I had just been persuaded to sign up for the Marathon Des Sables, the toughest footrace on earth, by Charlie Shepherd, CEO of Epic Morocco, and all round good egg. I was a rubbish runner and was desperate for help ideally in the short, sharp, shock form of a weekend of week-long camp. I couldn’t find one for a beginner like me. So, Charlie and I decided to set up our own, and Epic Running was born.
We thought it would be hard work to get going but relatively easy to get people to. We decided to start off in Morocco, because that is where Charlie was based and he had great ideas on venues and trails. Also Marrakech is really close to the UK, cheap to get to, in the same time zone and the weather is fantastic.
We got right into it and put the hours in. We found the venue, coaches and nutritionists, built the website, did the financial spreadsheets, hired some PR expertise from the wonderful Little Bird PR, and started promoting it online.
No-one enquired. Charlie and I couldn’t understand it. We knew that the product was good and we knew there was a gap in the market, so what was wrong. We did a bit of canvassing on various running forums and changed things round a bit. We switched the concept from Epic Marathon Camps to Epic Running to broaden the range, included the possibility of some weekend camps in the UK, and cut down the luxury and so the price of the weeks.
Still no-one booked and by now the Marathon Des Sables was looming so we put it on hold.
Flushed with our success at completing MdS, we put another couple of dates in the calendar and kept on plugging it. Some enquiries trickled in but not the minimum of 6 that were required just to break even.
“Alice, you’d have to be a gambling man to keep betting on this one,” said Charlie. I couldn’t quite give it up though. A friend, Rob, who had run a successful business was damning, ” I see this time and time again,” he said, ” People who are really good at one thing, give that up and plunge into something completely different that they have no experience of and they fail.”
I hated the fact that he might be right, that this kind of negativity could prevail, but I was spending lots of time on this and I couldn’t keep on flogging the dead horse with no money coming in. I decided to give up, bury the dead horse and put it down as one of life’s lessons. But that hurt and I still loved our dream.
Then two things happened.
The first, was that Diana Green, our nutritionist, decided that she would like to take the bulk of Epic Running on and run weekends out of her home in the New Forest. I had met Diana a couple of years before at a Boot Camp and decided I liked the cut of her jib when she said, ” I will never sacrifice taste to calories.” A keen runner and biker herself, she combines the best of being a chef and a food scientist. We had recruited her early on and her keenness and practical approach were perfect.
Truly, though, when she said she wanted to take it on, I groaned. I’d buried it, had the funeral, was getting over it, and I didn’t want to try again. But she did and all I had to do was help.
The second thing was meeting Leanne Spencer, CEO of Body Shot Personal Training ” Go local” she said. “Keep all the costs as low as you can, use trainers who are in the local area and start spreading the word locally too. Give incentives even though your price is low, ie discounts for bring a friend and if you can break even with your first one, it’s a bonus.” Brilliant advice.
And so, we forged ahead. Diana did all the hard work, found Ben, a local coach, set up all the logistics and explored the trails. I got the word out, emailing all the people who had loyally waited till we could get enough folk to break even.
It happened. IT HAPPENED.
End of May Bank Holiday from 23rd – 25th in the New Forest, the first Epic Running Camp went ahead. I couldn’t afford to go over from Morocco but I was glued to Facebook waiting for the pictures and the stories.
It was exactly what I had hoped for. The clients loved it and had a wonderful time. Most importantly of all, they said their running had improved and they wanted to come again. The next dates are now in the calendar: 3rd-5th July and 14th-16th August
It wasn’t how Charlie and I had imagined it all those months ago, it wasn’t even me that finally made it happen. But it just shows, that if you keep going, keep it flexible, listen to good advice, and find a Diana, anything is possible.
For more, check out www.epicrunning.co.uk