Coast to Coast Scotland (Rat Race) 2020 for StrongMen

Running, Biking, Kayaking across Scotland 105 Miles for StrongMen to raise much needed funds to support StrongMen.

Dan Cross:
In 2015, I lost a wife to murder and subsequently suffered immeasurably with mental health issues.

Alongside suffering from grief, I was also diagnosed with anxiety, depression & PTSD. In order to recover from these conditions, I used physical exercise to help disperse build up of adrenaline and stress levels.

Going to the gym was useful, but it was when I trained in the outdoors that I noticed the biggest impact on my mood and outlook. In addition to this I noticed something more.

Whilst exercising inside in the gym, I would open up a little to my training partner about how I was feeling, but when I trained outside in the wild, they couldn’t shut me up.

 I was able to focus on the outdoors and the exercise on hand and in doing so, found myself talking about what was going on in my head. Not only that, the focus on the physical training helped push out intrusive, negative memories and thoughts I was having due to the PTSD symptoms I was suffering from even if it was just for that hour or two that I was working out.

But, that break from the constant mental hammering I was taking was invaluable. It’s this experience I hope to share via the “StrongMen” project and in turn help others going through the grieving process.

My opinion is that doing positive things to help others is a massive part of recovering and healing myself. In 2018 I appeared as recruit 13 on Channel 4’s “SAS who dares wins”, where I met “Ollie Ollerton” who has been a friend and mentor since meeting him. The SAS who dares wins experience was truly amazing and educated me on how quickly you can form a close bond with people you don’t know in just a few hours when you have a common connection against adversity. This was another deciding factor in the birth of “StrongMen”.

Professionally, I have a long career in IT telecoms operations and I serve as a Trustee for the child bereavement charity “Nikki’s Wishes” which I founded in memory of Nikki. In 2018 I was delighted to receive a Heart FM hero award for fundraising.

Personally, I have an amazing family and group of friends who I could never even begin to repay for the love, care and support they showed me and my children through the very worst of times.

I sincerely hope that the creation of “StrongMen” is the start of something new, innovative and effective in helping men to talk about their mental struggles while learning the benefits of looking after yourself physically and the importance of connecting with people of similar experience to aid the recovery from a bereavement and the related stresses and conditions this can cause.

Efrem Brynin:Born and raised in Sussex, I have a keen interest in most sports, particularly Football, Cricket and Motor Sport.

I love being outdoors and active whether with my dogs, family, friends or just myself. Since I was 16 I have played the guitar in local bands and have a deep love of music, rock music in particular.

My story starts in Singapore during the spring of 2013, sitting with my wife in complete peace, my life was in complete balance. Just six months later everything had changed, that life I had loved was over. My son, James, was killed on his second tour of Afghanistan. In the immediate aftermath and to this day I have, and still experience, the very worst imaginable emotions. Since James died, I have been diagnosed, treated for and am currently in remission for Prostate Cancer, so it’s been a really tough few years.

During 2016 I was lucky enough to play the part of Recruit #11 in Channel 4’s SAS Who Dares Wins, filmed on location in the jungles of Ecuador. Not only was this a truly unique and incredible experience, it almost certainly saved my life, as I first experienced the symptoms that led to my eventual cancer diagnosis 12 months later. It is also as a result of this programme that I got to know Matthew ‘Ollie’ Ollerton and subsequently Dan Cross, which eventually led us here to StrongMen.

The never ending process of bereavement of somebody close to you is unique to all who have experienced it. Each of us have different relationships and dynamics, however, much of that experience is shared. To be able to provide the opportunity for people with similar experiences to reconnect with the outdoors, and share the comfort of those that have, and continue to “walk the walk” is something that not only excites me, but also helps me to continue my healing process.