With temperatures plummeting to -50 C from the start, race conditions for the 300-mile 2015 Yukon Arctic Ultra were among the toughest they have ever been. Yet Neil navigated his way through ice fields with blocks of ice as big as houses, crossed frozen rivers with huge cracks and overcame extreme fatigue in order to raise over £3000 for Grace. Conditions were so brutal that several competitors weren’t able to finish and at least two competitors lost fingers and toes to frostbite.
The father and step-father of four teenagers undertook the challenge as he wanted to do something to mark his 50th birthday.
The -50 C temperature left little room for error with food going solid, material brittle, zips failing and any bare skin prone to frostbite. Neil, who won the race in 6 days and 19 hours, estimates he lost up to a stone in weight after racing for 16-24 hours a day while pulling his 20kg pulk behind him. The extreme fatigue meant that he fell asleep while walking and hallucinated several times.
Neil described the race as ’the toughest physical and mental challenge of my life’ and said that it was knowing that people were rooting for him back home, a healthy competitive streak, plenty of preparation and ‘dreams of steak and red wine’ that enabled him to win.
After crossing the finishing line Neil said: “Crossing the finishing line and discovering I had won was very emotional, I had been so focused on reaching the next target and the next checkpoint that when I finished I was delighted, but emotionally drained. I’m proud to have won the race but knowing that Grace will get her operation as a result is even better. Needless to say I’m now looking forward to a few Canadian breakfasts and steaks!”
Neil is continuing to raise money for other Humanity Direct patients. To do this Neil is offering to give talks at business meetings about his journey through the Artic and how to apply those experiences to professional and everyday life. For more information please visit: xnrg.co.uk