From Wigmore to the South Pole

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Written byClaire Hunte

If you are travelling along the Wigmore Road from Ludlow, you may encounter a man walking along with poles and a tyre attached to his waist. Some may wonder why as they pass. Or, as has often happened to Dominic Renshaw, the runner, others will toot their horn and cheerily wave him on or give him a thumbs up.

Dominic is a born outdoorsman who plainly likes a challenge or two. So this March, he’s pulling a tyre between John O’Groats and Lands End for a Guinness World Record attempt. For 850 miles taking him 44 days, camping all the way without backup. Basically simulating the experience he plans to take for his next challenge in 2024: “to set the world record for the fastest solo trek to the South Pole.”

Setting goals like these come naturally to Dominic, who grew up in the Pennines and cycled as a youngster loving the outdoors and the hills. So it was a natural step to set up an outdoor adventure company more than 20 years ago. He moved into mountaineering around 10 years ago, conquering various peaks like Kilimanjaro, Mera Peak in Nepal and Denali, North America’s highest summit. Then, about four years ago, he also climbed the north side of Mount Everest. After this climb, he dreamt about setting out for the South Pole. 

Climbed the biggest mountain, now moving on to the Poles

He likes to push himself and test his endurance. Having done mountains, Dominic decided it was time to move on to the Poles or, as he calls it, “the artic areas of the Antarctic”. He is attempting the fastest solo trek to the South Pole. Knowing what it entails, Dominic is confident that he can do it solo and, as he says, “In [his] abilities, preparation, everything else. However, I need to put another angle on this and think, well, if I’m confident in doing that, how can I stretch myself?”

Dominic has plenty of experience to back his words. And the knowledge that is vital for a trek to the South Pole. The current world record for the fastest solo, unsupported trek to the South Pole is held by Christian Eide (Norway), who completed the 715-mile journey in a record time of 24 days 1 hr 13 min. Dominic’s plan is to beat that by 2 days, which means completing an average daily journey of around 33 miles daily.

He explains, “that’ll be solo, completely on your own, and there’ll be no one else around you. You’ll be carrying all your own kit. You’ll be carrying everything. Obviously, every evening you’re putting up your camp in the morning, taking it back down again, skiing for probably around 12 to 13 hours a day. And then naturally, putting your camp up, melting all your water.”

"She didn't know me from Adam. It was unbelievable. That was such a heartfelt thing."

Gruelling, yes, but preparation is the key

It sounds like a long and arduous journey, particularly given its solitariness. Dominic will have to melt snow for his liquid needs and to rehydrate his food. His sledge will have to hold everything he needs for his journey, including fuel. He expects to travel with around 80 kg of kit, and a 25 kilo backpack,  “I’m aiming for 22 days, and that’ll be back-to-back. There will be no rest days”. Plus, he reminds us that despite what many people think, the South Pole is not flat, it’s almost 3,000 metres high, and the height could mean suffering altitude sickness. Not to mention temperatures can drop to a mind-numbing -60 degrees Celsius.

Only 1 million more steps to go Photo: Dominic Renshaw

Both physical and mental preparation is crucial and Dominic is heading to Norway in March for a course with Polar specialists to help him get there quickly and safely. So how easy is the planning of his trip? Dominic laughingly says, “I’ve bought one company, set another up now, and it’s easier to run them than it is to do this.”

However, the importance of getting every detail right is key as things can go wrong very quickly, Dominic explains. “I have to organise everything. For example, you can’t have your fuel with your food. That sounds silly, but you can’t have it in the same bag. So if I put the fuel in my rucksack, my food will have to be on the sledge and vice versa because I can’t end up with something getting contaminated.” 

Training in the Herefordshire/Shropshire borders

There is something to be said about the mental training that Dominic has to do while he’s clocking in the daily miles. And, mostly, it’s about making things habitual, remembering all the detail. When he climbed Everest, he needed to do things automatically, which will be the same for his record attempt. For example, he recalled a rookie error made recently during a cold spell forgetting to put warm water in his bottle before his run, which resulted in freezing water he couldn’t drink when he needed to. Or, when he sipped his water, put it down to pick up his sandwich and knocked it over, losing half a litre. Small things don’t make much of a difference as he’s relatively near his home, but they could significantly impact him out on the ice. 

His venture means his mental attitude has to be phenomenally strong. But Dominic already has the training and discipline ingrained. Before Everest, he went up and down a hill with a 25-kilo backpack, 8-9 hours a day. Training with music is a no-no, as awareness is essential when climbing. When pulling that tyre, it’s on a 2-mile circuit; he’ll repeat it 10 times to do his 22 miles. Fortunately, Dominic is at his creative best when out training, taking advantage of all that thinking time to record his ideas on his mobile and work on them back home. 

Also, he’s found his environment perfect for his training needs. He’s chosen relatively quiet roads big enough to pull the tyre and accommodate passing vehicles. As well as beautiful views and lovely people. He recounts a story, where when he was out, a lady passing by, rolled down her car window and asked him if he was running for charity. He said yes, and she gave him £4 towards it. “She didn’t know me from Adam. It was unbelievable. That was such a heartfelt thing.” 

The charity Dominic is supporting with his trip from John O’Groats to Lands End is Blackdog Outdoors, which raises awareness of mental health and whose philosophy is getting people outdoors to help reduce stress. He hopes to raise £50K for the charity.  He’s been an inspiration to local kids too, talking recently to Years 3 and 4 at Wigmore Primary School about explorers and mountaineers.

Dominic has written about his experiences “Dream bigger than you ever thought possible and then go live that dream”. You can catch up on his “The Long Tread” progress and follow his journey on his YouTube channel. For more info, go to Dominicrenshaw.com and follow him on Twitter.