Man to take on human hamster wheel challenge

Dean Ovel constructed the giant hamster wheel himself.

Dean Ovel, 39, from Southend-on-Sea in Essex, has set himself the ultimate challenge: to run for 24 hours on a giant hamster wheel.

On Saturday 21st May, Ovel will take on the 24-hour time test at the top of Southend High Street on a human-sized wheel he constructed himself. ‘It's designed and built by myself, with assistance from my 8-year-old son Isaac and 6-year-old daughter Eira,’ Ovel told Runner’s World. ‘We built a prototype in Lego first to demonstrate the principle and had some help from a local company to cut the wood so it formed a perfect circle when built. It works on the principle of a hamster wheel, but is in theory a large cylinder on an upturned skateboard - just a little more technical.’

Ovel is no stranger to endurance events. ‘I try to complete a charity challenge every other year, and make them as interesting as possible to capture people’s attention, but also to challenge myself in different ways,’ he explains. ‘In 2014 I ran 10 marathons in eight days, and during that I came up with a couple of ideas of what would be next. This was the most ridiculous. It also comes five days after my 40th birthday, so it’s a bit of a treat to myself too.’

A design engineer and athletics coach, Ovel combined his construction and sporting skills to create the wheel. I've designed in additional support to take the rigors of continual pounding from up to 25,000 revolutions over the 24-hours, but only time will tell. It's still having some tweaks now, but we hope it will be ready for some serious testing in all-weather conditions over the next week,’ he explains.

‘The wheel is going to be positioned within a two-metre high cage to protect the public, and to make the whole thing look more like a giant hamster cage. We're located in the middle of a busy high street in Southend, so we’re expecting lots of attention and participation over the weekend. We're also setting up some spin bikes so people can 'Cycle-a-mile' with me, and there's going to be live music and entertainment throughout, although the nighttime section may provide interesting entertainment from the weekend revellers.’

An experienced runner, Ovel is a recent recruit to the ultra club. ‘I do anything from 200m, but most recently I’ve been enjoying the 100+ mile ultra events and think I've found my distance,’ he says. ‘I train on a shoestring though, and most of my mileage is done as part of my daily commute. I only get time to do a long run every other week, but this works for me. Most of the long-distance ability is in the mind, not the body.’

Despite his running prowess, Ovel has limited experience of running on a giant wheel so is expecting to be outside of his comfort zone. ‘I think the hardest aspect of the challenge will be having anything to look at other than my feet or the wheel in front of me’ he sys. ‘I like the open space and peacefulness of the trails, so being caged and on display like this is going to rattle me the most. I'm practicing running with a modified visor that deflects my field of view so I don't get dizzy with the wheel passing by in front of me, but I'm not sure this is viable for long. I'm hoping I'll be let out the cage for the toilet breaks!’

Ovel is running in support of the Southend Hospital and the Dementia Appeal, aiming to raise money and awareness for their dementia wards and reminiscence suites. ‘It's a cause close to my heart having watched loved ones go through the confusion and frustration of dementia.’

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