Meet Rossendale's marathon man headteacher ready to take on the world with England

As headteacher of Rossendale’s largest high school and sixth form, Russ Clarke knows how important it is for everyone to explore interests away from work whenever possible.

Being head of Haslingden High School and Sixth Form is far from a nine-to-five job, so Russ likes to take on extra challenges as a way of managing his own wellbeing. As a former PE teacher, those challenges often revolve around sports and he believes that they all offer an outlet from the pressures of the rewarding, yet demanding, role and allow him to be a better leader as a result.

He has run several marathons, including posting a London time of two hours 58 minutes; he completed the 24-hour Bob Graham Round – a fell running Lake District challenge of 66 miles taking in 42 summits; and last year took on the Lakeland 100, a 100-mile ultra tour which he completed in 31 hours.

He was part of a team of six, that ran up Ben Nevis, Scafell and Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon) in a time of five hours 36 minutes.


Now, along with his friend crew manager of Preston Fire Station and member of the International Search and Rescue Team, Matt Perry, he has been selected to represent England in the HYROX World Championships in Nice, France, in June.

Father-of-two Russ said: “My friend invited me to take part in a competition at Manchester Central Convention Complex in January this year.

“He suggested we have a go at this competition – in pairs you run 1km and then take it in turns to complete a functional workout, then run a further 1km and another workout,” he added.

There are eight workouts in total including a weighted sled push and pull, ski erg, rowing, kettlebell carrying and lunges with a sandbag on your back. In the doubles competition the pair run together and then take it in turns to complete the activities.

In the 40-49 age category, they found they were up against TV’s Gladiator Steel – Zack George – and his partner, but they beat them, posting a final time of 59 minutes 51 seconds, achieving fifth place and a place in the World Championships.

Along with his dad Peter, who recently joined Clayton Harriers at the age of 68, Russ has built his own sled which he pushes and pulls along the back street of his Burnley home to train for the competition as well as attending Burnley Cross-Fit classes.

He has also made weights by fitting metal handles to wooden beams to practise for the 32kg ‘farmers carry’.

Russ said: “It is important for people to have wind down time and for me that just happens to be predominantly sport.

“At university I played football for GB and I used to play in local non-league teams. I never entered this competition thinking we would get through, but I have to be honest and say that I can have an obsessional mindset when approaching a challenge.

“Assemblies in school this term have focused on living healthy and active lifestyles and I hope that I can continue to model how sport and physical movement can positively influence how we live our lives.”

Russ’s wife, Dr Katie Clarke, is also well placed to offer her support having completed the London Marathon herself in 2022 and in her role as a GP in Burnley.

They both share a passion for supporting the communities they serve and hope they can continue to inspire others to experience the benefits of physical activity.