Wakefield trio's epic Lake District challenge for The Brain Tumour Charity

A gruelling 15-hour endurance challenge will see three men aim to conquer England's longest lake and highest mountain - all inspired by a toddler's brain tumour diagnosis.

By Sarah Hall
Thursday, 27th June 2019, 1:27 pm
Paul Swainton with two-year-old Felix, who has inspired an epic charity challenge.
Paul Swainton with two-year-old Felix, who has inspired an epic charity challenge.

Wakefield's Paul Swainson has conceived the ultimate endurance challenge to raise funds and awareness after two-year-old Felix, his cousin’s son, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour last year,

On July 28, he’ll be joined by his brother Mark and close friend Phill Wright when the three of them will take on the ‘Peaks, Pedals, Paddles’ challenge: canoeing Lake Windermere and then cycling to and scaling Scafell Pike. All in under 15 hours.

Paul, from Sandal, said: “I started doing some research last year before Felix’s diagnosis happened. I turned 40 this year and I wanted to organise something unique to mark the occasion, something few people have ever done before – the longest, fastest, furthest type of challenge.

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Paul and his brother Mark, who will be taking on the challenge together.

“That’s when the idea of Peaks, Pedals, Paddles came about. We’re aiming to canoe the longest lake in England - Lake Windermere - then cycle 42km before climbing the highest mountain in England - Scafell Pike - in under 15 hours.”

While still in the planning stage, news of his cousin’s little boy’s brain tumour diagnosis cemented the idea and their support for The Brain Tumour Charity.

“Felix came out of nursery one day with his head tilted to one side. At first doctors thought it wasn’t serious but soon, when his symptoms didn’t improve, he was taken to A&E and they gave him a CT scan.”

Further tests revealed that Felix had a rare but aggressive atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumour (ATRT). He underwent 10-hour brain surgery at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to remove the tumour followed by rounds of chemotherapy, and nine weeks of Proton Beam Therapy in the US.

The trio will be canoeing the length of Lake Windermere - the longest lake in England.

Paul said: “The challenge is going to be tough but that’s nothing compared to the journey Felix is on."

The trio have been preparing for the last few months, adjusting their training to cope with the three very different sections of the challenge.

Their campaign has captured the imagination of some big names, with the likes of Red Bull, Jaguar Landrover and double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes lending their support to the challenge. Paul, already a professional fitness trainer, is under no illusions that they’ve set themselves an ambitious target.

"We're now in what I call the "business end" of the training plan, with longer sessions in the gym and outdoors. My brother completed a half-ironman distance triathlon last week and I did 15km on the rowing machine, with the aim of doing the full distance of Lake Windermere in the next couple of weeks.

“Each bit in itself wouldn’t be a massive problem, we’re all fit guys, but putting it all together will elevate this.

“We’re roughly working on three to five hours per each leg of the challenge and it’s going to be hugely weather-dependent as well. If it closes in, it’ll affect every aspect of the challenge.“Personally, I’m least looking forward to the canoe stage out on Windermere. We all get on our bikes and walk regularly but by the time July 28 comes around, we’ll only have had a handful of sessions out on the water.

“Windermere is 18km long and we’re hoping for somewhere between two-and-a-half and four hours. We’re planning for five, aiming for three and anything less will be a bonus.

“It’s going to be an interesting dozen hours or so in total, that’s for sure but we’ll be as ready as we can be.”Geraldine Pipping, director of fundraising at The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “A huge thank you to Paul, Mark and Phill for their challenge. Scaling the lakes and heights of England will be no mean feat but their grit and determination is inspirational.

“We receive no government funding and rely 100 per cent on voluntary donations and gifts in wills. It’s only through the efforts of our fantastic supporters such as Paul, Mark and Phill, and of course Felix and his family, that we can bring hope to the thousands of people who are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year.

“As the UK’s foremost brain tumour charity, we are leading the way in fighting this disease on all fronts through our work."

The Brain Tumour Charity funds pioneering research to increase survival and improve treatment options as well as raising awareness of the symptoms and effects of brain tumours to bring about earlier diagnosis.

The Charity also provides support for everyone affected so that they can live as full a life as possible, with the best quality of life.

Find out more on Paul’s Instagram feed: www.instagram.com/paulswainson