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Paul Howlett, YHA’s Operations Manager for the North West, conceived an epic new challenge to raise money for YHA. It will involve a 160-mile ride, a 100-mile run and an eight-mile swim. He’s this edition’s hostel hero.

Our staff and volunteers make our organisation tick. Each issue, in our hostel hero series, we focus on an inspiring individual who goes the extra mile – although, in this case, that’s extra miles plural. Paul Howlett, our Operations Manager for the North West, is running, cycling and swimming between 20 hostels in the region to fundraise for YHA. We find out more.

Even taken on their own, each of the stages Paul Howlett will be undertaking on his YHA Epic Adventure is a daunting proposition: an eight-mile swim, a 160-mile bike ride and a 100-mile run. When you transpose those figures onto the mountainous North West, you add in more than 7,500 metres of ascent. Paul’s summer challenge takes in the three highest mountains in the Lake District, the park’s deepest (and coldest) lake and the toughest mountain pass in Britain. It also links 20 hostels in the North West, starting at YHA Manchester on 16th June and finishing at YHA Ambleside six days later. There’s one clear question: why?

“Good question. It’s a question I’m asking myself every day!” Paul explains. “The short answer is that I wanted to raise money for YHA, to support breaks for young people with challenging lives, because I’ve seen the impact directly that these have on families and individuals.”

“However, to raise £2,000 I needed a real challenge. So after taking over as Operations Manager in October and speaking to the hostel managers and teams, I decided on linking the hostels together and hopefully getting as many people to either follow or join me. I used the knowledge and expertise of the managers to plan the route. It’s a real challenge. However, if anybody wants to join me to climb Helvellyn along Striding Edge, run their first ultra marathon or swim Wastwater, they can!”

There’s no doubt this is an extremely tough challenge, but 52-year-old Paul does have some pretty serious provenance. He’s represented Great Britain in two sports, having qualified three times in his age group for sprint and Olympic triathlons, and also gaining national status in underwater hockey. Yes, underwater hockey. Alongside these achievements, he’s completed three of the top five toughest Ironman distance triathlons and run 120 miles non-stop in 34 hours.

As well as raising funds, he hopes to raise awareness of the work YHA does. “Many of these hostels are in some of the UK’s best locations, and by spending a night in one you’re not only investing your money in a charity but experiencing these amazing locations. You’re also helping those families and individuals who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to experience these places. If I can inspire more people to do that, it’s all been worth it.”

“I believe I have the best job in the world. Many of my friends have never stayed in a hostel or had an opportunity to visit these places. For me, it’s the perfect way to share and spread the word on all the great things YHA does – and hopefully raise £2,000 for a worthy cause.”

So, think of Paul as his alarm goes off at 4am to train – and if you’d like to sponsor him, then please visit his Just Giving page or learn more here.

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