SIMON Fox proved he was up for the Challenge after completing one of the toughest events for veteran runners – with just 123 seconds to spare!

The 56-year-old finished the gruelling 48-mile Josh Naylor Challenge moments from the 15-hour cut off mark.

Fox, who is chairman of Darwen Dashers, feared he would not complete the charity-raising event but thanks to the encouragement of his support team – that included runners from a number of East Lancashire clubs – he completed the course on the hills of the Lake District.

“Towards the end of the final leg, I had slowed and it was touch and go if I could make it in time,” said Fox who finished in 14 hours 57 minutes 57 seconds.

“But thanks to my support crew who were shouting words of encouragement, I managed to keep going and finished the course just in time. But it was close.”

Fox, who raised more than £1,700 for Prostate Cancer UK, was met at the finishing line at Greendale Bridge by ‘king of the fells’ Naylor who set up the charity-raising challenge in 1990.

And he admitted it was the toughest thing he has done.

“I used to do 24-hour mountain bike racing on a single speed years ago and I thought that was tough,” he said.

“But this took far more out of me. Maybe it was due to being older but the fatigue was intense. It was definitely the toughest thing I have done.”

The challenge is widely regarded as an old man’s Bob Graham – a 106km fell run – and the route has become the benchmark challenge for the mature runner.

The challenge is also know as ‘the crossing’ as it traverses the Lake District and is split into four legs.

It involves climbing 30 tops, crossing some 48-miles of mountain terrain and ascending nearly 17,000 feet.

The route starts in Pooley Bridge, Ullswater and finishes at Greendale Bridge, Wasdale.

Each age group has a specific time limit varying between 12 and 24 hours with different times for men and women. There is no emphasis on record times and pacers are mandatory for safety reasons.

Fox said he was hampered by poor conditions when he set off from Pooley Bridge at 5am. But he said his supporter runners more than played their part in helping him negotiate the tricky route.

“It had rained the previous day, overnight and I had bad conditions for a lot of the challenge,” he said.

“But I had pacers and helpers, not just from Dashers, but also Rossendale Harriers, Clayton le Moors Harriers, Red Rose and Eryri Harriers.

“The first two legs went well and I was on schedule. But by leg three, I was suffering and slowing.

“I had a bad patch climbing Bowfell. My supporters were great and kept me going.

“Their navigation of the course was excellent and they spurred me on and after finishing just inside the cut off mark, Joss Naylor who is fell running legend and originator of the challenge was there to welcome me in.

“My thanks go out to all who supported me and donated to the charity.”

Fox said Darwen Dashers are always on the look for new members

“We are a very inclusive club with a great beginners section and cater for runners of all abilities,” he added.

For more details, log on to Darwen Dashers Facebook page.