Stuart determined to complete Yomp endurance challenge

Stuart Aitken from Bellshill tackles the Cateran Yomp
Stuart Aitken from Bellshill tackles the Cateran Yomp

A Bellshill man is aiming to swap the golden nectar for a gold medal as he prepares to hike more than 50 miles in just one day for a soldiers’ charity.

Stuart Aitken, transport manager at William Grant & Sons in Strathclyde Business Park, first got the walking bug in 2013 when he signed up for a long-distance walking event on Perthshire’s historic Cateran Trail.

Since then, Stuart (42) and his distillery colleagues have walked an estimated 3,260 miles in three Cateran Yomp challenge events, raising £62,000 for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

Stuart will head to Blairgowrie to tackle the challenge again on June 10, and this time is determined to complete the full 54 miles around a route that would normally take five days to complete.

With William Grants’ employees from Bellshill, Dufftown and Irvine involved it is hoped this will be the year they reach the £100,000 for the charity.

The challenge of walking through the night armed with only sheer grit and head-torches is often the make or break point for many, with only 350 out of 856 who had signed up for the full 54 miles managing to complete the route in time last year.

Unfortunately Stuart was not one of them, but he is focussed on going beyond his limits this year after getting a new training partner.

He said: “Every year I think I’ll try for the gold medal and finish the 54 miles, but so far I’ve got three bronze medals in the drawer at home for doing the 22 mile routes.

“Until you’ve experienced an endurance event, you’ve no idea how physically and mentally exhausting it is, but I keep going back because there’s nothing better than pushing yourself to your limits.

“This year we’re determined to get to our target of £100,000 for the Soldiers’ Charity who help soldiers and their families facing hard times.

“We’ve started already and have £4,000 in the pot, the company will match fund everything the staff raise, so we’re positive we can do it.”

“I even got a dog so I could get a walk in every night after work. I did 78 miles in January. I’ve definitely got the fittest dog in Lanarkshire.”

The 2017 Cateran Yomp (named after the military term for a long-distance march) starts and ends in Blairgowrie having travelled through the Angus and Perthshire glens.

Reaching the Spittal of Glenshee at the 22 miles mark will earn a bronze medal, reaching Kirkton of Glenisla at the 36.5 miles mark will earn a silver, with gold for those who make it all the way round.

If you would like to join Stuart and tackle the Cateran Yomp click here before February 28 and receive a 20 per cent discount.