52 Tor challenge for local veteran

13 June 2023

On the 3rd June, James Neil, 45, from Tunbridge Wells, ran the 52 highest tors on Dartmoor, known as the Dartmoor 500 Challenge, in under 24hrs, with no support. He has broken the record for this 63 mile challenge and raised over £2,000 for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

James is a veteran of the Coldstream Guards. He wanted to raise money for the military charity in memory of his friend and fellow soldier, Ian Lowther, who died recently.

James said: “I have been training for this for a while and the time to do the challenge has never been quite right, but the sad news of Ian’s death gave me the incentive I needed. I wanted to feel like I was doing something to help people who struggle with their mental health after leaving the Army.

James chose the 52 tor challenge because it is difficult, but achievable. The distance is 102 kilometres and each of the 52 Tors are over 500 metres elevation. He set himself the rigorous goal of achieving all this in just 24 hours.

James said: “I think it is about the same distance as the SAS ‘Hills’ part of their selection process – except that they do it several times over! So I knew it was possible. But it was really tough. It was exhausting though. I ran everything downhill and on the level but, as I was carrying all my equipment and supplies, I had to walk up the tors.

The best moment was when I got to the point, after the long, boggy, central stretch past Cranmere Pool, that I knew I could make it in under 24hrs.

James came in at 23 hours and 28 minutes – a record for the Dartmoor 500 Challenge for a person without any external support.

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