An endurance athlete has set the men’s record for running the Three Peaks Challenge, beating the previous time by four hours and 31 minutes.
Tony Riddle, an experienced ultra-runner and naturalist lifestyle coach, completed the 450-mile distance in nine days, seven hours and 18 minutes.
Completely barefoot, the 45-year-old summitted Mount Snowden in Wales, Scafell Pike in England and Ben Nevis in Scotland. He simulated the shoeless condition by running the 400 miles between the peaks in Vivobarefoot Footwear.
Having only recently recovered from Covid-19, the father-of-four successfully ran more than 17 marathons barefoot to raise funds for Survival International, an NGO which campaigns for tribal people’s rights.
The flat roads proved to be the most challenging for Riddle, who was more accustomed to running in mountainous terrain.
'The tarmac became quite brutal in a way,' he told the press. 'When it gets wet it has this cheese-grater effect on the feet, so it starts to wear away the pads of the feet. That doesn’t happen in a natural habitat – up in the hills.'
Riddle finished the challenge on Ben Nevis on Tuesday, where conditions were extremely windy and cold.
'It has been a brutal and beautiful nine days,' he said. 'Running solo for up to 12 hours a day in challenging weather, on hard punishing roads and on beautiful, yet unforgiving peaks has tested me emotionally, mentally as well as physically.'
Riddle’s preference for running without shoes springs can be attributed to a foot deformity in his early years. In the womb, he had wrapped his feet under his armpits. He consequently underwent correct measures as a baby, including wearing plaster casts and boot braces.
This experience has shaped Riddle’s perspective on his body, resulting in a lifelong fascination with human biology. He believes that we perform at our best when we discard modern inventions, like running shoes, and immerse ourselves wholly in nature.
'People look at me and think it’s completely crazy for me to be barefoot, but if you look at biomechanics and you understand our physiology and anatomy, then you’ll be able to relate to it,' he explains.
Riddle’s accomplishment has already raised over £7,600 for Survival International, a charity close to the naturalist’s heart. The human rights organisation seeks to protect indigenous communities around the world, who currently preserve 80% of the planet’s global biodiversity.
'If we wipe out the indigenous people of the world, we lose the most important template of all - we lose what it is to be a natural human and our natural humanity,' Riddle says.
He hopes that his achievement will motivate people not just to challenge themselves with fitness goals, but to reacquaintance themselves with nature and to become more conscious towards our endangered Earth.
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