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Q&A With Athlete Dean Ovel

by Alexandra Parren

homemade hamster wheel running challenge local hero

Dean is a runner who has undertaken some incredible challenges. From running on a homemade hamster wheel for 24 hours straight to running 10 marathons in 8 days, all of his challenges are done for a good cause. Sundried got the chance to catch up with Dean after his most recent challenge and find out more about this amazing athlete.

Some of the challenges you have done are truly superhuman. But have you always been sporty and into running? Or is it something you've had to train hard at?

I've always been into sports of some kind, mostly skateboarding and BMX cycling as a kid. I also spent 20 years training in karate and also dance - ballet and tap - so I guess most of my fitness, core strength, and flexibility come from this, as well as the discipline which is needed to train for these endurance events. I started running again properly in my late 20s when I started to find snowboarding was getting tougher.

What's been the toughest challenge you've ever set yourself and why?

The Rickshaw Challenge was possibly my all round toughest, with the psychological aspect of the stop/start format really causing me problems when I got tired. I'm not sure I've ever been that low, and so close to finding a dark corner and hiding away until everyone left.

Another one was that I used to be afraid of heights, so a few years back I started doing some mountain runs and ran the 10 Peaks in the Lake District with a tricky climb and descent up and down Lords Rake, which was the defining moment in overcoming that fear. The challenge of getting through that is one of my toughest and proudest.

hamster wheel running extreme endurance challenge

Please tell us about your recent Rickshaw Challenge and the cause?

All of my fundraising in recent years has been for Southend Hospital and their various appeals, but most personal is the Dementia care services they provide and improving this for sufferers and their family. The Rickshaw Challenge was borne off the back of what I learned at my two previous big challenges, and trying to encompass the community spirit with good local fundraising and something quirky to get people's attention.

I had run solo, in public and with a crowd, so building something to pull people along with the opportunity for others to join me seemed the logical step. I can't say it was perfect, and there's always aspects which I'd change in hindsight, but no one as far as I know has done what I'm doing, so I have nothing to follow. And it's given me ideas for the next challenge, and has raised the money I'd set as a target, so it was successful.

Rickshaw 100 Challenge Dean Ovel Sundried

What are some of the other most notable challenges you've done?

Apart from 10 Marathons in 8 days, and the 24 Hour Hamster Wheel? These are pretty well documented, but in my off-years I try to do a few events that I keep under the radar. My first point-to-point 100 mile was notable for me, as it took me to a place I'd not ventured before and I came out the other side relishing repeating that feeling. I enjoy some of the quieter events in locations I've not been to before, experiencing new scenery and people without having to travel half-way around the world.

Surely what you've done can't be topped! What new challenges do you have on the horizon?

Everything can always be improved upon in some way. I'll spend the next 12 months toying with some ideas, training in different ways/places and trying to build on what I've learned so far. The focus is to raise money and awareness for Southend Hospital, and there's a formula for what makes this work in the local community and hopefully some wider publicity, but you can guarantee that it'll be more than just a guy running long distance!

What does a typical week of training look like for you?

There's no such thing as a typical week for me. I follow no training plan or schedule, even when I have a specific event coming up. I run to how I feel, which could be two to three speed sessions in a week or some hilly miles in Hadleigh Park. Even though I coach and write the occasional training plan for people, my ethos has always been to listen to your body and mind, and enjoy your running, not make it something that has to be done. Sure, you need to train, but do it with a smile.

Do you follow a specific nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?

I'm vegetarian. My only plan is to eat well, with a good combination of everything that I enjoy, including chocolate.

marathon runner Brighton fitness sports

Who is your biggest inspiration?

The people I see out everyday who put their heart and soul in to what they are doing. From the first time 5k-er, those trying to improve their health, and those who are doing something for the better of others.

What has been your biggest obstacle and how did you overcome it?

My own self-doubt. I'm not sure I've overcome it yet, but I can manage it effectively enough.

Rickshaw fitness sports workout running extreme endurance challenge

What advice would you give to other people thinking of doing similarly extreme challenges?

Ooh, that's tough one! I don't want to be any more clichéd than I have already, so all I'll say it this: whatever challenge you set yourself to do, there's moments during and after which should be cherished forever.

If you're lucky enough to be in a position as to create these memories, don't be blasé and shrug them off, embrace the good and the not-so-good, and use them to better yourself. One of my best memories is my son putting his hand on my back after one such challenge. A simple gesture that expressed more than the action itself.

You can find out more about Dean's challenges at or sponsor him at

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