for those who love the outdoors

28 June, 2023


My black dog can fly

Hi, my name is Deborah Gilman, I'm 54 years old and I've entered the Race Across Scotland (RAS), that sounds like an introduction to a group therapy meeting, some might say I need it! This is a 215 mile single stage ultra marathon following the beautiful Southern Upland Way. Please spare me a moment, sit down and read my story.

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Hi, my name is Deborah Gilman, and I'm a 54 year old marathon runner. In just a few weeks time, I will be entering the biggest ultra of my life so far; the 215 mile single stage, Race Across Scotland (RAS) following the beautiful forests of the Southern Upland Way, but WHY NOW?

Most folks who know me, would hopefully tell you I’m determined yet humble, and though I have a few race wins under my belt, my shriek was actually celebrating winning an auction through the Personal Best Foundation thanks to funny man and endurance runner Vassos Alexander. The prize? A chance to watch the Virgin Radio Breakfast show live!

That morning in the studio, I had the privilege of meeting fellow guest, Abi Evans. When just 17 years old, after a lifetime of living in pain, Abi was diagnosed with a rare condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Abi was invited onto the show after attending the My Black Dog Charity Dinner, which helps save lives by supporting people struggling with mental health. Live on air, she openly shared her experiences; how her thoughts of living with a disability seemed unimaginable, and how within a couple of years, she went from being a young girl who loved playing football and running around, to a girl in a wheelchair with a feeding tube due to a paralysed stomach.

After losing all hope of ever achieving her dream of becoming a pilot, Abi in 2022 applied to learn to fly with a charity called FLYING SCHOLARSHIPS FOR DISABLED PEOPLE (FSDP). The whole process changed her life and she is now working towards her Private Pilots License whilst documenting the whole journey on YouTube, in the hope that she can inspire others with struggles to “DO WHAT YOU CAN’T”.

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I was so inspired by how brave, selfless, and positive Abi is, and how her own mental battles and illness doesn’t stop her from wanting to help others. As she says, she can no longer walk or run, but can spread her wings and fly and help others to overcome their disabilities.

With Abi on my mind, as I was thinking what could I do to help, an email from GBULTRAS dropped into my inbox with details about RAS. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I knew I needed a truly epic, unique challenge to help raise as much awareness as possible for Abi’s charities.

I thought back to my life of running. My first Ultra in 2016 was a mere 53 miles across the South Downs and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, what I learnt about myself, the beauty of the course, but most of all the support and amazing camaraderie of the Ultra community which makes an ultra so different to many other races.

Since that baptism, I've completed another four ultras and raised money for Pancreatic Cancer in memory of my dear brother Max, though my furthest distance to date has only been 69 miles.

The dismay I had when I realised entry to RAS 2023 had closed, had the 150 participant cap had been met? followed by joy when I got contacted that two people had pulled out and I could join as a late entry, then the sheer adrenaline that jolted through me when I realised I have just a few short weeks to train has been a rollercoaster, but Abi and her family’s positivity means I couldn’t be more excited or committed.

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The RAS itself starts at 6am on the 12th August at Portpatrick on the West Coast of Scotland. I must remember to dip my feet in the sea first, it's a tradition! Participants must run the 215 miles over one of Scotland's great trails, with an elevation of 7218m, covering mountains, valleys, forests and 12 checkpoints to the finish at Cockburnspath, all within a 100 hour cut off time. On completion I'll be glad to dip my feet in the East Coast sea, before crawling into a real bed while still wearing my reward buckle.

My epic endurance challenge is not going to be a long picnic; this is going to be the biggest ever test of my mental and physical strength, not just during the event, but in the training and recovery afterwards too, with added sleep deprivation, and blisters they haven’t yet invented names for. Still, it is nothing to what Abi has gone through, and is supporting others through, so every stride, and blister, will be worth it if it helps her tell her story and raise important funds for the FSDP and the My Black Dog charities that changed Abi’s life. Every donation will help people like herself follow their dreams, but also act as a catalyst for finding their inner strength to do more.

If Abi can overcome her lifetime obstacles, then I'm sure I can manage a few days with miles and hills! She is my inspiration, the pilot I need to fly me through and together we can help someone else's life be better.

You can also help and support by sharing Abi’s story, or by leaving kind words and donations if you can to:

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Deborah Gilman


Derbyshire born Deborah “Debs” Gilman first got into running because she was always late! 30 years ago she uncovered her natural talent by entering a fun run with a local club, and was instantly hooked; not by the competition that came with entering races, but by the community and life long friendships made along the way. Now representing England in the Vet Masters, Debs lives and breathes running. She has gone on to complete several half-marathons, and full marathons, but it was the heartbreaking loss of her brother Max to Pancreatic Cancer that inspired her to tackle ultra marathons to raise money for charities. In her own words “I've been fortunate with my health, and I'll always be grateful and determined to give back whenever I can. I have an awesome coach who believes in me, but you can't measure anything against raising money for charity, knowing you are making a difference to someone else’s life.” As for whether she is still always late? Well, she is still running…

Find out more about Deb’s latest challenge at

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