Trail Running (UK) - - Contents -

The in­spir­ing tale of how wrong­ful im­pris­on­ment in­spired a love of run­ning

f you ever get bored run­ning the same lo­cal routes, spare a thought for Ray Tin­dall. While serv­ing a two-anda-half year sen­tence in an In­dian prison for a crime he didn’t com­mit, the York­shire­man 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.

“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. One of those races was Oc­to­ber’s Ch­ester half-marathon, but his main chal­lenge was com­plet­ing 18 marathons in 18 days in Coed Llan­degla For­est in North Wales last sum­mer to raise money for char­ity.

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.”

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