AN endurance runner is swapping his shoes for skates to take part in a 50-mile ice race in Sweden.
Mark Horne, 26, will cross frozen rivers and lakes in the epic ice-skating marathon between Uppsala and Stockholm next month.
The Edinburgh University PhD student already holds the record for the fastest coast-to-coast crossing of Scotland, running 80 miles from Inverness to Oban in 17 hours.
He drove a Ford Fiesta to the Arctic and now wants to combine the cold with long distance running in his latest feat of fortitude.
He said: “I read about this ice race in a Ben Fogle book. He came dead last when he did it but I thought it sounded quite good fun. I had been ice-skating before so I decided I’d like to give it a go and contacted the organisers.
“I just like seeing what I can do and this is a new venture. I was never good at team sports at school so I like to try anything that’s a bit different.
“I’ve run several marathons so I should be fine on the endurance side of things but skating involves different muscle groups, so that will be a test.”
Mark, who is a member of Edinburgh Athletic Club, already runs 50 miles a week but has been swimming and ice-skating in preparation for February’s trip.
He has been testing his stamina with regular sessions at Murrayfield ice rink and is hoping to smash the British record of four hours, nine minutes and 54 seconds – despite never having tried on his skates.
Mark said: “Apparently they have arrived at home today. They’re nothing like your normal ice skate – these clip on to your walking boots and the blades are 18 inches long so they look like swords. The technique is more like running then on your normal skates.
“You can’t use them on ice rinks in Britain as they cut the ice up so we’re flying out to Sweden a few days before the race to get a bit of practice in.
“I’ve just come back from Budapest where they have an ice rink that’s a frozen lake. I spent a day there and managed to rack up 50 kilometres on a pair of the skates.
“I’m pretty confident I can beat the record, but the big problem is what the condition of the ice is. It has been a warm winter so it might not be as quick and smooth as I’d hope.” Thousands of people from around the world are expected to take part in the annual event on February 10, but Mark, of Bruntsfield, is most interested in beating his former St Andrews University pals James Matthews, Jack Barker and Vince Semenuk.
“It’s a bit like cycling where everyone rides off together and someone wins which will hopefully be me. We’ve all got to start the race with ice prods because if the ice breaks, you need them to pull yourselves out. I got mine as a Christmas present from my girlfriend, which was a bit different.”
His adventures won’t end there as he is leading a team of 28 on a university expedition to Kilimanjaro in June.
He added: “I’ve signed up for a few things this year but this is a great one to start with.”