AN ENDURANCE athlete is running from coast to coast this weekend (July 5-7) in what he describes as a ‘warm-up’ for a massive charity effort over the coming year.

Alex Staniforth, who was born in Chester, is leading an attempt to raise £500,000 for mental health charity Mind Over Mountains.

His route for this first challenge will take him from St Bees in Cumbria, across the peaks of three national parks, through Rishi Sunak's constituency, to finish at Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire. He starts on Friday morning at 8am and aims to complete the 300km run, with an ascent of over 8,000 metres by Sunday evening.

The record-breaking adventurer and ultra-runner has battled with depression, anxiety and bullying since school after a mild form of epilepsy resulted in a lifelong stammer.

Despite this, he has refused to let these experiences define him, instead pushing himself to complete the National 3 Peaks Challenge at 16 and climb Mont Blanc in 2012 before heading to the Himalayas for the first time in 2013 to attempt Mera Peak (6,476m) and Baruntse (7,129m).

At just 29 he has already survived the two biggest disasters in Mount Everest history as a teenager. Alex is now committed to helping others achieve their own Everest. He has raised over £100,000 for charity, become the fastest person to climb all 100 UK county tops, written two books 'Icefall' and 'Another Peak' and founded Mind Over Mountains in 2020.

The former Tarporley High School student has completed many climbing and endurance challenges, but this coast-to-coast route is almost twice the distance he has ever run before.

“We have set ourselves the ambitious target of half a million pounds because we really want to increase the work of the charity to meet the growing demand for mental health support, especially for young adults,” says Alex.

He is now fronting the campaign that has been badged “Project 500”. It is a call to action for mass participation - seeking individuals, organisations and schools to get involved and create their own fundraising challenges or events to help support mental wellbeing.

The target for reaching £500,000 is June next year, which will be Alex's 30th birthday.

“Sadly, too many young adults will not reach that birthday milestone as suicide is the biggest killer among under 35s in the UK,” he says.

As one way of tackling this, evidence consistently shows a positive relationship between spending time in nature or exposure to nature and good health and wellbeing.

Mind Over Mountains organises walks and weekend retreats in places like the Peak District, Lakes and Welsh mountains. Not only is walking and talking in nature itself therapeutic, every walk includes mindfulness sessions and the walkers are accompanied by qualified coaches and counsellors.

The charity is increasingly working with social prescribing link workers, who are based within primary care networks and at GP's practices. Patients can then qualify for free or heavily subsided places on walks and retreats, funded by the charity.

“Without support from the charity sector, the NHS simply can't keep up with demand,” says Ian Sansbury, chief executive of Mind Over Mountains.

“Our ambition is to make nature- and activity-based responses to wellbeing the norm, rather than the exception, in mental health care and support. We will be looking on the new government to help deliver on this,” he adds.

In a recent report the College of Medicine found that social prescribing of the sort provided by Mind Over Mountains, could lead to 4.5 million fewer GP appointments per year, with those patients receiving community-based social solutions. This could save the NHS a total of £275 million.

Anyone wanting to sponsor Alex on his coast to coast run can visit his fundraising page.