SHEFFIELD adventure runner Stuart Walker has set himself a mountain of a task – a 1,000-mile journey across the Alps.
He sets off on Saturday on a run from Vienna to Nice through six countries, which he aims to complete in 30 days.
It’s a challenge he says has never been attempted before and while he is a committed ultra runner, thinking nothing of 100-mile races, the route over mountain tops and through exposed passes will be his biggest test. “I am expecting it to hurt a lot!” he said.
The runner called Walker is hoping to raise £10,000 for the charity, Water For Kids, which provides clean water and sanitation for communities in developing countries.
He will run solo, carrying a small tent, food and all his equipment. He will camp most nights.
It’s the next step after completing an adventure in 2009 to travel from the Isles of Scilly to Orkney without any engine power – on foot, cycling, swimming and kayaking.
“When I spoke to people after this I kept getting asked: “What’s next?” said Stuart, aged 26.
“I have spent some time in the Alps in the summer and winter and it’s an incredible area and one day the idea of a continuous run from one end to the other came to me.
“I wasn’t sure of the distance, or whether it was even possible, but after some reading and studying maps I decided that would be my next challenge.
“With anything like this there is a chance that something unforeseen goes wrong but I’m confident that I’ve done everything I can to make sure that I can complete the challenge successfully.
“I know the route, I’ve used and tested all my kit, and I’ve been training hard, so I’d say I am pretty confident that I can do it. I would be very disappointed if I couldn’t and I’ll certainly give it my all for Water for Kids.”
Stuart came to the University of Sheffield in 2003 to study mechanical engineering, took part in the 56-mile student rag Spiderwalk and decided to run it the following year.
Now a PhD researcher at the university, he said: “I was hooked! Later that year I set a record for running coast to coast across Hadrian’s Wall and I started to realise that there was a whole world of long-distance adventures and races out there.
“Since then I have competed in the UK Ultra distance championships and made lots of new friends.”
As well as training for the Big Alps Run, Stuart, who races for Attercliffe-based Team Accelerate, has been competing in regular races and trains every day in the gym, on mountain and road bikes and road running, towing a tyre behind him and carrying a rucksack to get used to the weight.
“Living in Crookes means I can get down into the Rivelin Valley really easily, which is one of my favourite areas to run. I also train by running up and down the hill from Rivelin to Crookes, as I believe Seb Coe used to!”
His brother, Graham, is going to meet him halfway through the run with new shoes, socks and kit. Stuart will be carrying safety equipment and will be able to buy food as he passes through towns and villages.
“I’m really looking forward to getting started but there are a few things I’m a bit apprehensive about.
“The weather could potentially have a huge effect on the challenge, and there will still be snow in higher areas, so I hope this doesn’t slow me down too much.
“Injury is also a big potential problem, so I have to make sure I look after myself during the early stages of the run so that I can keep going to the end.”
Donations can be made through www.justgiving.com/bigalpsrun. Stuart has a website: www.bigalpsrun.eu.