NHS doctor from Ilkley completes Wainwright fells ultra-running challenge in the Lake District with third fastest time ever - conquering 214 mountains in seven days
Dr Tom Hollins from Ilkley, ran continuously up and down the 214 fells in fewer than seven days in weather conditions he described as 'biblical' and covered 318 miles (512km), ascending 36,000 metres in total.
Dr Hollins, 47, is an consultant anaesthetist at Airedale Hospital who has worked in intensive care wards throughout the pandemic.
In 2020 he set a new record by becoming the first person to run up all 30 mountains in the Yorkshire Dales National Park without stopping - and named his 41-hour feat of endurance the 'DalesMountain30'.
The Montane-sponsored athlete believes he could have even achieved the world record for the Wainwrights had he not had to contend with high winds and heavy rain, despite selecting May as potentially offering the most suitable conditions.
He slept for just an hour each day in his support group's campervan and ate on the go, consuming calories from sushi, Pot Noodles, pies and fish and chips.
There were other attempts by ultra-runners to complete the Lakeland fells during the same week that were abandoned due to the inclement weather, leaving Dr Hollins as the last man standing.
"It was a real team effort - around 50 other runners joined me at different points of the route to help me along, so it was a great shared experience. You are running at your physical and mental limits, so you need people who are competent alongside you, who can look after themselves as well as you.
"May is meant to be the best month as it's cooler than June but with almost as much daylight, and the vegetation cover isn't as high - but we ended up with 60mph winds on the tops!"
Dr Hollins described himself as 'hallucinogenic' at several points due to the lack of sleep, and he had to crawl to the summits of two fells.
"I ate a lot of Kendal mint cake - I needed a mixture of fast sugar and proper food, simple carbs and a bit of salt.
"The hardest was probably Rannerdale Knotts - it's not a big hill, but it's towards the end and the route I'd chosen was short but steep. I ended up crawling that section because my feet were in such bad condition. It's the psychology of it; I had to crawl to the top of Skiddaw Little Man because of the wind and I got blown over twice, but as it was a high mountain, I appreciated the challenge and it was more fun."
Dr Hollins has now taken a fortnight off work to recover from the rigours of his run, having lost four toenails and suffered severe blisters. Yet he is considering another attempt on the Wainwrights in future to break the record in better weather conditions.
He is also tempted by a feat that has never been completed before - back-to-back 24-hour mountain running challenges in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
"I want to do all five in seven days, as nobody has added on the Northern Irish one, the Dennis Rankin, before. Each run is the toughest mountain range in each country, and they each have their own rules - for the Irish one, you can't have any support runners or electronic navigation devices, you have to rely on a map and compass."
Dr Hollins' time for the continuous circuit of the Wainwrights was six days, 21 hours 33 minutes and eight seconds. Although this is the fourth fastest time recorded, he is considered to be in third place as his friend Sabrina Verjee declined to have her July 2020 attempt officially considered, telling the fell running community that support runners had aided her descent due to knee issues. She retains the record for the fastest circuit by a female athlete.
The record was set in 2019 by Paul Tierney, who recorded a time of six days, six hours and five minutes.