difficult for me.

“In the week of the event, it was 24 hours a day. When I wasn’t racing, all I was doing was recovering.”

Preparing for the dark moments was an important part of the months of training for the challenge, and they came on time.

“Two moments stood out for me,” he continued. “Day four, by then I was feeling very tired, but the weather was also very bad. It rained non-stop that day and I think it affected me a little bit to be drenched and cold and uncomfortable. I was in the middle of the challenge and the end felt like was miles away.

“My body was starting to break down as well, so I was dealing with all of that. The sheer mental fatigue of waking up in the morning and thinking about having to run for another five hours. It was tough.”

“The only other time it was a particularly difficult time was about seven miles from the finish. I was at the Bitton Railway and everyone was saying ‘You’ve done it, you’ve done it’. I was in so much pain on that day and I forgot I had another marathon to do. People train for months to do just one marathon and I’m on my seventh in seven days and I think I’ve kind of lost my focus.”

Nik says he is enormously grateful not only for the financial support of the challenge, which has raised over £11,000 and the kitty continues to grow, but also for the support he has received from friends, family and fellow Gasheads.

“The messages I was getting on social media were incredible, from Rovers fans and others,” he said. “I was also getting messages with Nick and I was going to training camp and the players and staff were great to me. They were calling me crazy; the athletes were saying I was crazy, which was an eye-opener for me.

“But a special mention to my Uncle Tony. He was on the bike with me for six days as my support rider, so he did about 170 miles on the bike at low speed, which was really hard work for him. He’s 68 years old .old man and he just carried everything for me and I wouldn’t have done it without him that’s for sure.

“And there are too many to mention, but everyone who came out and ran with me on the road and there were plenty of Rovers fans who came out on the road just to clap and shake my hand.”

“It would have been impossible to do it on my own. Even though I was the one who sacrificed everything, it was the support that got me through it. I know it’s a cliché, but it definitely did it.”

So what about the moment of glory? Nik’s final marathon ended at the Mem on Saturday shortly before Gas took on Portsmouth, handing over the match ball before receiving adulation from all corners of the pitch.

“It exceeded my expectations,” he said. “I was a little worried that everyone would think ‘Who is this guy?’ But the reception I got, my family couldn’t believe it and they were so grateful.

“I’ll never forget it for the rest of my life. As a fan, I would have loved to have played at the Mem in a Rovers shirt, but to have that reception walking on the pitch is one of the best moments I’ve ever had.” I’ve had Portsmouth fans were amazing too and I’m so grateful.

“We’re looking at £11,000 now, which is amazing considering the cost of living crisis, and the people donating aren’t actually donating to receive anything at that event, they’re just pure donations in support of what I did, which really I’m thankful for; I wasn’t expecting that much to be honest.”

As for the future, Nik will still be racing, but the days of crazy challenges are almost certainly over, though he says he’s willing to help out anyone looking to take on a similar task in the future.

“I will never say never, but I have promised my family that I will never do anything to this extent again,” he admitted. “My wife, Emma, ​​and my children, Archie and Willow, have basically had to do it on their own for six months.

“I’ve gotten a few messages from people who would like to do a challenge themselves and would like to talk to me about how to support them through that, so maybe look into a supporting role now and help people out because I feel like I’ve done my part, but i will never say never and would certainly help someone who wants to do a similar challenge, and the goal was to inspire people.

“Something on this scale, it’s probably already over, just for sacrificing my family and my wife would probably leave me!”

To donate to Nik’s fundraising campaign, click here

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