ADVENTURE runner Stuart Walker was putting his feet up in Sheffield this week after covering 1,100-miles across the Alps.
He completed his mission of crossing six countries in 34 days in conditions ranging from deep snow to temperatures of 32C in the south of France where fiance Lorna Jackson met him at the end of the marathon.
“It was such a long journey but I really enjoyed it,” he said.
“I knew it would be hard, and it was harder than I thought in parts. The weather didn’t help. It was unpredictable. Towards the beginning, in Austria, I woke up one morning with a layer of ice inside the tent. There were long periods of rain, and there were days when everything went wrong. But then you would have brilliant days in the mountains.”
Stuart got hooked on running after coming to the University of Sheffield in 2003 to study mechanical engineering and took part in the 56-mile student rag Spiderwalk, deciding to run it the following year.
Since then he has competed in UK ultra distance championships and set a record for running coast to coast across Hadrian’s Wall.
A member of Attercliffe-based Team Accelerate, his Big Alps Run saw him start in Vienna and run through Germany, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Italy on his way to Nice.
So far the university energy researcher has raised about £2,000 for the charity, Water For Kids, which provides clean water and sanitation for communities in developing countries.
As a keen ultra runner, he thinks nothing of 100-mile races, but this was his stiffest challenge, running solo and carrying a tent, food and all his equipment. His brother, Graham, came out to meet him in Switzerland.
“Obviously I was tired towards the end and I had a few injuries but I managed to sort them out. There were a couple of falls and scrapes but nothing that stopped me.”
The timing went according to plan, although snow meant he could not go through all the places he had envisaged.
“There were things I would do differently in terms of the kit and learning more about the weather,” reflected Stuart, who lives in Crookes.
He spent his 27th birthday in the mountains in Austria. “It was raining a lot and it was one of the worst days. The campsite wasn’t very good.” All of which means he is having another birthday, in Sheffield this weekend!
But he can reflect on the many memorable occasions.
One surprise was the beauty of the mountains in Germany, another his overcoming an apprehension of cows.
“I even helped a farmer to herd a cow at one point!”
Stuart is planning to join ultra races in the Peak District this summer, but there is another important date in his diary.
Stuart marries Lorna in Somerset next month. “That’s my next challenge!”
Donations to the Big Alps Run can be made through www.justgiving.com/bigalpsrun.