Note by Martien Baars: Friday 26 September I boarded the Fisheries Research Ship ‘CEFAS Endeavour’, and the same evening we sailed out of Lowestoft, towards the Oyster Ground in the North Sea, to study the latest phase of (this year’s very strong) summer stratification. Onboard were a few newspapers of that Friday, and to my pleasant surprise I found the below in the Daily Record, page 84.
Marathon man Will: Scotland’s very own Forest Gump
Sichel has already beaten cancer .. now he’s on the run for 24 hours
Daily Record, Friday, September 26, 2003
By Andrew Wallace
Running non-stop for 24 hours is all in a day’s work for Orkney’s William Sichel. Sichel is one of Britain’s leading ultra-distance runners, a gruelling athletics discipline where the aim is to run and keep running for a whole day. Incredibly, he turns 50 next Wednesday and in his first half-century on this planet he’s already fought and won a battle with cancer.
From October 11-12 this remarkable athlete will represent Britain in the 24 Hour World & European Championships in the Netherlands, where competitors will attempt to complete as many circuits of a one-mile loop as they can within the allotted time. Toilet stops aside, they will keep going until a hooter signals the end of their challenge, and whoever has covered the most distance takes the title.
Since moving to the Orkneys 21 years ago, Sichel has become a well-known local celebrity. He can regularly seen beating the remote country roads on the island of Sanday, wearing a 3.5 kilo weight belt, and when not in training he runs his own mail order business with wife Elizabeth, selling Angora wool clothing.
Eccentric? Maybe, but in reality Sichel is just a man who likes a challenge. And he faced the greatest test of his life in 1997 when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. His response to the potentially fatal condition was to fight it with the same determination he shows in his chosen athletics pursuit.
He said: “It was a big confidence blow but I am the sort of person who makes the most of something when it comes along. I used it to make me stronger.” Only 13 days after surgery to remove a testicle, Sichel was back on the roads with a four-mile run. Less than a month after that he finished 45th in the World 100km Championships.
It’s an inspiring tale and one that has endeared him to his fellow Orcadians, even if the majority of them remain bemused by his Forest Gump-like desire to run himself into the ground. He added: “They don’t pretend to understand but they support me in their own quiet way. They like to see Orkney put on the map.”
As well as technical and medical support from Scottish Athletics, Sichel can count on the sponsorship of the Orcadian business community. Meat producers Orkney Island Gold, ice-cream firm The Orkney Creamery, Kirkwall’s Ayre Hotel and even the local newspaper have all got behind Sichel, who has also won the islands’ Sportsman of the Year award.
His record over 24 hours is 153 miles (246 km), the equivalent of following the dual carriageway from Glasgow to Aberdeen. In December last year he covered 112 miles during an all-day session on a treadmill, winning a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Sichel sees no need to cut down on a training schedule that can see him run three full marathons in a week. He said: “I was a relative latecomer to athletics, so I am still in good shape – the car has been in the garage for quite a long time!”