Alex Staniforth
  • OS Champion

Alex Staniforth

OS Champion

Meet Alex Staniforth – Endurance adventurer, obsessed runner, motivational speaker, author and Charity Director.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Overcoming challenges is what I do. I’m a fell and trail runner, adventurer, motivational speaker, author, and perhaps most importantly the founder of Mind Over Mountains, a charity restoring mental health through nature. I’m 27 and from Chester, but now fortunate enough to live in Kendal on the edge of the Lake District. After two disasters on Everest as a teenager, I moved here in pursuit of a healthier environment to live and work – to be in my happy place – although I don’t get much work done when the weather is good. Through our charity, storytelling and fundraising challenges, my purpose now is helping others achieve their potential regardless of the challenges they face.

Why do you love the outdoors?

Your environment dictates your mindset and the outdoors has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can really remember. It was the first place I really found myself and a way to manage the epilepsy, stammering, bullying and mental ill health I experienced from 9 years old. It went from childhood dog walks with our dogs on Anglesey to mountain biking our local forest, to eventually rock climbing in Borrowdale, paragliding in Turkey and nowadays running ridiculously long distances for fun. It gives us a way to escape the stresses and challenges of everyday life, to find hope and put things back in perspective. It adds so much depth and meaning to life – it’s fundamentally where we’re designed to be, and maybe much of the problems in society are due to this loss of connection with our natural environment.

How do you get outside?

Mostly I’m running – in the local fells or trails. I’ve recently discovered the joys of open water swimming and pretty spoilt for choice in the Lake District for both distance swims or waterfall dips. When I can’t run I also spend a lot of time road cycling. I’m also training to paraglide at the moment. So, I guess land, air and water are all covered! It’s wonderful to see the Lake District from so many different perspectives and speeds. Usually, I’m solo but enjoy sharing the wild swims with friends for mutual encouragement/accountability as it gets colder.

What’s your favourite route?

Kentmere Horseshoe in the South Lake District is always a safe bet for both fell running and hiking.

It was one of my earliest ever hikes in the Lake District which inspired my Everest goal as a teenager, and one of the first runs I did when I moved up here. Most people drive straight past Kentmere for the bigger and more rugged areas, leaving this a quiet round but full of character, with brilliant sunrise views across Windermere, and a brilliant grassy descent for some speed back into Kentmere and bluebells in the spring. Easy navigation and you can also shorten the route before Harter Fell and descend to the reservoir if the weather turns, or extend to Shipman Knotts for another Wainwright if you’re feeling good. Stop at More Bakery in Staveley for the icing on the cake!

Alex Staniforth swimming and running

Credit: Kenny Block and Richard Ellis

Have you got any adventures planned?

I’ve been on a rather rubbish expedition with Long Covid this year, after contracting the virus 2 days after my 100-mile Lakes, Meres and Waters run in April. That’s put a lot of plans and challenge ideas on hold, to remove any additional pressure and allowing me to focus on my recovery. I’m also awaiting hernia surgery. But I’m on the road back to fitness and hungry for an epic running comeback next year. I’d love to get some bigger distance swims too and combine this new obsession with fell running by taking on the ‘Frog Graham Round’ – a 40-mile run with 4 swims in the Lake District.

What’s the most essential thing on your kit list?

Sadly, my phone. To take photos, listen to music for motivation on the longer runs and for emergencies.

Who inspires you to get outside?

I don’t usually need much persuasion. But I’m inspired by the people who show us new places and hidden gems, and what these places mean to them. I love following people like Mark Beaumont and Sean Conway who continue to push the physical boundaries of endurance and also the people who enjoy the outdoors regardless of potential limitations. Our very own OS Champions Brynn Hauxwell and Debbie North are a great example!

What do you prefer: Paper or digital map? (Controversial we know!)

Being a millennial I’d probably have to say digital. Sorry. I just like the convenience of being able to press a button on the OS Maps app to know my location, and have all the maps I need in one place. As a runner I like minimal faff and not having to stop for long. But it’s important to know how to use both.