The trail runner who did 7000 miles on prison grounds

Ray Tindall says running helped him stay sane while wrongly detained in India for two and a half years

If you ever get bored running the same local routes, spare a thought for Ray Tindall. While serving a two-and-a-half year sentence in an Indian prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he ran 37 miles per week on the same 800-metre circuit. Including bail time, Ray was detained in India for four years, in which time he ran a total of 7,652 miles behind bars – enough to have run back to the UK almost twice over.

It was running that kept Ray sane, and it was dreaming of getting back to the trails near his North Wales home that helped him through the nightmare ordeal. The drama started in 2013 when the former British Army sniper was arrested with five other Brits on weapons charges. The group were working on an anti-piracy ship in the Indian Ocean when customs officials discovered ammunition and weapons they claimed hadn’t been properly declared and it wasn’t until November 2017 that the ‘Chennai Six’ were finally allowed back to the UK after a second acquittal.

Tindall’s love of trail running began after he left the Army. While in service, he ran just to keep fit. “I started to get into trail running with Delamere Spartans in Chester,” he told Trail Running. “It ignited a passion in me. I was free and running for myself all of a sudden rather than running for my job. It felt like freedom running around Delamere Forest, but then I got stuck over there (in India). It was thoughts of Delamere and Snowdonia that kept me going.”

Conditions were tough at Chennai Central Prison, but Ray and his fellow inmates were treated well and it was during the early-morning exercises that he indulged his passion for running. 

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 “It wasn’t as bad as you could probably think in your mind,” said Ray. “We had a mattress on a concrete floor and a toilet in the corner. We cooked one meal a day, the rest of the time it was fresh milk for lunch and breakfast, and that was about it. 

“The prison officers went out of their way to do as much as they could within their remit to help us, because they knew we shouldn’t have been there. 

“Every day we were allowed outside at 6.30am, so I ran. Sometimes I ran once a day, sometimes twice. Sometimes I did strength in the morning and then ran in the afternoon. Sometimes I ran for three hours straight.”

Summer morning temperatures would typically hit 28 degrees C, with more bearable winter conditions of around 10 degrees C. The half-mile Tarmac prison loop was a far cry from the trails Ray enjoyed around his native Hull, or his current home in North Wales, but they provided great therapy during his time behind bars. 

“I called it running for my mind, because it was the one thing I could control,” he said. “I couldn’t control the court – it was entirely down to my lawyer to get us free, so the only thing I could control was myself and running helped me do that. It made me disciplined, whether it was a speed session, a tempo session or a long session.

“Initially we thought: ‘We can’t be in here long, we haven’t done nowt wrong,’ but then as the days progressed into weeks and weeks into months it was like, ‘Are we going to see an end to this?’

“Eventually we got released on bail and the charges were quashed and we thought, ‘That’s it, we’re going home’, but then they had 90 days to appeal that decision and they appealed on the 89th day, which meant we had to stay longer and go for a trial. We waited seven months and then they said, ‘We don’t know all the facts, go back to trial’. It was a farce and an emotional roller-coaster the whole time.”

Ray’s positive attitude helped him mentally survive his ordeal in India and that attitude, in turn, is helping him move on with his life. He’s now using his experiences to build up a business as a motivational speaker and running coach, having gained a leadership in running fitness qualification.

“People have told me since I’ve been back that I’ve been an inspiration’,” he said. “Being a Yorkshireman and ex-forces, I just got on with what I needed to do.”

Ray lost 15kg in weight during his first five and a half months in prison and then, while out on
bail, entered a few races to compete in when he returned home.

Ray’s current running environment could barely be more different to his experience while captive in India. Living near Holt in the Welsh Marches, he’s based just 50 yards from trails and 20 minutes from the Clwydian Hills. Unsurprisingly, having been forced to run the same 800-metre loop every day for so many years, he doesn’t need much excuse to head out exploring the local countryside.

“I try to find a new route every time I go out. With my background in the army, I’m into navigation. I try to challenge myself that bit more by navigating a new route.

“Routine is the enemy.” 

This article appeared in an earlier edition of Trail Running

This article appeared in an earlier edition of Trail Running

World Cup mountain series launched for 2019

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Snowdon International Race has been added to the WMRA’s roster

The World Mountain Running Association has released its 2019 World Cup calendar.

Covering seven races in seven countries and 140km of mountain tracks, the series now additionally includes the Snowdon International Mountain Race on July 20.

It will begin with two other new races, the Maxi Race in France (16km race) and the Broken Arrow Sky Race (26km race) in USA.

It will also include the 31km Sierre Zinal on August 11, which is also part of the Golden Trail series, ensuring a high standard of field. "Having the best mountain and trail runners competing together has always been the goal," said race co-ordinator Valentin Genoud.

The 10km uphill Smarna Gora in Slovenia on October 12 will conclude the World Cup calendar.

World Cup 2019 calendar:

RACE #1.

24 May (start Friday 19h) - Salomon Gore-tex Maxi Race FRANCE, Annecy.  16,5 km  (945 m+ and 990 m-).  Point to point course. 

RACE #2.

23 June - Broken Arrow Sky Race USA, Squaw Valley.  26km (1550 m+ and 1550 m-). Loop course.

RACE #3.

14 July - Grossglocknerlauf* AUSTRIA, Heiligenblut 12,7km (1495 m+ and 370m-). A mainly uphill point to point course.

RACE #4.

20 July - Snowdon International Mountain Race WALES, Llanberis 15,5km (995 m+ and 995 m-) on a loop course.

RACE #5.

11 August - Sierre Zinal SWITZERLAND, Sierre 31km (2200 m+ and 1100 m-) This is a mainly uphill; point to point course.

RACE #6.

14 September - Drei-Zinnenlauf ITALY, Sexten/Sesto 17,5km (1350 m+ and 250 m-). A mainly uphill; point to point track.

RACE #7.

12 October - Smarna Gora SLOVENIA, Ljubljana 10,0km (710 m+ and 350 m-).  On a mainly uphill; point to point course.

Volvic Volcanic Experience adds 220km option

The cultural and trail racing programme in central France gets bigger

Pic credit: Pierre Soissons

Pic credit: Pierre Soissons

Organisers of the Volvic Volcanic Experience have two more events for this year’s programme of events, which takes place on May 30-June 1 in the heart of the Massif Central region of France.

The weekend combines trail running with tourism, giving visitors the chance to flavour the history and nature of the area around this volcanic area.

With most of the races having sold out, entries are still open for the new XGTV Great Volcanic Crossing Experience, a 220km race with 7500m of climb. This test of ultra-endurance will take competitors through the Auvergne volcanoes along the most emblematic Grande Randonnée hiking trails in five areas: the Dômes mountains, the Dore mountains, the Cézallier massif, the Cantal massif, and the Artense plateau.

This adventure race, where participants will be equipped with nothing more than a GPX-track road book and will follow the red-and-white Grande Randonnée trail blazes 95% of the time, requires a good sense on direction on and off the trail. The route offers a chance to discover the richness and diversity of the different zones of the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Nature Park. The Great Volcanic Crossing Experience can be undertaken solo or in a team of two. Two categories will be established. The participants will be travelling through a sometimes rugged and demanding mountainous environment, requiring a certain level of technical, physical, and mental capabilities.

Also new for 2019 will be a VVX Kids’ Trail Run.

Trail Running magazine last week enjoyed a taste of the Volvic Volcanic Experience, running segments of the routes, learning how Volvic water is sourced in the area and discovering the heritage of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Organisers were keen to put across that they want participants to receive an education rather than just a race, saying: “After your athletic activities, follow in the footsteps of the men and women you’ll meet here who are passionate about the place they live and want to share a timeless experience with you, helping you discover a remarkable land shaped by volcanoes, stone and water. You can visit artisan workshops and some truly symbolic attractions, such as the Volvic Impluvium as you uncover the town’s rich heritage.”

Complete schedule, May 30-June 1

The “XGTV®” Great Volcanic Crossing Experience
220 km for duos - 7,500-m climb
Limited to 30 teams of two

The Chaîne des Puys - Limagne Fault Trail Experience
110 km solo or for duos or trios - 3,500-m climb
Limited to 400 participants

The Volvic Impluvium Trail Experience
43 km - 1,670-m climb
Limited to 600 participants

The Volcanic Trail Experience
25 km - 900-m climb
Limited to 500 participants

The Lava Trail Experience
15 km - 550-m climb
Limited to 500 participants

More information