Scots powerlifter swaps barbells for boots as he takes on huge hiking challenge in memory of gran

Paul McEwen is taking on The National Three Peaks Challenge next month
Paul McEwen is taking on The National Three Peaks Challenge next month -Credit:MS Society Scotland

A former powerlifter has decided to swap weight training for walking as he gears up to conquer a huge hiking challenge in memory of his beloved gran. Paul McEwan, 29, will take on The National Three Peaks Challenge to raise funds for the MS Society.

His grandmother, Margaret Young, died last June after battling multiple sclerosis for 20 years. After her passing, Paul, who lives north of Aberdeen, sought out a demanding challenge that would require him to "dig deep" as a fitting tribute to his "tough as old boots" grandma.

As someone who has spent a decade pumping iron in the gym, as well as two years of competitive powerlifting, cardio was never a priority for Paul. But he is embracing the challenge of climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, and Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) next month, reports Aberdeen Live.

Paul, who has been joined by wife Nicole and their dachshund Harry on some of his training hikes, said: "My grandmother was a wonderful woman with a strong mentality. My granda worked away a lot so my grandma was a very independent person and did a lot of things for herself.

"She had a long career, including working as a nurse when they lived in Glasgow - she never lost that caring nature. We stayed with my grandma quite a lot when we were kids and she did a lot of things for us; she was very hands on.

"She drove, and she had freedom, which, as time went on, got taken away more and more as her MS progressed. Grandma lost the use of her legs and became dependent on those around her, which was difficult for her after being so independent."

Speaking about his grandma's final few months, Paul said: "I never once experienced my grandma being negative. It was never 'woe is me'.

Paul is raising funds for MS Scotland in memory of his late gran, Margaret
Paul is raising funds for MS Society Scotland in memory of his late gran, Margaret -Credit:MS Society Scotland

"She just got on with it, which has always been a massive inspiration to me. People who knew her say she was as tough as old boots! She was resilient right up until the end.

"Her battle will forever be an inspiration to me and my family. I've thought long and hard about what I could do to honour her and raise money for this wonderful charity."

Speaking about his trio of tough climbs, Paul said: "The Three Peaks is one of the toughest challenges the UK has to offer. It's going to be physically and mentally tough. It will be a whole new experience for me but one I'm really looking forward to."

As part of his efforts to pay tribute to his grandmother and raise funds, Paul will join a small team curated by Bookitlist, a travel and adventure company. They will endeavour to climb the tallest peaks in Scotland, England, and Wales all within 24 hours.

Paul, a former competitive powerlifter, wanted to take on a challenge that would push him to the limits
Paul, a former competitive powerlifter, wanted to take on a challenge that would push him to the limits -Credit:MS Society Scotland

The group will take on the highest UK peak first - Ben Nevis in Scotland, standing at 1345m (4,413 ft), setting off early on Friday, June 7.

The climbers will get a chance to rest and refuel as they're transported to Scafell Pike in England (978m/3,209ft), before concluding their endeavour by reaching the summit of Yr Wyddfa (1085m/3,560ft) in time to witness the sunrise from its peak.

Despite being a novice to such activities, Paul is geared up for the challenge. He said: "Hillwalking is completely new to me. I've been a heavy gym-goer for about 10 years and for a couple of years I did competitive powerlifting.

"But cardio has always been a bit of a shortfall for me so it's been a bit of a steep learning curve to get myself up to a decent cardio base, to make sure I've got enough in the tank to complete this challenge."

He added: "I have so much incentive to complete this challenge, and so many things that are pushing me to do it. That's what I constantly remind myself of when I'm training."

The MS Society is the UK's leading charity for people affected by multiple sclerosis. As well as funding research and undertaking campaigns, they also offer emotional support and information about the disease.

The MS Society has local groups across the UK, which aim to bring people together to decrease isolation, host events and activities and support the local MS community.

Margaret, who was 74 when she tragically passed away, had received help from the MS Society following her diagnosis in the early 2000s. Paul found the MS Society's support crucial when seeking to understand his grandmother's experience with the condition.

Grateful for the assistance provided to both him and his grandmother, he has committed to volunteering with the MS Society's Aberdeen local group after completing his challenge.

Margaret, originally from Edinburgh, moved to Glasgow where she met Paul's grandfather Jim Young. The couple relocated to Blackburn for Jim's career in the oil and gas sector in Aberdeenshire. Following Jim's passing in 2018, Margaret moved closer to Paul's parents in Aberdeen.

Paul, who was Margaret's middle grandchild, shared: "My wife Nicole and my grandma got on so well. We'd go round and the three of us would chat for ages.

"We had a really close bond. Grandma was a really funny person. She just had this wit. The three of us all had really good quality time together. It was a special time to be around her.

"I do think she'd be immensely proud if she knew I was taking on this challenge. She always wanted us all to do well. She wanted to see you go as far as you could possibly take yourself."

Morna Simpkins, Director of MS Society Scotland, expressed her gratitude: "We would like to say a huge thank you and good luck to Paul for taking on the National Three Peaks Challenge for MS Society Scotland. And an additional thank you for choosing to volunteer with our Aberdeen local group.

"More than 17,000 people in Scotland live with MS and more than 150,000 across the whole of the UK. For 70 years we have been at the forefront of support, research, and campaigning to improve the lives of people with MS. Without people like Paul raising funds and giving up their time we wouldn't be able to continue with this vital work."

Supporters can sponsor Paul's endeavour HERE and learn about starting their own challenge for the MS Society HERE.

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