From the classroom to the continent, a teacher has quit his job so he can focus on training for his 4,750-mile challenge from Norway to Italy.
For a man who originally could not run for 30 seconds, Aleks Kashefi has turned his life around, and this summer will be running thousands of miles across Europe to raise money for three charities.
Aleks previously taught at Buxton Community School, but has given this up to follow his dream. He said: “I am aiming to be the first person to run the full E1 Euro Trail in one go.”
The 37-year-old has only been running for three-and-a-half-years and he loves how it has changed him.
“I was at a low point in my life,” Aleks said. “We all get them, but I realised I was overweight and wanted to change that.”
He by doing five-kilometre running programme and said it was tough: “I was dying after 30 seconds, I just couldn’t move.”
After two weeks he changed to running ten kilometres and then moved on to a marathon because he said the training was the same, but over a longer period of time, which allowed his body to get used to running.
The day before he was due to do his first half a marathon, he was told about an ultra marathon which was 50 miles running from dusk until dawn.
He said: “The furthest I had ever run was 20 miles, but I saw it as a challenge.
“I was destroyed by the time I had finished, but I finished.”
After running 75 miles up and down The Slopes in Buxton, Aleks wanted to push himself but also see more of the country, so ran from Land’s End to John O’Groats - barefoot.
He explained: “After having so much difficulty when I first started running, I researched different techniques and I found that running without shoes was a minimalist way of doing it, and being a former climber and skater it seemed natural to me.”
He admits it was a bit odd at first and he suffered injuries early on. A heavy gust of wind caused him to fall over and hurt his left foot, and over-compensation caused tendonitis in his other foot.
He added: “You get into a routine that is so different and satisfying from the normal way to live, so when it was over I was a bit disappointed, but it made me want to focus on my next adventure.”
Getting ready for challenge
On August 1, Aleks will fly out to northern Norway ready to embark on his mammoth seven-month mission which will see him travel across Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, finishing in Sicily, Italy.
He said: “You can see why no-one has done this in one go before. It does sound like a lot, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Aleks has been training in the Lake District over the winter and will be aiming to complete the E1 barefoot, with sandals and waterproof socks as a backup in bad weather.
“I will be camping and travelling by myself so I want to keep things light,” he added. “It will be tough, but that’s part of the challenge.”
He will be running to raise money for the Stroke Association, to which he has a family connection; Buxton Mountain Rescue Team, because he spends so much time out on the hills; and The Thomas Theyer Foundation.
To follow Aleks’ journey, visit facebook.com/barefootaleks.