• Walsall’s Barry Cheema’s biggest challenge will be reaching start, not finish, line!
• He is making 7,000-mile dash from Orbis Expedition in Malawi to run with Kash Gill
• Barry is likely to have been awake for 30 hours when he starts half marathon
• He runs as Usingh Bolt & Midlands’ No.1 half marathon will cap exhausting 2019
A Walsall man is prepared to ‘Bolt’ over 7,000 miles to join a childhood hero at the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run start-line as his epic year of fundraising reaches an exhausting conclusion.
Barinderjit ‘Barry’ Singh Cheema, who runs as Usingh Bolt, will bring the curtain down on a gruelling challenge in Malawi just a day before he’s due to begin Brum’s annual half marathon, featuring a new-and-improved route, on Sunday, October 13.
But the chance to join former world kickboxing champion Kash ‘The Flash’ Gill’s running team, in aid of Cure Leukaemia, means he is prepared to make a sleepless 23-hour journey from South East Africa, via Johannesburg, to tackle the 13.1-mile challenge.
Barry is due to land at Heathrow just after 6am on the morning of the Great Birmingham Run and will head straight up the M40 to the start-line.
Potential travel delays won’t be the only obstacle facing Barry in starting, let alone finishing, the Midlands’ most popular half marathon.
The 43-year-old expects to have been awake for around 30 hours when he sets off with Kash & Co, having clocked up at least 70K in the previous week running up and down Mount Mulanje and completing forest plateau and Lake Malawi trail runs, as part of the Orbis Expedition.
Running as Usingh helps Barry raise the profile of the causes he runs for and he’ll be hanging up his trademark beanie and green and yellow shorts for 2019 after the Great Birmingham Run – as he’ll have clocked up a staggering 2,000-miles inside ten months!
The new half marathon route starts on iconic New Street before taking in popular Brum landmarks and suburbs like the Rotunda, Selfridges, Bournville, Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston Stadium – which staged England’s memorable victories over India and Australia en route to winning the Cricket World Cup, and Digbeth – and Digbeth before finishing on Jennens Road, with Aston University campus hosting post-run refreshments.
Cure Leukaemia is just one of the many worthwhile causes that will benefit from the thousands that will be raised by runners, joggers and walkers of all abilities at the Great Birmingham Run.
“When I saw Kash was recruiting a team of runners for the half marathon to raise money for Cure Leukaemia, I just had to sign up – even though I knew I would still be in Malawi the day before!” revealed Barry, who has entered his eighth Great Birmingham Run.
“When I was growing up in Newcastle, Kash was one of the standout Asian athletes and I looked up to him.
“It will be great to run with someone I’ve admired a long time and who is still inspiring others to get active and making a difference, by helping blood cancer patients.
“It will be a little bit stressful getting there, though! Providing my flight isn’t delayed, I’ll land at Heathrow at 6.20am. It’s not confirmed yet, but I’m hoping a friend will be able to pick me up and drive me straight to the half marathon.
“I’ll obviously have my running kit with me and I’ll ensure I pack my run number and Cure Leukaemia running vest.
“I never sleep on planes so doing a half marathon having been awake for around 30 hours will make it tough. I won’t be worrying about my finishing time, that’s for sure!
“There’s a real mixture of abilities in Kash’s team and it will be great to encourage and support those doing their first half marathon.
“It’s all for a great cause. My cousin’s daughter battled with leukaemia for two-and-a-half years from the age of four. Thankfully, she’s been given the all clear now but watching them trying to cope was very difficult.”
Handsworth-born Kash, through his ambassadorial role with Cure Leukaemia’s charity partners, South & City College Birmingham, is hoping to recruit 100 runners. All money raised will help Cure Leukaemia fund specialist research nurses to give blood cancer patients access to pioneering clinical trials at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
While in Malawi, Barry and his Orbis Expedition colleagues, led by Olympic double gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes, will complete 25K, 5K and two 20K runs in sweltering 30-degree heat. They will visit children and young adults in impoverished communities to help provide nutrition, clean water and education materials.
Dame Kelly will be the latest athletic royalty Barry rubs shoulders with after encounters with Liz McColgan, Steve Cram, Jonathan Edwards, Denise Lewis and Jo Pavey, who he met at the Great Birmingham 10k in May.
However, he is still waiting to meet his namesake, Usain Bolt. “I’m still working on that,” quipped Barry. “I should have gone to the Soccer Aid game he played in at Chelsea the other week and chanced my arm!”
Before Barry can begin contemplating his cross-continental dash to the Great Birmingham Run startline, he is preparing for his biggest challenge yet – a 1,000-mile JOGLE from Land’s End to John O’Groats from August-September.
The married IT support technician has put his career on hold to take on the superhuman 28-day challenge, which will see him run 35miles on average a day, to raise money for Midlands Langar Seva Society, a charity started in 2013 by two Sikh brothers to help the homeless and society’s underprivileged. His route down will incorporate his tenth Great North Run.
“I’ve averaged 1,500-1,600 miles in each of the past three years but after the Great Birmingham Run, I’ll be touching 2,000 miles for 2019, my most ever, so that’ll be me done for the year!” quipped the Aldridge Running Club member.
“I’m both nervous and excited about the JOGLE. Not that many people have done them.
“My biggest fear is getting lost or going the wrong way and clocking unnecessary miles! Injury niggles and the weather could also have a big impact.
“But hopefully all will go well. I’ll then have two weeks to recover before flying out to Malawi!”
The half marathon also features the ENGIE Business Challenge, which pits work teams against each other for fastest-time trophies and bragging rights in the corporate world.
To enter the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham Run click here
Anyone who took part in the Simplyhealth Great Birmingham 10k in May will automatically receive a £10 discount off their entry to the half marathon.