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Mersey Ambassador Profile - Dave McCullough

Meet Mersey Ambassador Dave McCullough, a resilient adventurer hailing from Johannesburg, South Africa. Dave's journey into endurance sports began at 37, aiming to improve his well-being. As a Comrades Marathon finisher and outdoor enthusiast, Dave embodies the spirit of exploration that Mersey Craft Spirits celebrates.

Lets start off with some background on you – where do you live, how did you get into endurance activities and what keeps you motivated?

I live in Johannesburg, South Africa, one of the top 5 most dangerous cities in the world (an adventure of its own). This is where I was born and have called home ever since. In 2009, at the ripe age of 37 I took up road running. Initially not more than a 10km as the longest distance. This was to improve my physical body as I was quite overweight, eating junk food everyday, working long hours and basically not taking care of myself. My children were young and I decided if I am going to be an example to them I needed to take better care of myself. At the end of this year, my best friend decided he would run the Comrades Marathon (he already had done 3) as a tribute to his father who had recently passed away. A wave of bravado washed over me and I agreed to join him in the tribute run. The next year (2010) I completed my first Comrades Marathon (90km). I completed 4 in total. I remain motivated by continually trying to be a better version of myself, both mentally and physically. Outdoor activities in particular endurance events help keep me on this path.

What does "following your spirit of exploration" mean to you in the context of Mersey Spirits?

I love the analogy of a tugboat. A tugboat is not meant to stay in the harbour, its purpose is to get out into the dangerous water and guide and tow the big ships into the safety of a harbour. I don’t believe as humans we were meant to be indoors, behind computers all day or in a sedentary state of couch potatoes. We were made for adventure. The early San Bushmen were born to run, ultra distances in to hunt ostrich and eland in order to survive. We were born for ultra adventure, its in our genes. The story of Mersey Spirits resonates with me as my late grandfather joined the army in Ireland and was despatched to South Africa as a young man. Similar to the Poole's legacy of sailing to Australia on the Mersey ship. There is a small fire of adventure burning in all of us.

What inspires you to align yourself with a brand that promotes adventure and following one's spirit of exploration?

I totally align with a brand that understands me. Ultra endurance for someone like me now into their 50’s is not about getting a podium finish. Its about the adventure, its about connecting with like minded people, its about celebrating life. And after a big event, we love to reward ourselves with something that we are connected to, like sitting around a fire having a braai (BBQ) and sharing a few drinks and stories with our fellow kindred spirits

Can you share a personal story of a time when you followed your spirit of exploration and embarked on an adventure? How did this experience shape your perspective on life and align with the values of our whiskey brand?

In 2018 I decided to run the Sky Run across the Witteberg Mountain range in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. This is a 100km self-supported, self-navigated run, including 4500m of elevation gain, run at approx 2000m above sea level. I ran with a very good friend and we were able to keep each other sane during the long night on top of the mountain. It took us nearly 29 hours to complete the run. Competing the run filled me with a deeper sense of what is important in our lives. Being present and mindful during the 29 hours, reset my mind. I was less concerned about my ego and my career coming off the mountain. I was more focused on my well-being and the things that really matter in life such as the love and joy found in small moments of being with family and friends. These moments of being present and celebrating the now (ideally with a Mersey whiskey or two) have helped me connect with a brand like Mersey.

In what ways do you think Mersey can inspire individuals to embrace the adventure and exploration that the outdoor life offers?

Mersey can inspire individuals to embrace adventure by showcasing the joy and fun and life changing effects that it has on ordinary people like me, and that you don’t have to be an elite endurance runnner to be able to have incredible adventures.

What advice would you give to individuals who may feel hesitant or unsure about embracing their spirit of exploration?

Think of the tug boat. You are not meant to stay in the harbour. Every time I have taken friends or family with me on a camping trip, a hike, a trail run or MTB somewhere in nature, the comments that ALWAYS come up from them afterwards are - “we really should do this more often!”. Say no more

How can Mersey enhance the whiskey-drinking experience by infusing elements of adventure and exploration?

Mersey could consider having a treasure hunt for a box of Mersey and branded gear, the adventure could be in areas that are accessible to their consumers, but with a decent dose of adrenalin involved in finding the ‘treasure’ - this could take place on different continents.

I would consider that the image of a Mersey drinking customer is never seen indoors, but always in an outdoor setting with sunsets, big mountains, rivers, sea and a fire.

How do you stay motivated and continue seeking new adventures and experiences in your own life? How do you translate this enthusiasm into inspiring others?

I recently joined the South African National Parks Honorary Rangers - this is a volunteer organisation that allows the rangers to help support the national parks conservation efforts, through fund raising efforts, as well as active duties like fence repairs, snare removals, alien vegetation removal etc. I have had the privilege to do duties in Kruger, Marakele and Kgalagadi National parks with close encounters with Rhino, Lions and Elephants on all occasions. I am also seeking out new ultra trail runs to keep me focused on the fitness and endurance aspects. These efforts have seen 4 other mates take up the adventure of trail running.  

Tell us a bit about your next adventure that you have planned?

At 51 it becomes a little more difficult in choosing the next adventure as the body is not able to recover as well as previously. However I am planning to run the Ultra Trail Drakensberg 100 miler in 2024. This will be my first 100 miler. I look forward to a Mersey Whiskey at the finish line

What is your favorite way to drink Mersey, including cocktails?

Neat on the rocks.

Dave's connection to Mersey Spirits runs deep, reflecting on the brand's resonance with the adventurer within. From a 100km self-navigated run across the Witteberg Mountains to his upcoming Ultra Trail Drakensberg challenge, Dave's adventures align with Mersey's values. Let's toast to Dave's spirit of exploration and his commitment to living life to the fullest.

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