This year’s Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K will be one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.
Neil Armstrong’s immortal moon-landing statement has motivated millions to achieve great things, and one of the participants at the Midlands’ biggest 10K hopes it will also prove inspirational for him.
For many, the 10K is a useful training run if they’re considering challenging themselves to a few miles more at a later date. But for Ben Cartwright, the event is part of a schedule to get him in peak physical condition to go a few thousand extra miles as he bids to become the West Midlands’ first ever astronaut.
Ben, from Halesowen, is hoping to sign up for the European Space Agency’s astronaut selection process when it next opens for applications.
The 23-year-old graduated with Master’s degree in Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Aston University and now lives in Didcot, near Oxford.
The Electronics Design Engineer is part of The Flame Trench, a community of British and American hobbyist engineers who research and build small satellites and rockets.
Ben now has ambitions to take his career to new heights and is on a mission to travel further than any other Midlander has before by signing up for the European Space Agency’s astronaut programme.
So far, astronaut selection campaigns have only taken place three times since the European Space Agency was created in 1975: the first campaign was in 1978-1979; the second one in 1991- 1992; the most recent astronaut campaign ran during a nine month period in 2008 and 2009.
To meet the strict requirements of the Agency’s selection process Ben has to be in his best physical condition, in addition to his knowledge of engineering and physics.
The keen diver has added variety to his training routine by signing up for the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K and will be among thousands of inspirational runners and walkers taking part in the Bank Holiday weekend event, which this year features a new and improved route.
Starting on historic Colmore Row in Birmingham city centre, the 10K takes in the city’s world-famous Jewellery Quarter, home to 40% of the UK’s jewellery manufacture.
The finish line is next to the Aston University campus, which is just perfect for Ben, who will be returning to his alma mater with a finisher’s medal and tee-shirt to celebrate his achievement.
“I started getting really interested in the space industry and potentially working in space early in my degree at Aston, so I did a placement year at the Harwell Innovation Campus near Oxford, one of the central industry hubs for space in the UK,” he explains.
“I returned to Oxford after graduating and now work in various areas of science and space engineering.
“It was pointed out to me I might have quite a good skill-set for astronaut selection but I only graduated in the summer so I may be a bit young, but we’ll see!”
Ben plans to volunteer with St John Ambulance to help his medical and first-aid skills, which will be another addition to his astronaut selection process CV.
“The training programme is about proving that you have all the capabilities needed. Going diving is a good example of this. There’s lots of risk management and procedures. It can be quite a stressful thing to do.
“For the rest of it you need to show high levels of physical fitness. At the moment I’m training three times a week and I’m up to 5K. The Great Birmingham 10K will be my first organised event and the longest distance I’ve run.
“Lots of engineers, doctors and mountaineers apply for the European Space Agency and as they only invite applications every eight or nine years, it’s quite a difficult process to go through.
“I need to make sure I’m physically fit for this so at some point I’ll mix up the routine with bodyweight training. The rest of it is demonstrating engineering and personality skills.”
As a newcomer to running events, Ben has a few words of inspiration for any others thinking of running or walking the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K.
“If you have any doubts about starting to do this just get out there and do it.
“You have to convince yourself to get changed and get out there for a run. The progress I made was really quick. Once you’ve done two or three weeks you really get into it and it soon becomes a habit.
“My parents are doing the same training programme. My mum is quite a good runner who is at half marathon distance. I’m trying to convince her to sign up for the 10K!”
Anyone who enters the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10K will receive £10 off their entry fee for the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run half marathon, which takes place on Sunday, October 13, 2019.
To enter the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k click here