HUNDREDS of people gathered to congratulate Lake District ultra runner Steve Birkinshaw as he smashed a gruelling 27-year-old record.
The Threlkeld athlete completed a circuit of 214 mountains and hills in just six days and 13 hours – beating fell running legend Joss Naylor’s 1987 record by 12 hours.
Climbing 36,000 metres and running 512 kilometres, the 45-year-old told of his pride as he finished at Keswick’s Moot Hall at 10pm on Friday night.
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“It’s all a bit overwhelming to be honest,” he said. “Joss Naylor is an incredible athlete so to have beaten his record is amazing.”
The route included reaching the summit of each of the mountains and hills that feature in Wainwright’s famous seven volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.
“There were some really tough times, but I was spurred on every time I reached a Wainwright top and met someone who had made the effort to come out and support me,” said Steve, who works as a research associate at Newcastle University.
Starting from Keswick on June 14, he ran around 78km a day and was backed by British outdoor company Berghaus and nutrition brand TORQ.
Throughout the run he was carrying a GPS tracker which allowed people to follow his progress and to hike or run to meet him at locations along the way.
As the week progressed, word of his spread via social media and there was someone waiting to cheer him on at the summit of almost every Wainwright top.
On the final day scores of runners joined him for the final leg of the challenge.
They accompanied him as he arrived in Keswick where hundreds more people were waiting to welcome him, including his wife Emma and their children James, ten, Matthew, eight and Hannah, five.
Personal achievement aside, Steve also raised more than £12,000 for two charities involved with multiple sclerosis.
His sister Hilary has the disease and the cash will be donated to both the national MS Society and The Samson Centre - where she receives treatment.
Steve said: “It’s fair to say that my legs are a bit stiff now and I may take a few days off.”