Explorers Connect

Why I'm running across Europe with Bipolar

Trip Report, Adventure RevolutionJames Hipkiss

Little did I know that 5 years on from experiencing a full-blown manic episode in Italy and facing the life-threatening depression that followed, I would now be in the positive place you find me in today as I prepare to run 1250 miles Rome To Home – all as a platform to share my story & keep men alive by talking!

Little did I know that I would learn to channel this expendable energy that comes with the ‘bipolar package’ in to adventure. Little did I know that I could harness the emotions that lead to the unrestricted highs & desperate lows I experienced that summer. Little did I know just how much love & patience & support & kindness I would receive as a result of the places my mind has taken me to these past few years. Little did I know just how much I would come to realise what really matters most in life because of these experiences. And little did I know that I’d have the privilege of sharing my story with the likes of the EC community as I prepare for this adventure of a lifetime.

Bipolar was something I’d rarely heard about until I was diagnosed in 2012. No one in my family had it, no one I knew had it. So when I lost my mind that summer (after 6 months of not looking after myself) and went from preaching from the centre lane of a major motorway (not to be recommended!), believing I’d written a new-age bible fit for modern times, believing I was ‘the chosen one’, the next Steve Jobs, ‘the one who was going to show the world how to slow down & follow their hearts’ (I could go on), to ending up in psychiatric hospitals and wanting to take my own life, I knew we were facing something as a family which was going to test us all.

Dan sharing his ambitions for the first time at Yestival 2016

Dan sharing his ambitions for the first time at Yestival 2016

That summer was the scariest time of my life but here I am. Thanks to so many incredible people around me, here I am - ready to take on this 1250-mile self-supported running adventure, starting at the Colosseum on Friday 25th August 2017 and finishing 65 days later (all being well) on Saturday 28th October at the London Eye!

Averaging 20 miles a day, my route will loosely follow the Via Francigena pilgrimage route which links Rome to Canterbury Cathedral via the Great St Bernard Pass in the Alps. The only exception being I’ll veer off towards Paris in northern France, then to cross the channel from Dieppe to Newhaven, then a quick blast round East Sussex where I grew up ahead of the final blast to Greenwich Park and along the Thames to finish at the London Eye.

And I can’t wait to take as many of you reading these words along with me for the ride!

The adventure’s just as much an awareness-raising challenge as it is an adventure-challenge. With 12 guys choosing to take their own life every single day in the UK (that’s 780 guys during the time I’ll be running!) I just hope that my efforts with Rome To Home can play their part in bringing this number down.

My aims with Rome to Home are to:

1) Share my story – all in the hope of normalising the conversation surrounding mental health issues, to give hope to others suffering out there, to thank all the people who have supported my journey these past few years, and ultimately to encourage others (particularly guys) to speak up when they’re struggling the most.

2) Raise £12,000 and a ton of awareness for CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) who are an amazing charity dedicated to keeping men alive by talking, as well as £2000 for Snow-Camp when I cross the Alps – another amazing charity close to my heart who have been changing the lives of inner-city young people with snow-sports since 2003. 

3) Take on an amazing adventure challenge – to explore my boundaries, push my limits, live life to the full and perhaps encourage others to take on an adventure of their own.

I can’t express enough just how much the likes of EC’s support and those who have believed in my vision means to me. I’ve had some of my closest friends reaching out to join me at different sections in Italy, Switzerland & France. I’ve had some overwhelming support from kit sponsors, none more so than Salomon who have been just incredible. I’ve had so many individuals who are giving their time to spread the word on my behalf when the adventure’s live, and above all else I’ve had some incredible messages from those who are either suffering with mental health issues themselves, or have a loved one who’s suffering, which for me is l fuel to spur me on when I face those inevitable tough days when I’m out there on the run. 

So there we have it guys. As the adventure draws ever-closer, I just can’t wait to have you all with me in spirit and to take you along with me for the ride! To hear more about my story and for more info check out www.rometohome.com. If you’re feeling generous and would like to support my fundraising, please visit www.rometohome.com/donate. And be sure to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I would love to hear from you.

Let’s do this!

Words: Dan Keeley