Running up that hill… 400 times! Health worker's amazing 22-hour challenge on Primrose Hill

Fund-raiser was aimed at tackling air pollution

Saturday, 2nd July — By Harry Taylor

primrosehillrun Image 2022-06-26 at 1.01.58 PM

EVERYBODY may be singing along to Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill as its use in Netlix’s Stranger Things sent it back to the top of the charts.

But one health worker was actually doing it on Saturday, as she spent 22 hours running up Primrose Hill in an extraordinary effort to raise funds for charities tackling air pollution.

Alice McGushin, a frequent ultra-trail marathon runner spent Saturday running up, down and around Primrose Hill from midnight on Saturday morning as part of the Patagonia Running Up For Air campaign. In the challenge, runners had to spend at least an hour running or walking uphill.

Alice McGushin on one of her runs to the summit

Ms McGushin mapped out a route that would have seen her climb the equivalent of Mount Everest’s 8,848m, but after running 150 kilometres (93 miles) including 430 times up Primrose Hill until 10pm and having nothing left in the tank, she stopped when her GPS app said she was 300m short.

“It was quite fun to start and I was in high spirits, I had friends who came along to support me and run with me and that helped a lot,” she said. “I would stop off occasionally to refuel, or slow down as well. It was only the last four hours where I felt really low, and it was a struggle and I would walk some of it.”

Starting as Friday turned into Saturday, she said she was able to see the full cycle of Primrose Hill changing as the night turned to daybreak. “When we started I had to wear a head torch because it was dark, and I had a friend who was running with me because I think he rolled because of the foxholes.

“Then you had people who were there drinking at the end of their night out who had come to see the city, so I had a bit of an interaction with them. They tried to join me at one point, running down but then they started walking halfway back up. It got really quiet then until about 3am, but then you had people starting to arrive and see the sunrise.”

The keen runner had completed the World Ultra X championships in Slovenia two weeks before, involving her running 250km (155.3 miles) in five days.

The only similar climb she had done before was an event in Snowdonia, where she gained 6,700m.

The 32-year-old, originally from Hobart in Tasmania, said pain started to kick in after 10-12 hours because she was using poles to help take the pressure off her legs.

“I felt pretty good for the first 10-12 hours, but then my arms started hurting and my legs, but I was able to walk some of it. It was the last few hours where I had used up all of my energy and I was running on nothing that was the worst.” she said.

“I’m really stubborn, if I’ve set myself a target I want to achieve it – ‘This is what I’ve set out to do and I will keep going until I achieve it.’”

Originally training in Australia as a junior doctor, Ms McGushin took an interest in air pollution after reading a Lancet research paper in 2009 on the impact of climate change on health. She now works for NHS Improvement and NHS England as an adviser on the NHS being greener.

The £760 she has raised will go to the Friends of the Earth UK.

“We are already seeing the impact of climate change and air pollution. We know that 2,600 heat-related deaths happened in England during the heatwaves in 2020. There is a real need to have that conversation about the impact it is having and will have on people’s health,” she said.

You can donate to Ms McGushin’s fundraiser here.

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