A PRIMARY school teacher who has trekked across the Sahara Desert and run nine marathons in nine days in glacial Iceland is on the hunt for his next big adventure.
Steve Hill MBE, who lives in Moorside and teaches at St Joseph’s in Shaw, says his pupils are his biggest inspiration as he tackles the extreme challenges.
“My motto is ‘dream big, aim high and never give up’,” he explained during a talk to Oldham Metro Rotary Club. “We should have dreams so big they excite and frighten us.
“I wanted to travel more and see the world and also inspire the children so I decided to push my boundaries and challenge myself.
“The children motivate, support and push me and they are a big inspiration themselves. They are always asking, ‘What’s next, sir?’!”
Steve took on his first challenge in 2009, which was a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro and his first experience of high altitudes.
Then followed trips up Mont Blanc and across the Sahara Desert as Steve tested his capabilities in all conditions, planning the trips to fit in with school holidays.
“The children are involved in my ideas and training and also test my food and equipment,” he revealed. “They are my cheer squad!”
Determined to keep pushing his boundaries, Steve next climbed Mount Elianis in Russia, completing the challenge despite a two-week snow storm, and he has also undertaken expeditions in the Artic and the jungle in Borneo.
His first marathon was completed at the foot of Mount Everest and he hopes one day to return to climb the highest mountain in the world.
Then, with the running bug flowing in his veins, he signed up for the North Pole Marathon, in temperatures as low as -60 degrees, followed by one in the desert.
“We are all capable of more than we think but you’ve got to push your boundaries,” Steve said.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I am not the winner – I am a determined plodder and I finish what I’ve started.”
And there was yet more to come as Steve, who is an ambassador for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, progressed to extreme marathons.
He started with 26.2 miles for the Amazon Jungle Ultra Marathon, which is one of the toughest on the planet and involves six marathons in five days carrying all equipment and food on your back.
“I am used to pushing myself to my limits but that was really tough,” admitted Steve. “We were told the jungle is designed to kill so be careful.
“I was bitten by mosquitos, was running in the dark with a headtorch on and dodging through snakes dangling from the trees.
“I had ripped trainers and blisters, and lost six toenails – but I had a great time! Then four days later I was back in class!”
The toenails also went back to class with Steve and he now has a box of nine which he passes around to show pupils – and he is hoping to get to double figures soon!
The next few years brought trips to the highest mountain in North Africa – Mount Toubkal – and the Artic wildness where Steve completed six marathons in five days.
He was one of 32 starting the challenge and among only a dozen who finished, battling off hyperthermia and exhaustion to cross the finishing line.
“Life is about experiences and I feel very privileged to be able to do these things,” he said.
Then in 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic struck and Steve’s challenge were put on hold as the country, and the world, went into lockdown.
But Steve used the time to focus on his charity and community work through his Team Hill Charitable Trust, helping to support local hospitals, foodbanks and the elderly.His charity work also stretches abroad to Uganda where he is involved with community projects such as building a school dormitory – as running a marathon of course!
As soon as restrictions lifted, Steve set off again in August 2021 to tackle the 206-mile Great Norse Run which comprises nine marathons in nine days across Iceland from Akureyri to Vik.
And he says training on the Saddleworth hills during lockdown was the perfect preparation as the routes are so hilly, and even better in the dark, cold winters.
First, he enjoyed two days as a tourist, visiting the Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon, waterfalls, gizas and whale watching.
He also paid a visit to Reykjavik where a volcano had recently erupted, and walked on the lava field, which he described as ‘one of the most special things I have ever seen in my life’.
Then it was down to business and Steve was one of 22 runners who tackled the challenge which took them from the green north, through volcanic landscapes and down to the glacial south.
“It was an epic adventure,’ he said. “It was long distances every day but I was determined I would finish it if I had to crawl.
“We didn’t see any wildlife at all, we really were in the middle of nowhere. It was very glacial, like the surface of the moon.
“I have a strong mental attitude and was determined to keep moving, and gave myself little treats as rewards along the way, like a bit of liquorice, or some music.
“We agreed on the last day we would finish together and it was an incredible experience.”
Steve has not yet announced his next challenge – but he has put his name down for the waiting list for the first Lunar Marathon.
Meanwhile, he has been busy writing about all his adventures for a book, which is endorsed by renowned explorer Sir Randolph Fiennes and is aptly called ‘What’s next, sir?’.