Scarborough men take on the Special Forces route - and win!

Special Forces Fan Dance athletes John Hunter and Roy Sykes proud of their achievements.Picture Richard Ponter 140405
Special Forces Fan Dance athletes John Hunter and Roy Sykes proud of their achievements.Picture Richard Ponter 140405

Two Scarborough friends are feeling on top of the world after conquering a gruelling mountainous challenge on a route used by Special Forces.

John Hunter, 49, and Roy Sykes, 67, have celebrated a successful completion of the Fan Dance, a twice-yearly event held in the Brecon Beacons which draws competitors from all over the world.

Participants cover a 15-mile route, which sees them scale Pen-y-Fan - the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons - to a height of 3,000 feet, carrying a 35lb backpack.

The route has long been a part of SAS (Special Air Service) and SBS (Special Boat Service) Selection and is considered the yardstick of a candidate’s potential to perform well and ultimately pass the Special Forces selection programme.

Sadly, it claimed the lives of three army reservists during a heatwave last July.

Mr Hunter, of Crossgates, has completed the Fan Dance challenge before, both in summer and winter.

But for Mr Sykes, of Commercial Street, this was his first time and he was the oldest competitor at the event, completing the course in five hours and 30 minutes.

He said: “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done - and I worked as a coal miner for years!

“I was tired the next day but I had no aches or pains. I would definitely do it again - I want to be faster.”

Mr Hunter was there to defend his title in the Masters category and won again, completing the course in three hours and 24 minutes.

Out of 500 competitors, he was the third person over the line.

Mr Hunter, who works as a builder, said: “I would have been second, but I got lost!”

He added: “The conditions were brutal, with high winds and torrential rain.

“I’ve done it in sun before and in snow, but this time was the toughest. Everyone was soaked through.

“But it’s a brilliant event with great camaraderie. People come from all over the world to train there.”

A spokesman for the Fan Dance said: “The route is a real lung buster that throws everything at you, including the elements.

“There are steady slopes that allow a solid jogging pace, shocking inclines that have you almost on your hands and knees, loose stone tracks that require cautious foot placements and a forested vehicle track that allows for some rapid going.

“Even SAS recruits at the height of their physical abilities regard beating the clock in this event as a serious challenge, and all know its capacity to hurt. Aside from the race aspect of this event, just getting to the end is an accomplishment and something to be proud of.”

Mr Hunter and Mr Sykes have been friends for many years after meeting at a coal hump event in Scarborough.

Mr Sykes, who had won the event four times in a row, said: “He came along and knocked me off my perch! We’ve been firm friends ever since.”

Mr Hunter is now training to defend his World Coal Carrying Champion title at Gawthorpe, near Wakefield, this Easter. He is also gearing up for the summer edition of the Fan Dance and the Para 10 in August.