Andrew prepares for Everest challenge

A COLERAINE man will be part of a three man team tackling Mount Everest next month.

The Dalit children of Nepal are not allowed to mix with those from higher castes.

Living in extreme poverty with no chance of an education, prospective employment is a mere dream. A future of slavery could be all they have to look forward to.

Dalit life is a far cry from the comfort and basic human rights we take for granted in Northern Ireland.

When Andrew Topping from Coleraine wanted to help these children, he could have chosen an easier option than what he has planned.

Andrew, along with Richard McBride, Robert Kennedy and Ralph Mercer, have formed the ‘Stand by Me Northern Ireland’ team that will join an international field of runners for the world’s highest marathon on Mount Everest this May.

They are believed to be the only local team participating in the world-renowned event.

As the name suggests they will be taking part in aid of charity, Stand by Me, which works with children in crisis across the world, including those in Nepal.

The dedicated team has been training for 18 months in local trail and mountain races to prepare for the course which extends over 26 miles of rough terrain at altitudes of up to 18,000ft, which is more than six times higher than Slieve Donard’s summit.

Andrew said: “The health, nutrition and opportunity to even consider this challenge is a privilege.

“Thank you to the team and everyone supporting us. Local mountain running experts including Peter Bell, Hannah Shields and Andy McMullan have provided invaluable advice.

“Our training schedule requires focus and we are fitting this around family and work commitments.

“ We are gradually building strength and stamina in preparation for this unique marathon and the Antrim Hills, Mournes and Cavehill are ideal terrain to test our endurance. Winter evenings and dawn training sessions in the sub-zero temperatures are only a fraction of the extreme cold and exposure we expect in the Himalayas but they are good practice.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about Stand by Me and how the charity helps children in crisis, should visit www.standby.me