For most of my working life, I have been a Chartered Accountant; first working in audit firms, then moving into management in the financial services sector.
I was immune to the barbs sent my way, such as ‘accountants know the cost of everything and the value of nothing’.
I knew that cost/benefit analysis was critical if businesses wanted to be profitable, and I could always counter with ‘cash is king’ and ‘money makes the world go around.’ That song from the musical ‘Cabaret’ was my theme tune.
When I became a parent, my views started to change; the time I had with my children was wonderful – something that money could not buy. Then I started running and taking on big challenges in the natural environment, and I became dissatisfied with my business life. My way of thinking changed; money became less important. A few lines of a poem I learnt in school kept coming to mind:
The epiphany came in January 2017 when I heard Dave Cornthwaite talk at the Adventure Travel show. He used to be a London-based graphic designer who played computer games in the evening until he realised that his cat got out more and had a more exciting life that he did. Dave gave up his job and skateboarded across Australia.
He is currently working on achieving 25 journeys of 1,000-miles or more without motorised transport. Wow! I wanted some of that. A few weeks later he ran a workshop called ‘How to Make a Living from Your Passions’ and Trailrunningman was born.
Dave’s best bit of advice was ‘You spend what you earn, so get used to spending very little’. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to have a great time, it was just that money would not play a great part in my activities.
My passions are travel, running and being outdoors in the natural environment. Trailrunningman lets me do that for very little or no money, and sometimes I get paid for doing it. The business model is quite simple; be an expert in my niche (multi-day running events), write about it, talk about it and become well known and open to opportunities.
This year, I have free entry into three multi-day events (although COVID-19 means one is postponed until next year. I hope the other two survive). These events typically cost about £2,000 each, so free entry is a significant benefit. It also gives me something to write about, which I can then get paid for.
The Cape Wrath Ultra entry (the one which has been postponed) came about because I volunteered on the previous event. Part of the deal was volunteers get a free entry into the following event. My travel expenses were paid, and I was fed. I had a wonderful eight days in Scotland with a great team of like-minded people and I mixed with some wonderful runners. Several said they only managed to stay in the event because of my advice; that helps to build my reputation.
The second event is in Romania in August. This one came out of the blue, when I was contacted via Facebook by someone I didn’t know, but who knew my reputation. A few messages and a Skype call later, and it was all sorted. I would run the race as an ambassador for his business (Ultimate Trail Adventures), provide the organisers with feedback to help them improve the event, and help to publicise it.
The third event is in South Africa at the end of October, a 7-day self-sufficiency event in the Kalahari Desert. I love it. I am the UK agent for the event, so as well as getting commission when people from the UK enter, I get a free place. Heaven!
Before the South Africa trip, I am off to Spain for a week, all expenses paid, to help with a multi-day race there. The organiser, who I met in Bhutan, wanted some experienced ultra runners who understand what is needed to supplement his local team. There are four Brits who go over; two medics, me and my friend, Annie, who I met in the Kalahari.
Those are the big events; there are lots of small ones that work on a similar principle. For example, I am an ambassador for the National Running Show. All I have to do is promote them on social media, and the benefit I get back is significant.
I am associated with a respected brand, have my photo and bio featured on their website and am given a code for a free ticket to offer my followers. I get access to the VIP area at the show, and entry to the industry networking dinner at a 90% discount. I was sitting on a table with Lazarus Lake (founder of the Berkley Marathon – a legend in my world) Anna McNuff (unbelievable achievements) and Nikki Love (who probably eclipses Anna).
Oh, and I even get a drawing of me as a Lego figure to use on social media!
It’s worth repeating: