On the 16th August 2015, RUH Consultant Stuart Gillett 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. 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. 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.
Stuart explains why he will be pushing himself to the limits for Cancer Services in Bath and the surrounding areas: “As a Consultant Head, Neck and Thyroid Surgeon at the RUH in Bath 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 Bath 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. Stuart continues: “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.
Training for the race is tough and is taking a considerable amount of time. Fitting this around a busy day job and helping my wife to look after our three young children is a challenge in itself – but I am incredibly lucky to have such a supportive family. I have also been lucky enough to have had support from the Circle Hospital in Bath that has allowed me to use their specialist hypoxic training equipment that allows me to simulate training at extreme altitudes without the need to fly thousands of miles to mountainous regions.
Every day I remind myself that I’m doing this to benefit our patients and the local community and I know it’s all worth it.”
Half of Stuart’s fundraising will go towards The Forever Friends Appeal’s RUH Cancer Care Campaign which is raising £8.5 million towards the build of an exceptional new Cancer Centre at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Each year the RUH treats over 2200 new cases of cancer from the hospital’s extensive catchment area and it has been a long-term aim to seek a solution to the current 70 year old facilities and bring Cancer Services at the RUH all under one roof. The new Cancer Centre will balance clinical expertise with the provision of a nurturing and therapeutic environment, making patients feel safe and supported (that will incorporate Macmillan Cancer Support services and other patient support facilities), so that they can get through their treatment with the least amount of stress, and their families can feel that they are well supported as well.
The other half of Stuart’s fundraising will go towards Macmillan Cancer Support’s services which aim to ensure that no-one faces cancer alone. It is estimated that 6,200 local people are living with or beyond cancer. Because of many factors including advancements in treatments and an aging population it is thought that this number will almost double to 11,000 by 2030 (just 15 yrs away). When you have cancer, you don’t just worry about what will happen to your body, you worry about what will happen to your life. In order to continue funding services that will help people feel less isolated and more in control such as Macmillan nurses, doctors, welfare benefits advisors, information specialists and many others over £259,000 needs to be raised this year.
To support Stuart’s High Ultra Challenge please visit his online fundraising page: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/StuartGillett.