EPIC adventurer and daring deputy head teacher Steve Hill MBE says he is in the zone and raring to go as he limbers up for one of the toughest foot races and extreme challenges on earth.

Speaking from Gallivare, in Lapland yesterday, before jetting off to base camp in preparation for the start

of Ice Ultra Marathon tomorrow, he told The Oldham Times: "My mindset is now in challenge mode.

"I feel totally in the zone and ready and raring to go for whatever is thrown at me over the coming five days and 230km in the Arctic wilderness.

"There has been a record amount of snowfall this year and the temperature is currently about -30C which, for me, just adds to the adventure and challenge which lies ahead.

"Bring it on - one step at a time, one mile at a time, one checkpoint at a time, one day at a time. I just need to ensure I keep moving forward.

"I’d like to thank everyone for their support and encouragement so far.

"Now let’s see what the Arctic has in store over this next week - see you on the other side!"

Steve, who teaches at St Joseph's R C primary, in Shaw, will fight across varied terrain including forests and frozen lakes, in whatever the weather throws at him, covering around 24 miles a day which builds to a staggering 57 miles in the final fifth stage.

Last year just 12 out of the 30 taking part finished with many being withdrawn due to the threat of hyperthermia and frost nip.

But he's got plenty of heart-warming motivation and inspiration and alongside the life-saving essentials he's packed in his rucksack are letters and lucky charms from his cheerleading Year 6 pupils.

"I had a great send off from the children at school," said Steve, aged 46, from Moorside.

"I’m very privileged to be teaching such fantastic, caring children who are such a motivation and inspiration to me before and during my challenges.

"They’ve written me lots of motivational letters to open each day during the race, good luck cards and messages, lucky mascots and even a lucky scarf. I’m one very lucky teacher!"

Steve is renowned for his extreme adventures and crazy challenges but says this is "the biggie", having to be totally self-sufficient in one of the most demanding environments in the world.

His previous fundraising feats include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, completing the North Pole Marathon and last summer the Amazon Jungle Ultra Marathon and the Petra Desert Marathon.

Over the years he and St Joseph's children have raised over £80,000 for local and national causes.

This time - along with the support of his Year 6 class who have been holding events to raise money in school - he's aiming to raise around £4-5,000 for Dr Kershaw's Hospice, Cancer Research UK, RSPCA Oldham, St Joseph's PTA and Supporting Shane, a fund which helps out Year 6 pupil, Shane Keating, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

He's also set himself a more personal objective - to hold on to his toe nails!

And he's been resorting to some pretty extreme methods to help him achieve his nail aim.

"I lost most of them in the jungle and the desert and the poor little things have just started growing back so I really don't want to lose them again.

"Someone recommended Tuf-Foot which is actually for horses and dogs. I've been painting it on hoping to strengthen them in preparation. Only thing is, it's turned my feet yellow!"

You can follow Steve's progress in the race - he's number 125 - at www.beyondtheultimate.co.uk when the tracker goes live tomorrow.