The many trails and footpaths of the UK present opportunities for epic challenges for ultrarunners, and the Chiltern Way Footpath is no exception. This May, Tim Mills will be taking on the 134-mile (215K) circular route to help raise money and awareness for this stunning route.
Tim is passionate about outdoor fitness, as a busy dad of two, sports tutor, coach and operations manager for a children’s sports coaching franchise. He is also a guide for Runaway Adventures, showing off the beauty of the Chilterns to other keen runners.
He is himself an accomplished runner, having taken on a number of marathons in the past. “I like to run and would say I spend 99% of my time on the trails and footpaths,” he says. “I don’t take my running that seriously; it’s more about health than anything. I like running with smile and a clear mind, and persuading people to come out with me whatever the pace, just to enjoy the countryside.”
This passion led him to seek out a new challenge, one that will test his fitness and mental stamina. In a bid to give something back to the countryside that he loves so much, he is taking on a challenge set by the Chiltern Society to traverse the entire Chiltern Way.
Having lived and worked in the area for so long, Tim is familiar with the Chilterns and its stunning trails: “In the last seven years, I have worked in and around the Chilterns, so on my travels I have managed to visit the vast majority of the area. I often jump out the car early morning or at lunch and explore the countryside.”
The Chilterns is a range of hills to the northwest of London, with over half of it within an Area of Natural Beauty. The hills spread from the River Thames in Oxfordshire to Hitchin in Hertfordshire, covering 324 square miles. It’s a striking, stunning place to hike and run, a world away from the city centre of London so close by.
Across the Chilterns are a number of marked paths and cycle routes, encouraging outdoor adventurers to explore. It is maintained by over 7,000 members and 500 volunteers of the Chiltern Society, who look after the footpaths, maintain historical buildings and protect the area from overdevelopment.
Part of the Chilterns Society’s work is to encourage people to enjoy the natural beauty of the region and promote the various activities available in the area. It also established the Chiltern Way as a millennium project in 2000, designed specifically to take in some of the most beautiful spots in the area.
“When the Chiltern Society approached me about the challenge, I was excited and a bit daunted,” explains Tim. “It’s been two years since I last raised a considerable amount for charity and that was the London Marathon. I have been asked to do quite a few charity challenges over the last couple of years, but have side stepped them for two reasons. One is that the challenge wasn’t challenging enough to warrant people donating. Don’t get me wrong a lot of people wouldn’t take on a half-marathon or a marathon, but I have always kept myself fit and healthy so it isn’t too much of a stretch and you can always walk round and complete it. The other reason was that I don’t want people to think they are donating for me to go on holiday and do something I would normally choose to do. For example, one challenge was to go and run a half-marathon around Disneyland Paris – I would feel guilty asking people to donate for that, as I will probably do that one day off my own back! Running 215K is not something I would think to go and do one day, nor is it a challenge I take lightly. It’s going to require training, planning and a few sacrifices; if I don’t do this, then I won’t be able to get all the way around.”
Aims and goals
The aim of the challenge is to highlight the path itself. So many of the main National Trails get a lot of press, but the Chiltern Way isn’t as well known or publicised. It has been specifically designed as a circular route to showcase as much as the natural beauty of the region as possible. Other National Trails are point-to-point, often passing through Areas of Natural Beauty but never staying long in one area.
As well as awareness, Tim is hoping to raise as much money as possible to support the hard work of the Chiltern Society in maintaining this path and the surrounding historic buildings and sites of interest. He isn’t going to be rushing around the route, and hopes to finish in 3-4 days. During that time he is also hoping to speak to the people and businesses who live and operate in the Chilterns region, to get a better understanding of the importance of this region.
Follow Tim’s training on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mitzllim/
Find out more and donate: https://chilternsociety.org.uk/chilternwaychallenge/