A FITNESS fanatic accustomed to tackling ultra-marathons conquered Mount Everest from the safety of his block of flats.

He may not have braved the dangerously thin air and agonisingly freezing temperatures, but no-one can say Matt Hearne, 45, didn’t rise to the challenge.

Lacking the funds, time – and crucially the permission – to travel to the Himalayan mountains, Matt decided to instead climb and descend the equivalent of 8,448 metres in a stairwell.

Live streaming the challenge to his social media page, the hardy fundraiser decided to take on the challenge in aid of the NHS.

That kind of lengthy distance is old hat for Matt, who has completed more than 100 marathons and the infamous Marathon de Sables – a six-day, 251km trek through the scorching Morrocan Sahara desert.

But it proved tougher than he initially anticipated.

Matt, who works for an investment management firm, said: “It was the descent rather than the ascent which proved the killer.

“It took me 28 hours, I was expecting it to take an estimated 13-14 hours, but didn’t factor in the fact I would have to go down the stairs.

“My knees were OK, it was my quads and calves which started seizing up.

“But when I decided to do the equivalent of Mount Everest I couldn’t just do the climb.

“Mountaineers would have to come down once they reached the top too.

“I’m lucky that I live in an eight-story block of flats, I use the stairs on a daily basis anyway to keep fit, and I am in the fortunate position of still working full time.

“I’d never have had the time to do it, but with the lockdown I had a weekend free.”

With the people of Britain trying their best to obey the self-isolation rules, Matt took great pains to ensure he came into no close contact with any of his neighbours at the flats in London.

Matt, who hails from Colchester, said: “I told my next door neighbours about it and then I thought it was best to not advertise it too widely to the rest of the block as I didn’t want people coming out just to have a look.

“Interestingly not a lot of people use the stairs, during the 28 hours I only saw eight people, and I made sure I didn’t listen to any music so I was aware of them and could duck into one of the floors to avoid them.”

Close family and friends were on hand to give him a boost.

His brother, Nick, watched the live stream alongside his two boys.

“Me and his nephews, who are six and eight, could watch him from 7am on Saturday when he started,” said Nick.

“Our other brother lives in Japan, so him and his kids logged on for the night to make sure he kept going.

“He’s usually doing an ultra-marathon or a marathon every weekend, he’s done more than 100 marathons, so for someone like him who is used to running eight hours every weekend it is a difficult time.”

The challenge, which saw Matt complete 381 ascents of the block’s fire escape and climb 55,000 stairs, has so far raised more than £3,500 for the Association of NHS Charities.

Matt said: “Our NHS workers are doing an amazing job that must feel like an uphill struggle against overwhelming odds.

“They are on their feet for many hours and no doubt finish their shifts completely exhausted.”

Matt, who lived in Colchester for much of his life, organises the annual Stour Valley Path 100k Ultra, which winds from Newmarket to Cattawade at Brantham.

He used the height of different landmarks to keep him going throughout the slog.

“The Eiffel Tower was the first benchmark I reached and Everest was the final one,” he said.

“I did one of the last ultra marathons before lockdown, the Transgrancanaria, an 83 mile race, that took me 27 hours and 37 minutes so doing this stair climb took pretty much the same amount of time.”

To donate, visit justgiving.com/fundraising/climbforthenhs.