RUNNING man father-of-two Paul Freary is not your ordinary dad – far from it.

The 49-year-old former British half marathon champion, from Egerton, has just returned from the Darjeeling region of northern India after winning the Himalayan 100-Mile Stage Race – one of the toughest ultra-marathons on the planet.

The event is split into five stages, ranging from 13 miles to marathon distance, over five consecutive days.

Competitors have to contend with gruelling climbs, totalling more than 13,000ft, and high altitude, with the race going over 11,000ft at its highest point.

Freary won four out of the five stages, completing the 27th annual event in 17hrs 35mins, beating second-placed Mariano Ontanon, from Argentina, by 26 minutes. The front two were well ahead of third-placed finisher, Australian Jeremy Scriven, who completed the race in 21:31:00.

As champion, the Bolton United Harriers' life member won the Sant Nagpal Baba Memorial Gold Award, but he said the experience and sense of achievement was his greatest reward.

“It was the first time I’ve ever done something of this level," he said.

“It was so different to anything I’ve done in the past. There’s only so many 5k or 10k runs you can do."

Freary's love of travel also played a part in his decision to take on the challenge. Having won half marathons in Fiji, Reykjavik and Bermuda (five times), he felt he could not turn down the opportunity to see the Himalayas in all their glory.

“To be running in view of the world’s highest mountains was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure," he added.

"We even had a little snowfall on the third day to make things even more amazing.

“Half a mile into the third day we turned a corner and could see Mount Everest. It was amazing. We could see four out of five of the tallest mountains in the world.

“My two little girls, Lauren and Grace, thought it was amazing. They were very excited when I got home and showed them the pictures of the mountains and the Taj Mahal.

"The race was not without its dangers, though.

“The routes were tortuous with steep climbs and terrifying descents in places, but it all added to the challenge.

“On day three, the marathon day, we descended in the final six miles and had to be diverted as a recent monsoon had washed away a massive part of the road.

“You could see the remains of houses that had been destroyed by a mud slide, which goes to show what the locals have to live with.

“I've travelled extensively as an international athlete but this was certainly the most scenic and toughest event I have ever tackled.

"To win was a bonus because as a former mile runner on the track, the distance was quite a challenge.”

After completing such an incredible feat, Freary, who owns Foot Traffic, a specialist running store in Astley Bridge, might be forgiven for putting his feet up.

But he now has his eyes firmly set on the London marathon in April next year, the first time Paul will have taken part in the event.

If his Himalayan heroics have inspired you, Freary runs a free running group – BL5K – at Leverhulme Park every Monday. It starts at 6.30pm and is open to runners of all ages and ability.