Huw has competed at a high level in numerous sports, from ultramarathons, rugby to triathlons. He recently completed the gruelling Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race in Wales, for which the documentary, Ar Gefn Y Ddraig (Riding the Dragon), made about Huw's endeavour, won the People's Choice Award at Kendal Mountain Festival. Huw has also participated in the Coast to Coast NZ, was a BBC Ultimate Hell Week finalist, came 5th in the world Aquathlon Championships and has even dabbled in a spot of Cumbrian Wrestling.
Above all, Huw’s self-deprecating humour and go-for-gold attitude aim to leave people feeling inspired to back themselves, to take their chances and in so doing become the best they can be.
Originally I was a rugby player up until the age of 22. I didn’t even look at another sport, I loved rugby and I still do. However, rugby smashes your body and it started taking its toll.
Now, my wife says I have FOMO, the fear of missing out, and if I see something, I have to do it. It just so happened that triathlon was the first thing I came across after rugby. I could do all the disciplines, cycling, running and swimming, and within less than a year I had made the GB team and was over in Beijing representing the British Age Groups. It’s a brilliant sport that has taken me all around the world and the best part is you get to wear a helmet shaped like a dildo!
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It comes from a realisation that life is short. I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true. You only get so many opportunities to do things throughout your life and if you turn them down, they may never come back. I don’t want to be sitting there when I’m 80-years old with regrets. I would rather have tried my hand at something and failed than have those “what if” questions hanging over my head.
The key to fitting in your training is to be disciplined and organised. You have to train hard and fit it in, which means early mornings and late nights. I like to utilise short, sharp, hard high-intensity interval training focusing on core strength, which involves press-ups, pull-ups, squats. If you can talk during those sessions, you’re not pushing hard enough. I used to be able to squeeze in four 20-minute sessions a week on my lunch break in work. By keeping your physical condition really high you’re able to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. If you stay ready, you never have to get ready.
I'm also a big believer in not changing your body to try and suit a specific event. Coming from rugby I didn’t want to become a stick-thin runner, because if you specialise too much you can lose the functionality and strength. I say “let a mule be a mule”, don’t give it a perm and send it off to Crufts. Stick to your strengths and don’t try and force yourself to be something you’re not.
What keeps me going is thinking of the people who have helped me get to this point. In these races, you very rarely do it on your own and these people have also made sacrifices to help me get there.
I remember distinctively in the Dragon’s Back Race, a 320km across the Welsh mountains, one of the hardest races in the world, on the fourth day, I was running but behind my sunglasses, I was crying. I thought I was not going to finish this thing. I was knackered, I had shin splints and one leg had stopped working. I basically couldn't run yet I still had 150km of mountain left to go to finish the race. However, what kept me stumbling on was the thought of my wife, my friends, my family, everyone who had helped me get to the start line. It’s an added weight upon your shoulders. If you stop you’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting down all those people too.
I love fierce competitors like the Welsh rugby player Liam Williams, the triathlete, Alistair Brownlee and the cyclist Mark Cavendish, but it’s actually my mum I admire the most, she’s a nut job! She used to play hockey and she’s the nicest person in the world off the pitch, almost quite shy, but when she used to step on the pitch she would turn into an animal. She’s ferocious! I think that’s where my appreciation comes from for the fierce competitor. Not everyone gives everything, but those people who do, I really look up to.
At the moment I’m quite content, but in the future, I really fancy the Frog Graham, where you run over 18 of the mountains and swim across four of the lakes in the Lake District. The great thing about mountain running is that it chucks you deep within the landscape and you really get to know a place. If you want to talk about motivation, there’s no better motivation than raising your head and seeing the beauty and spectacle of the mountains.
When I was competing in triathlon, I used to love the quote “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”
It doesn't say that you’re a loser if you don’t win, it just says you shouldn’t quit. If you quit you’ll never know how far you could go.
Welshman, Terry Rosoman, ran 50-miles carrying a weighted load that increased by 1lb for every £50 raised during the challenge for Mind, the mental health charity.