Entreprenuers on the trail of a new sporting franchise for UK

tale of the tape: A youth Trail Hiker team cross the finishing line as a group of four. The Eco Trail Trekker in Leeds is set ot be an annual event with the first on October 2017.

tale of the tape: A youth Trail Hiker team cross the finishing line as a group of four. The Eco Trail Trekker in Leeds is set ot be an annual event with the first on October 2017.

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Two Yorkshire-born businessmen are bringing a new sporting event to the city of Leeds that will help raise funds for charities.

Paul Collins and Robert Kirby, both originally from the region, have launched Eco Trail Trekker – a fitness event that enables participants to walk, jog or run a 10k or 30k course as a team of four.

Their business model is based on the Eco Trail Hiker, which was launched in Macau seven years ago by Mr Kirby.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Collins said: “The event is open to people of all abilities.”

The first Leeds Eco Trail Trekker will take place in October next year and the event has two courses, one covering a 10k distance and another covering 30k.

Participants enter as a team of four and all have to cross the finishing line at the same time.

Mr Collins says the reason they chose Leeds to launch Eco Trail Trekker was the duo’s affinity to the city.

Mr Kirby, who now resides in Penang, Malaysia, helped launch the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Leeds, while Mr Collins, who splits his time between the UK and Florida, founded Leeds-based Beaver International, a clothing provider to the sports and corporate sectors.

“When we decided to launch the global operation we thought there would be no better place to launch our first event in the UK than the city of Leeds,” Mr Collins said.

Mr Kirby launched the Eco Trail Hiker in 2010 in Macau. That event will be taken over by MGM Casino after the seventh edition closes.

Mr Collins says they are hoping to take Eco Trail Trekker global off the back of its Leeds launch.

He said: “Robert and I decided to make it a global event because of our contacts around the world, who love the idea and want the event in their countries. Similarly in the UK our ambitions are by 2018 to have a minimum of 14 other events running throughout the course of the year, raising lots of money for charity as well.

“In the Yorkshire region we’re hoping to run events in Sheffield, Hull, Lincoln and in York.”

Mr Collins, who has a business called HCD Language Services, says that 50 per cent of competitors’ entrance fees go towards charities.

In Leeds they have pledged to support Marie Curie Foundation, Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, Canal and River Trust and the Lord Mayor’s Charity.

Mr Collins admits that there is also a commercial element to the event.

“No-one can run an event without any cost factor,” he said. “There is a commercial side to it because we are setting it up as a franchise operation.”

Eco Trail Trekker is intended to be an annual event so that it becomes a fixture in the calendar that corporates and charities can rely on. Mr Collins says the event will appeal to “all sectors and not just elite athletes”.

He said: “All we can do is mirror what has happened in Macau and in Macau we have competitors of all ages, both genders.

“We have mixed teams where you get a whole family from grandfather to grandson entering.”

In the build-up to the inaugural event in October 2017, Mr Collins says they plan on working with local sports clubs to design training programmes to help people prepare for the Eco Trail Trekker.

Leeds’s sporting pedigree will make the event a draw, Mr Collins said.

He added that he would “absolutely love it” if Leeds could lead the way in showing the rest of the UK on how participating in physical activity can be good for personal health.

Team bonding and building

The Leeds Eco Trail Trekker is supported by and organised in conjunction with Leeds Beckett University and Yorkshire Sport Foundation.

The first event will take place on October 14-15 next year and both the 10k and 30k courses will begin on the Acre at Leeds Beckett’s Headingley campus.

The event’s website www.ecotrailtrekker.com has gone live and teams will be able to register from November 1.

Paul Collins says the event is a good way of team building as everyone has to cross the finish line together.

The actual trek culminates in a festival at the campus, where health and wellness firms will exhibit their products.

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