Man attempts UK's three highest peaks barefoot for poorly young Wigan relative

A fell runner will push himself to the extreme when he takes on the national three peaks challenge for a cause close to his heart - barefoot!
Darcy RatchfordDarcy Ratchford
Darcy Ratchford

Climbing the island’s three highest mountains - Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis - in one go is a venture too tough for most to attempt as it is.

But Michael Healy likes a challenge and has already completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks without his running boots on.

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And he has the biggest possible motivation: raising money for young relative Darcy Ratchford from Wigan.

MIchael HealyMIchael Healy
MIchael Healy

In March this year, three-year-old Darcy was diagnosed with a very rare progressive brain disease called metachromatic leukodystrophy, and her parents, Niomi Horrocks and Adam Ratchford, being told no cure was available.

Michael Healy hopes he will raise funds to go towards buying specialist equipment and to give the family as much quality time as possible, after doctors said her life expectancy is five to eight years.

The Preston 30-year-old said: “I thought I should challenge myself to raise as much as I can for Darcy.

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“My aim is to do the best I can for this incredible little girl. It’s not the most comfortable thing I have done, but there is no comparison to the pain the family is going through.”

Metachromatic leukodystrophy causes fatty substances to build up in cells, which is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme that helps break down lipids, called sulfatides.

This leads to the brain and nervous system progressively losing function because the substance that covers and protects the nerve cells is damaged.

Currently it is slowly affecting Darcy’s mobility and speech, due to it destroying the white matter around her brain.

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This rare hereditary disorder can also cause difficulty swallowing and blindness.

Mr Healy will start his challenge on Saturday, if the weather is fit, and wants to put himself through the pain to do something positive, with the GoFundMe page raising over £1,100 so far.

A few months ago, he completed the Yorkshire three peaks, which he believes could be the barefooted course record, completing it in a time of seven hours 18 minutes.

He said: “It was hard, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, this is why I wanted to push my mind and my body further.”

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The three climbs this weekend will include: Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, with Mr Healy preparing with ice baths, cupping therapy, running 40km a week and weight training.

After he started barefoot running 12 months ago, he has built up distance and speed over time.

Mr Healy says he initially began hiking three years ago to help him deal with his mental health.

“To say it has helped is an understatement, it has completely changed my life. I always encourage any struggling with difficulties to get out into nature and explore the amazing sceneries. It really is the best form of therapy.”

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Mr Healy’s partner, who is Adam Ratchford’s cousin, states she is “incredibly proud” of his determination to complete this challenge.

She said: “He has gone above and beyond in his training regime to prepare for this. The family are so thankful for the money raised so far and so grateful for the ongoing support for Darcy, she truly is an amazing little girl.”

Tosponsor Michael visit

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