Danny continued his study of Ayurveda and meditation with Dr David Frawley at the American Institute of Vedic Studies and Atreya Smith at the European Institute of Vedic Studies. In 2000 he set up his own Ayurveda clinic and Panchakarma retreat in Staffordshire with his business partner, Carol Willis.
Over the last 25 years, he has taught thousands of clients from a diverse range of professional backgrounds, from nurses, doctors, business executives and teachers, to Russian oligarchs and members of the British Royal Family. He regularly sees extraordinary changes to the health and well-being of his clients due to the power of the meditation and stress management programmes he teaches.
Below is his extraordinary story of how, at the age of fifty-one he ran three marathons, four half marathons and an ultra-marathon; a feat he attributes to his long-term practice of Mantra Meditation and Ayurvedic Medicine.
From ‘Couch Potato’ to ‘Ultra-Runner’ in six easy steps: a ten-month journey of discovery
For my fiftieth birthday my brother set me an almost impossible challenge – ‘run the Keilder Marathon’.
"But I’ve never run before", I objected. Well, apart from the odd trot round the block whilst at primary school in Morecambe, but I didn’t think that really counted, as it could have been a previous lifetime ago, as far as I was concerned! And that was the end of it ...... or so I thought.
My brother had been training for a while and did go on to complete this rather idyllic 'off-road' marathon. It's a gloriously scenic route that undulates along well-trodden forestry tracks around the Keilder reservoir in Northumberland.
Anyway, one year on, and a friend of mine happened to mention that she’d just completed a ‘Park Run’ (5 km) at Alexandra Palace in around 24 minutes. This got me wondering how long it would take me to cover the same distance, so I headed out the door and ran to the river and back; a run of around 5 km. It took me a little longer than 24 minutes but still, it wasn’t too far off so I was mildly surprised. However, I was completely ‘cream-crackered’ after the run and my muscles ached for days. What’s more, I didn’t enjoy it, so that was that – end of running career - I'll stick to walking from now on in!
However, it was around this time that my brother, in his infinite wisdom, again suggested that I should join him on the Keilder Marathon. As he’d completed it himself the year before, with only a couple of months training, so he didn’t see why I couldn’t join him this time! Since I’d taken to walking Long Distance Footpaths (yeah, no longer a couch-potato to be fair), he argued that running a marathon would be a doddle, even if it was somewhat undulating (downright hilly I soon discovered).
Thus, in a moment of madness I took up the challenge. Why not, was my attitude - you only live once and if I don’t do it now I never will – why not have a year of running so that at least I can say with some certainly that ‘running is just a waste of a good walk’!
Thus, with only six weeks to complete my training before the big day, I tentatively started to increase the distances I ran. I couldn’t really say I enjoyed these runs at first; I was often out of breath and every muscle in my body would ache for days afterwards. However, once I learnt to slow down the pace and had built up some core muscle strength, I found I was actually feeling a sense of reward and achievement at the end of each run. I was beginning to realise that the key to running longer distances was more in the mind than the body. Yes, the muscles would ache and I’d feel out of breath but these feelings would pass if I let my mind and body relax. I attributed this seemingly innate ability to the years I'd spent practising yoga and meditation, which had kept my muscles soft and subtle and trained my mind to stay focused and calm. Remaining inward, with a restful awareness of the breath and the movement of the body seemed to be the key.
All too soon, the day of the marathon arrived and off we set. All the best laid plans flew out of the window. Whilst I’d been overjoyed to find accommodation available close to the venue at such a late stage in the day I’d completely forgotten about food! Thus, on arrival in Keilder we found that there was nowhere to eat as everywhere was booked up. After a five mile trip out of town we found an excellent restaurant, and although the food was first rate it wasn’t really good ‘high-carb running fare’ but more like ‘high-protein, hard to digest recovery fare’. And we ate far too late in the evening. Lesson one learnt.
Lesson two: don’t eat a ‘Full English’ for breakfast even though it looks great and it’s effectively free as part of the B+B room rate!
Lesson Three: If you’ve eaten breakfast early and have a fast metabolism, make sure you’ve got some ‘top-up’ food to eat an hour before starting the run.
Lesson four: Don’t drink a litre of coconut water just before running if you’re not used consuming to so much sugar.
Lesson Five: Don’t be tempted to drink energy drinks or gels if you’ve never had them before.
Lesson Six: Don’t be swayed by the buzz of the crowd and start off running too fast.
Yeh, needless to say, I fell foul of all these obvious recommendations and suffered the consequences – bloating, stomach cramps and acid reflux, all of which I’d never experienced whilst training, so not a great start to the run!
However, I put these niggles aside, drank some ‘plain’ water to neutralise the excess sugars floating around in my stomach, and eventually these symptoms subsided, and I started to enjoy the run – that is until we hit tarmac at mile nineteen – I’d never really taken to running on roads and this was only a very short stretch but it felt like hell and I eventually resorted to walking for a few minutes (and swore I’d never run on a road ever again!).
The last seven miles were tough but I’d realised weeks before that, however much the muscles might ache there’s always more energy in the tank and they always recover - eventually! I slogged on, wondering why the hell I punishing myself when all I needed to do was stop running and the pain would go away.
Finally, the finish line came in sight and I was overjoyed to finish in 4 hours 38 minutes (my original estimate had been six hours!). Anyway, that was it – I’d done it and never needed to run a marathon again, and at that moment I had absolutely no desire to!
However, a few weeks earlier, I'd decided that since I’d gone to all the effort of completing the training, I may as well run a couple of half marathons in the following weeks; just to wind down kind-a-thing, Thus, I'd already booked a place on the Birmingham Half Marathon, which was two weeks later, and the Leicester Half Marathon, the week following. I’d reasoned that I didn’t really need to do them, if I didn't feel up to it when the time finally came round; and nobody would be any the wiser if I didn't do them anyway.
Well, the pain of running the Keilder Marathon eventually subsided and in another moment of madness, I ran the Birmingham Half Marathon in a half-decent time and then the Leicester Half Marathon a week later. Whilst I can’t really say I enjoyed this run in its later stages I finished in 1 hour 44 minutes, which had been my target. Later that year I was coerced into competing in a 24 hour team run that involved running round a 10km 'off-road' circuit every few hours and then an 108 mile Ultra-Run along the Cotswold Way.
And then the year of extreme actively was over and I signed up for a three-month 'boot-camp' at a meditation retreat in the South of France which involved sitting on my butt for six hours a day; every day - talk about extremes!
This three-month meditation and yoga retreat helped me prioritise and clarify what's most important in life and that's being at peace and feeling happy, fulfilled and contented. It's easily accessible, and an innate attribute of our human experience; it's literally hard-wired into our physiology. All we have to do from our side is to learn how to access it and harness the infinite energy, vitality and motivation that ensues once we do. The art and practise of Mantra Meditation is the key to doing this and to establishing a bedrock of calm, inward resilience and focus that allows the mind to be still whilst caught in the challenges of everyday life. Once this state of restful alertness permeates our being we are truly capable of achieving all that we desire so why not learn today and transform your life into one of joy and supreme fulfilment.