A Sheffield runner has become only the 116th person to complete one of the UK’s hardest ultra-challanges. Colin Drury meets him...
It is an ultra-challenge so difficult only 115 people in the world have ever officially completed it.
The Paddy Buckley Round sees contestants attempt to run 61 miles up 47 Welsh peaks - including the Snowdon and Carneddau mountain range - with a combined height of 28,000 feet. All in just 24 hours.
“How difficult was it?” ponders Sheffielder Stephen Franklin, who is set to become the 116th name on that exclusive little list after completing the course last week. “Very. There was a point about 10 hours in where I genuinely thought I wouldn’t do it. I was on a downhill section and my calves felt like someone was stabbing spears into them every time I took a step. I said to myself I’d keep going as long as I could but I just couldn’t see how I’d make it to the end.”
But make it, he did.
The 26-year-old of Abbey Lane - who owns the Front Runner running shop in Sharrow Vale Road - crossed the finishing line with seven minutes to spare. It took him 23 hours and 53 minutes.
“It started to get a bit tight towards the end,” he tells The Diary down a phone line from Wales. “I had to move pretty fast on the last section.”
He decided to do the run - a circular which was devised in 1982 - not for charity or even to get on that list but for that oldest of all reasons: because it’s there. The fitness enthusiast helped a friend complete a similar Scottish challenge last year and wanted to have a crack at this one.
“It’s that idea of pushing yourself to your limits,” he says. “I’d never done anything like this before so I was in uncharted territory.”
He set off from Capel Curig at 2.43am in the morning and ran the route in five sections with a team of six friends, each running different parts of the route with him.
“I’m normally a bit of a loaner when it comes to running but I couldn’t have done it without those guys,” he says. “It was a beautiful day. Crystal clear. Which meant you could see the whole route stretched around you. I’m not sure if that helped because I could see where I was going or was a hindrance because I could see just how far I still had to do.”
And after finishing and feeling the elation which (one imagines) comes with completing such a challenge, he’s now already planning his next run.
“There’s a race called the Peris Horseshoe which is held in Wales in September,” he says. “That’s 17.5 miles but incredibly tough. I’d like to have a go at that.”