Rail industry experts attempt ultimate triathlon to raise £100k for charity

Two friends from the rail industry are attempting to cycle, climb and canoe across three countries, three lakes and three mountains – all in aid of Railway Children.

Colin Flack, CEO of Rail Alliance, and Felix Schmid, a professor in Railway Systems Engineering at the University of Birmingham, have invented a gruelling new triathlon which involves cycling from Lands End to John O’ Groats, via climbing the Three Peaks of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, and kayaking the lengths of Lake Bala, Windermere and Loch Ness on the way.

This exhausting challenge – never done before – will be achieved within three weeks starting on October 1, and the aim is to raise £100,000 in sponsorship.

It is part of a three-year-plan by Colin and his wife Ruth to meet and maintain the operational costs of the Railway Children charity.

Colin, from Stratford Upon Avon, explained why he is attempting the ultimate triathlon:

“There are some things in life that capture your imagination and as for me; the John O’Groats to Lands End route is something that I have always wanted to try. I never do things by halves – why aim low when there are stars to be shot at?”

As a former army officer, Colin admits that this may have have influenced his desire to help others:

“During my time as a soldier I saw life at some pretty low ebbs in a variety of conflicts and in impoverished countries of the world and increasingly have been struck by the scale of hardship here at home.

“There is so much that we can all do if we make the time; this is our bit. Physically this is a big ask and the weather could be fun, but, as people in the military say: pain is just a sensation and sensations are there to be enjoyed!

“I have been hugely impressed by what the team at Railway Children has achieved and in particular by the founder, David Maidment, whose vision, tenacity and energy, never ceases to amaze me.”

Railway Children helps more than 25,000 vulnerable children every year, focusing support towards those living on the streets.

The charity’s goal is to intervene with a child at the earliest opportunity, protecting them from abandonment, neglect and abuse.

Funds provide food, shelter, clothing, counselling, healthcare and education to children in the UK, India and Africa.

Both Colin and his wife Ruth are CEOs in the rail industry – and believe that it is vitally important to ‘give something back’ to the sector.

Explained Colin: “The railway is the artery which feeds so many economies and countries. It is also a magnet to isolated and vulnerable children.

“Every year in the UK, over 100,000 children under the age of 16 run away from home and many of those are drawn towards our railway stations. The Railway Children charity aims to get to these street children before the streets get to them.

“It is getting harder for smaller organisations like Railway Children to make themselves heard and differentiate themselves – yet they make a tremendous difference in our communities.

“That’s why I wanted to I wanted to combine my enthusiasm to do different and my desire to succeed with the chance to support an amazing cause.”

Ruth, CEO of Motorail (UK) Limited, the UK’s largest railway rolling stock storage business, added:

“As our business is railway-based it seemed an obvious charity to support. More than that though, it is such a great charity.

“Colin is passionate about his work with the Rail Alliance to support business growth and when he came up with the idea of levering his business network to provide a long term support platform for the Railway Children, I was all for it – it’s a great idea.”

As a prolific fundraiser, Ruth has raised more than £50,000 for various charities over the last two years, and her vision is to ensure that Colin’s efforts are later transformed into an annual event called ‘Ultimate 3 Challenge’.

She described her plans: “Our idea is to go beyond this event and we hope to engage with people of all ages to get them to participate in an event like this in autumn 2012.”

Felix, from Birmingham, a professor in railway systems engineering at the University of Birmingham, said:

“Colin and I have talked for a long time about creating the ultimate challenge and, to us, this surpasses all the traditional journeys from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

“Personally, I have had a long standing ambition to complete the Land’s End to John O’Groats ride and I simply could not resist the opportunity of combining it with the Three Peaks and the Three Lakes.

“I dread Loch Ness but the thought of supporting The Railway Children may spur me on sufficiently to cope with a new discipline, that is, kayaking!”

Colin is also hosting this year’s RailStaff Awards.

To sponsor Colin and Felix, visit the website.

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