Aboyne scientist takes on epic Alps challenge

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An Aboyne man is heading to Germany this week to compete in the world famous Gore-Tex Trans Alpine Challenge.

Matt Sullivan, along with Casey Morgan from Dumfries, will be running a punishing race up and over the Alps through four countries in eight consecutive days.

The pair, sponsored by TPC Freight Management who aim to raise funds for charity Comfort Rwanda, will join 500 participants from 25 nations on Saturday as they attempt to run one of the world’s toughest stage races.

During the multiple phases of the legendary Alps crossing Matt, 27, an environmental scientist, and Casey, 33, will cover a distance of about 270km.

The expansive course would be gruelling enough on the flat but the two men will battle uphill through treacherous terrain running at least a marathon distance each day with a total elevation of nearly 16,000m.

The extreme test of physical endurance will see them race from Oberstdorf in Germany through Austria and Switzerland to Latsch in Italy.

This is Matt’s first attempt at the Trans Alpine Challenge but Casey has competed in the mixed pairs for the last two years, finishing an impressive second overall in 2009 but suffering bitter disappointment retiring through injury on the last day in 2010.

In a bid to win this year’s men’s event their training regime has included running on average 200kms each week both on the flat and over around 10 Munros in any seven days. Both Casey and Matt are accomplished athletes. Casey, a personal trainer, is a winning cyclist having had many successes both on the road and the track.

After making the transition from the bike to running only three years ago, he is now an accomplished marathon runner with a personal best of just 2 hours 40 minutes.

In his running career to-date he has had outright victories in 5k, 10k, half marathon and duathlon competitions, as well as finishing a highly respectable 65th in his first outing at Ironman UK (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile cycle, 26.2 mile run).

Matt, who is currently first individual in the Scottish Hill Running Championship Series said: “My first sport was rowing but I escaped the water to run on two feet.

“Running on the flat wasn’t enough of a challenge and so the hills beckoned. 2011 will be my first Trans Alps Challenge and I have no doubt it will be the toughest thing I’ll have done, but I can’t wait!

“The training is going well and we know that we can put in a great performance.”

Casey said: “This international event undoubtedly pushes you to the extremes of endurance over a phenomenal distance and tough terrain.

“I’ve seen teams crumble and drop out during each of the eight stages but by maintaining our mental focus, Matt and I will fight to win this year, pushed on by the plight of the people in Rwanda.”

The duo’s epic challenge is to raise much-needed funds for charity Comfort Rwanda to help finish a Vocational Training Centre in Nyarugunga to help local Rwandans learn a trade.

Grant Stupart, managing director of TPC Freight Management said: “We have been sponsoring Team TPC for three years and during that time they have raised thousands of pounds for Comfort Rwanda.

“The Trans Alpine Challenge is incredibly physically demanding and by taking on this challenge, Matt and Casey are supporting Rwandans as they face their own personal challenges each day in a country where poverty is still the norm.”

To support Team TPC as they take on the Trans Alpine Challenge 2011 for Comfort Rwanda, visit www.justgiving.com/teamtpc