Here at ‘Esc’ we know finding your dream job normally doesn’t happen over night (although we are working hard to fix this!). As a result other external focuses are great ways to distract you. Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce Chris Jackson. A city prisoner, inspired by the nightmare of war and conflict witnessed on a recent trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo Chris is aiming to run 12 marathons in 12 months and in doing so he is finding himself on a journey of self discovery.

I live in London, I drink Starbucks, I’m a lobbyist, I don’t like the tube, I constantly tap away on my Blackberry (this article was knocked up on one) and I’m still stuck here in the city – sound familiar!? It isn’t all bad though, I know that things could be much worse.

Last summer, much against everyone’s advice I headed to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The short time I spent there shocked me, it shattered my innocent conception of what poverty and despair really are – I couldn’t have been further removed from my London Lite comfort zone.

I was greeted by gunmen and children; not always different things. I was confronted by casualties from the ongoing conflict, horrified by the tales of sexual abuse in the refugee camps, and overwhelmed by the impact this fleeting visit made on my mind. Nightmares ensued; some real and some in my sleep. With a gun to my head in a hotel car park I promised that I would try and do something to make people aware of this forgotten crisis and help support an organisation that is helping the many vulnerable people in the DRC that have suffered so much from this horrendous conflict.

It took me a while to figure out what this was going look like, but I finally followed through on my commitment and find myself attempting to run 12 marathons in 12 months for Amnesty International. What originally started as an application to the London Marathon has exploded and has drastically shaped 2010, and my life, in a way that I never expected. Everybody says a marathon is hard, but everybody still runs marathons. I wanted to go one better by taking on something tough, lasting and impressive so I decided to try and run one marathon a month throughout the year.

Well what a year it is turning out to be. I realise now I have devoted a year of my life to this challenge. The training required to keep fit enough to do this eats into every waking day. I’ll avoid the blow by blow account of each marathon because it might make you stop reading. To sum it up so far: I’ve lost a lot of toe nails, my legs hurt, I don’t like pasta anymore and I’ve discovered the strength of support I have from friends, family and random people. The 12×12 ‘journey’ is only three marathons old but already I realise that the Chris who lined up on a chilly Gloucester morning in January, to begin the first of 12 marathons, has changed. I’ve finally uncovered a part of me which I always knew existed, but never knew how to embrace.

I’m an angry, stubborn, cocky and a belligerent person. Not always admirable attributes but this slice of personality emerges when I’m running and training. I’ve learnt to love it because it never lets me forget why I am running and it sets me free from urban sprawl.

My confidence has grown no end during this challenge and I now know for sure that I can do anything if I set my mind and body to it. I completed my first Ultra marathon in February, running for over four and a half hours covering a distance of over 32 miles. When I’m not running, I’m now working closely with a number of friends to develop a unique venture called the Madhatters Challenge.

This is an open invitation for everyone who has an idea or challenge to go and do it under the banner of the Madhatters and raise money for Leukemia research. So not content with 12 marathons I’ve now got roped into taking on on two triathlons this year, cycling the battlefields of WWII and running the length of Hadrian’s wall in 24 hours (85 miles long) – there might be a world record in it somewhere.

From my darkest moments in DRC to my decision to run 12 marathons in 12 months, something has snapped in me which now fuels my energy and sense of adventure. It is as if a mental block has been removed; nothing is too far, too hard or even impossible. That is my cocky side coming through again but I feel invincible and free. When you can feel your body screaming at you to stop running, see blood oozing through your trainers and you can ignore that and carry on running, then you can draw on untold reserves of strength and confidence. When you feel that anything is achievable then you are no longer shackled by the constraints of day to day life. The knowledge that no challenge is too tough means that I no longer feel suffocated by city life, because ultimately I know that if I want too I have the strength of character and determination to take on a new challenge anywhere in the world – however hard it might prove to be.

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