RUH surgeon takes on Himalayan ultra race for cancer patients

Stuart Gillett, a consultant surgeon at the Royal United Hospital, Bath, will be taking his place at the start line of La Ultra – The High (The High Ultra), a 208 mile footrace through the Indian Himalayas on Sunday 16 August.

In a race where the altitude ranges from 11,000ft to 17,700ft (higher than Everest Base Camp) and competitors scale and descend three mountain peaks, this is ultimate test of human endurance and the biggest challenge to date for experienced ultra runner Stuart.

Before he flew to India to prepare for this gruelling race he spoke to Ian Martin from Bath Hospital Radio about how he has prepared for La Ultra.

He will be taking part in this challenge to help raise awareness about the local head and neck cancer services he is so passionate about, through fundraising for the new Cancer Centre at the Royal United Hospital in Bath and Macmillan Cancer Support.

The High Ultra is tough even by ultra standards, taking place entirely above 11,000ft in Northern India. Climbing up and down two of the world’s highest passes, Khardung La and Tanglang La on the Leh-Manali highway, the bravest of competitors face extreme altitude and extreme weather variation – temperatures have been known to range from -10C to 40C within the space of 7 hours!

The full race covers a massive 208 miles and to make things a little more challenging, competitors are given a 72 hour window to complete the route. To date only a single person has ever completed the full race – many have tried but have been forced to pull out due to severe altitude sickness or near frostbite…but Stuart is determined.

“As a consultant head, neck and thyroid Surgeon at the RUH I am extremely passionate about ensuring that the population of Bath and the surrounding areas have long term provision and access to high quality localised cancer treatment.

“As part of this race I want to raise awareness about head and neck cancer services as well as fundraise to provide support for two charities very close to my heart. Firstly The Forever Friends Appeal at the Royal United Hospital where fundraising will go towards the development of the new cancer centre, benefitting patients with many different types of cancer to receive state of the art treatment close to home; including the head, neck and thyroid cancer patients that I treat.

“Secondly Macmillan Cancer Support services. Having worked closely with two incredible Macmillan nurses, I realise what a huge difference Macmillan makes to the lives of patients and families of those affected by cancer. By supporting Macmillan we can ensure that the support services, that help many at often very difficult times in their lives, continue for many years to come.”

Stuart is no stranger to a long-distance race or two, but this challenge really is a step-up from the rest, that will be just as much a test of his mind as it is of his body.

“I have completed many other ultra-distance running events before including the Marathon des Sables, Yukon Arctic Ultra, Spartathlon, Ultra trail Tour de Mont Blanc and a 250 mile non-stop race in the UK called the Thames ring.  However the High Ultra takes this type of challenge to a new level,” he added.

To support Stuart’s challenge visit his online fundraising page.

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