A TEENAGER from East Kilbride is gearing up for the challenge of a lifetime this month, as he treks up the world’s highest free-standing mountain for charity.

Harvey Mitchell-Divers will take on the world’s highest trail race towards the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on July 15.

This involves a 4.5km run, with 1,000 metres of gruelling vertical climbing to the top of the famous peak in Tanzania.

Aged just 17, the remarkable school pupil will take part in the Guinness World Record attempt alongside other competitors from all around the globe.

The National: Harvey Mitchell-DiversHarvey Mitchell-Divers

Already a Spartan Champion for his age category in Obstacle Course Racing, Harvey’s determination and drive is incredibly impressive for someone so young.

As if that wasn't enough, Harvey will then astonishingly race in a half-marathon back down the mountain.

However, the teen has an added motivation which will help him get through the Uhuru Peak Challenge.

Harvey is raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity after someone close to him, Dougie Craggs, passed away in 2020.

Taking part in a fundraiser event in memory of his former football coach is something Harvey has always wanted to do.

Now, with his solo trip to Kilimanjaro looming on July 6, the super-fit youngster is aiming to do Dougie proud.

The National: Dougie CraggsDougie Craggs

He said: “I’m a bit nervous. But I’m optimistic and excited for sure.

“It’s a very different race to the one in Abu Dhabi (World Spartan Championships). This will probably be my toughest challenge to date. I’ll see how it compares to the desert and the heat, but it probably will be.

“The race in Abu Dhabi was more challenging in endurance. I was running for three-and-a-half hours.

“With this, the vertical kilometre is more of a vigorous intensity. My heart rate will be at its max nearly the full time.

“Obviously, the altitude changes will become a factor as well. There’s 1000m of elevation, so that’s going to be pretty grim. But it will be fun.

“I’m going to try and raise some money as part of this. My best friend Craig McMillan. I’ve known him since I was around 10-years-old. His uncle, Dougie, was our football coach. He had a brain tumour and sadly passed away in 2020.

“I joined the team – East Kilbride Rolls Royce - when I was in first year of school. Dougie was one of the coaches of the team and we got on well.

The National: A list of what conditions the chamber can be set toA list of what conditions the chamber can be set to

“He taught me lots, he was an experienced football player. He shared lots of his knowledge with me. I ended up captaining the team. Sadly, he lost his life.

“In the 2021 season we went on to win the Glasgow Youth League Cup. That was really good. I think we did that for Dougie.

“It’s quite a close charity to me and all of Craig’s family as well because Dougie was an amazing man.

“There was a football tournament in memory of him too. I’d just done a Spartan race and then came straight back up to play in the tournament later that day.

“I’ve always wanted to do something to raise a bit of money for him.

“That vertical kilometre race will be a subtle reminder of how hard Dougie had to fight and that the struggle I’ll be facing is nothing in comparison to what Dougie endured. That will be what will get me to the top of that mountain.”

The National: Harvey during an OCR competitionHarvey during an OCR competition

As Harvey mentioned, he will experience severe altitude changes as he progresses up the mountain.

To help as part of his training for the challenge, he’s enjoyed five sessions at the University of the West of Scotland’s environmental chamber.

The state-of-the-art facility, situated at their campus in Hamilton, has enabled him to try acclimatise to the conditions he will face on Kilimanjaro.

One of only two in Scotland, the chamber replicates environmental extremes, from walking in the desert to standing on one of the world’s highest mountains and can be used by individuals to improve physical performance in the run up to events like this one.

Harvey expressed his gratitude for the help of Professor Chris Easton, Head of Sport & Exercise at UWS, and the team at the university.

The National: Chris and Harvey inside the chamberChris and Harvey inside the chamber

He said: “The training here has been incredible. It’s made a massive difference because I’ve been able to prepare for body specifically for going at altitudes. I’m very lucky and grateful for Chris and everyone else on the team’s time.

“I’m hoping to do the vertical kilometre in under two-hours. If I could do it in an hour-and-a-half then that would be excellent. That’s the goal.

“It’s quite cold up at the top. I think it can be very rainy as well. As far as the foot conditions go, the first part of the race will be in a rainforest, and then it progresses onto desert type ground, then gravel-like ash the further I go up.”

Professor Easton explained the importance of Harvey getting his body used to such extreme conditions.

He said: “Harvey is an inspirational young lad and it has been fantastic to work with him this week to help him prepare. He is about to undertake a massive physiological challenge.

“We do a lot of work with lots of different athletes – with Olympic and World champions, footballers. He’s doing fantastically well.

“The altitude is set to 4000m above sea level, which for most would be quite a significant challenge. Even being in there standing and speaking, it takes a concerted effort.

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“Altitude can have quite significant and severe impacts on the body. Unfortunately, being physically fit doesn’t seem to offer much protection. Even elite athletes have struggled to climb Kilimanjaro in the past.

“The obvious affect is increased breathing rate. The reduced oxygen available to the body will stimulate the body to be able to breathe more, which is particularly noticeable if you’re trying to walk or run up a mountain.

“It takes the body quite a long time to adapt to altitude. So you need to increase red bloody cells production to increase that oxygen availability.

“For Harvey, he’s going to be walking for five days and then attempting to run up the hill, his body won’t have really had enough time to adapt to the altitude yet. Hence the reason we’ve got him into the chamber before he goes out.

“Harvey has been running on the treadmill, been on the bike and doing press-ups. It’s a good sign, his body seems to respond very well to altitude, which gives him some reassurance before this event.”

Harvey revealed that he came up with three goals for his life last year. 

And from his achievements to date, he's going to need to think of some more. 

He added: "I wanted to lift a trophy playing football, I’ve managed to do that.

“I wanted to be the best in the world at something, I managed that with the Spartan race.

“And lastly I wanted to compete in a Guinness World Record event. This is the world’s highest trail race – or the world’s highest vertical kilometre. So we’ll see what happens. I’ve always been fascinated by mountains since I was young."

A UWS spokesperson commented: "Harvey will be taking part in more challenges like these in the future and is keen to use UWS’s facilities to help him train again.

"He has had such a positive experience of working with Chris and the team at UWS that he is also considering applying to study the Sports & Exercise Science course on offer at the University."

You can donate to Harvey’s JustGiving page HERE.