TTG Media – For most, a first visit to the Caribbean (or long-haul trip for that matter) would usually consist of sun, sand and relaxation. Hays Travel apprentice Ryan Irving is preparing for an altogether different experience.
It’s been, by his own admission, a “whirlwind” few weeks for the 20-year-old agent after he was chosen to represent the company for the gruelling 100km Island Run challenge in Antigua in October, organised by the Sandals Foundation.
Irving, along with a team from Sandals’ sales and marketing representatives, Unique Vacations UK, will be packing his trainers ready to take on four back-to-back days running over a half marathon on each to raise £100,000 to help fund medical equipment and resources to treat sick children in the Caribbean.
Despite the daunting distance and energy-sapping heat, he’s raring to go.
“It’s all been a bit mind-blowing,” Irving, who works at Hays’ Ashington branch near Newcastle, tells TTG. “I’ve never been anywhere like Antigua before – I’ve never been long-haul – and I’ve never run that many miles before!
“My regional sales manager called me to tell me the news and ask if I still wanted to do it, and the only word I could say was ‘absolutely, absolutely, absolutely!’ Having this chance has given me so much motivation. I just can’t wait to get on the plane.”
The Island Run sees runners covering more than 15 miles each day as they make their way around Antigua, visiting a number of its most famous locations – from Dickenson Bay and Jolly Harbour to Nelson’s Dockyard and the Sir Viv Richards Cricket Stadium.
A keen cross-country runner during his school days, Irving says his training has been “going well” as he builds up his mileage, currently running around 10km a day.
Although there is one obstacle for which he can’t prepare…
“The one thing you can’t train for is the heat – especially where I live and with the weather this summer!” laughs Irving.
“I’ve done cross-country runs in torrential rain but this is something entirely different – I’m trying to take everything in my stride, though.”
The exciting – if exhausting – opportunity is a world away from the position Irving found himself in a few just a year ago as he completed his travel and tourism college course amid the pandemic.
With a passion for travel, he was always attracted by the industry but prior to joining Hays, spent time work in a hospital as an apprentice healthcare assistant.
“It really wasn’t for me,” he recalls. “It was a difficult time to be working there and there really wasn’t anything to smile about.
I’ve always loved travel, and this first year has been brilliant.”
Having marked his first year anniversary with Hays at the end of July, having the chance to represent the company is “very special”, with Irving believing his past charity work as a student one of the reasons he was chosen.
As part of the Island Run, runners will visit projects supported by the Sandals Foundation at the end of each day to see the difference money raised is making to children and their families.
“That’s one of the parts of the experience I’m most looking forward to.
The runs will be hard and get harder as the week goes on but being able to see first-hand why we’re doing it and see how it’s changing people’s lives is amazing and it will all be worth it.”
For more information about The Sandals Foundation Island Run – Antigua 2023 and to donate to Ryan and the team, visit: justgiving.com/campaign/islandrun or justgiving.com/page/ryan-irving-1691487850290, while further details about the work of the Sandals Foundation can be found at sandalsfoundation.org