Thanet adventurer gets set to take on Fat Viking challenge in aid of Pilgrims Hospices

Rob has conquered several challenges and is now preparing for the Fat Viking trail

When you have never cycled 150km in one go – never mind attempting such a feat through snow, ice and minus 40c temperatures – then the obvious thing to do is sign up for a specialist bike endurance race through the Norwegian mountains.

At least, it is for adventure-loving Rob Wilkinson who takes on the Fat Viking challenge later this month in a bid to raise funds for end-of-life charity Pilgrims Hospices.

Rob and family

Dad-of-one Rob, who was brought up in Ramsgate and now lives in Broadstairs with wife Marta, is currently training for the epic feat which starts at 7am on January 27. Rob then has until 12pm the following day to get over the finish line.

The course takes in snowmobile tracks, dogsledding trails, snow covered roads and cross country skiing trails around Geilo, Skurdalen and Dagali in Norway.

There are some basic checkpoints and also several “bail out options” along the route in case of emergencies but it is largely unsupported, meaning Rob will need to carry everything himself, including a tent, sleeping bag, emergency clothing, basic bike repair equipment, food and water.

Rob, a Master Mariner with 20 years of experience turned property development lender company co-founder, found his thirst for adventure as a youngster.

He said: “When I was at school at The Ramsgate School I was in the sea cadets and got a job working on fishing boats at weekends, after school and in the holidays.

“In my last year at school I wanted to join the Royal Marines and my mum introduced me to a sea captain who regaled us with stories.”

With his interest piqued, Rob applied to around 150 sea-going companies but replies suggested he gain his A Levels first. Then came one reply for an interview and Rob was offered a navigational officer scholarship.

Ditching plans to take A Levels at Chatham House, Rob spent the next three years studying at Solent University and working on ships around the world. He qualified as an officer at 19 and set off on a career aboard Merchant Navy ships.

Rob said: “I was given the option for redundancy when I was about 22 and it was an incredible amount of money, a year’s salary, so I went travelling for a few months, spent the lot and then decided it was time to get another job.”

Those jobs included working on a yacht in Monaco for the Saudi royal family and then a 10-year stint on what was the world’s largest yacht at the time, finishing his career as Ship’s Captain.

With six months a year at sea and six months off, Rob also got involved with property, buying and renovating his first place and then selling it on.

Rowing challenge

He left his sea career in 2017 and continued with his company as a property investment lender and this is when his passion for extreme challenges began.

The 41-year-old said: “I have always been very active. A lot of my work is office based now so in order not to go insane I started doing various challenges.”

These have included a motorbiking trip across mountains in Bulgaria – Rob had to learn how to ride a motorbike the week before leaving – funding it with a white collar boxing gala where he stepped in the ring despite never boxing before, a four-man  rowing race from Barcelona to Ibiza and last year a 10,000km rally in an old Land Rover driving along the northern most highway in the world, inside the arctic and performing a full circumnavigation of the Baltic Sea. All events raised money for charities including Pilgrims Hospices and the RNLI.

Alongside that, during covid, Rob volunteered at QEQM Hospital and was also a vaccinator with St John Ambulance.

And now he is preparing for the Fat Viking challenge.

He said: “I will be reliant on the peddle power of my legs, doing it on a specially designed ‘Fat bike’ which is basically a mountain bike with oversized ‘Fat’ tyres.

“I’ll be wearing a race tracker, meaning anyone interested can follow my progress throughout the race and emergency services will be able to find my frozen body in the event that I don’t make it!

Previous mountain adventure

“I’ve been training in the gym seven days a week. I was hoping to get out on the bike over Christmas but with 50mph winds it’s not great for cycling so I have been using the resistance bike in the gym. I’m hoping to hear back from the University of Kent as they have a sports science division with a cold chamber so I told them I’m willing to be a guinea pig!”

Rob will travel to Norway a few days before the challenge so he has time to check the equipment he will be using on the Fat Viking trail.

Find the fundraising page in aid of Pilgrims Hospices at: https://www.justgiving.com/page/rob-wilkinson-fat-viking

You will be able to follow Rob during the challenge on his insta and facebook pages at:

https://www.facebook.com/robrwilkinson

https://www.instagram.com/rob_wilkinson46/

Find more on the work of Pilgrims Hospices at: https://www.pilgrimshospices.org/

 

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