'All you have to do is keep putting one step in front of the other' had been my mantra in all the planning and training for this event. Never did it become a more necessary mantra in my head than between 97k and 100k as we walked, hopped and shuffled the final few kilometres of the Thames Path 100k Challenge in order to raise funds for Brook (you can still sponsor me via this link).
The Challenge had been on the cards for a long time. I had done a few training walks. Built walking into my everyday life a bit more. Talked about it a lot. But it was only on Friday evening as I picked up the Brook support team - my Mum and Dad - that the immensity of the challenge we were about to take on really properly truly hit me. This walk was a really hard challenge. In fact it was the hardest physical test that I have ever done by a long long shot. It brought me to my knees and it brought me to tears. More than once.
Several people have asked me how it was and so before I forget (already the pain is fading away) here is a summary, 10k by 10k. (You can also have a read of this Storify which captures many of the highs and some of the lows, and this Flipagram by Sharon.)
This was a jolly, happy, easy bit. Chatting, laughing, skipping and not even noticing the markers as the sun shone and the kilometres passed by with ease.
11-20k - the neither here nor there phase
Mostly people were still smiling, laughing and enjoying it, although first questions about how feet and legs are faring started to be asked. In a few months' time I doubt it will be remembered much.
21-30k - the "oooh I have to get up again after lunch" phase
Here I started to notice the Km markers and heard talk about feet, blisters and aches a bit more. After our first proper stop and a delicious lunch prepared by one of our walkers, Drew, some of us could happily have gone to the pub rather than started walking again.
Beautiful part of the world. It reminded me of being a student and hiking in the Lakes in Canada which sent me on a bit of a trip down memory lane. Still this was when it starting getting dark and we all needed a bit more coaxing and encouragement.
41-50k - the split feelings phase
A number of people were finishing at 50k or making a decision about whether to finish at 50. For the 50k-ers it was rightly a 10k of complete and utter elation, achievement and pride - it was a privilege to share in that joy. It also got really dark in our physical environment and was the first point at which the scale of it all sank in. First proper hard core blisters and aches appeared. As a 100k-er, it was hard to walk to the left of the 50k finish line, knowing you were only half way through and knowing you were just about to get a glow stick to guide you through the dark and into the next 50k. We hugged, kissed and congratulated the amazing 50k finishers, topped up our Compeed blister plasters and set off into the count down phase.
51-60k - the count down phase
61-70k - the stinging nettle and gates phase
I have no memories of this phase really. There was little talking. Little to talk about. Lots of stingers to watch out for. And gates. Lots of gates to open.
71-80k - the dark times phase
It was dark. It had been dark for more than seven hours and it was long. My shins hurt. My feet hurt. My boots got heavy. It was dark. Very dark. One of our fellow walkers got very ill - sickness and diarrhoea on a path with only stinging nettles on either side of the path is not good. He had to stop (we managed to find him a taxi). I wanted to stop. I couldn't imagine completing. We carried on.
81-90k - the silent tears phase
91-100k - the home straight
As we downed our 'finishers fizz' in one gulp and quickly asked for another, we all swore that it was a once in a lifetime challenge. A big challenge and one I will not do ever again: 22 hours 36 minutes. Our time. Our triumph. Because we believe in young people 's rights it was completely worth it. And I am pleased I have done it as it was a stretch for me.
extra sponsorship kept us going through the long dark hours. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank everyone who has helped the Challenge raise funds to help Brook promote and protect young people's health and their rights. A special thank you to all the Brook walkers - it was a privilege to walk with such a brilliant team - determined people all so passionate about young people. Thank you too to my gorgeous parents who followed us round the course to make sure we were fed, watered and had what we needed.
As you know, I said 'never again'. Jonny and I are on holiday in Cornwall this week. After just one pint I heard those fatal words: "I know we said we wouldn't do it again, but I wonder what it would be like if we did. Knowing what it feels like.Would it be easier or harder?" For now he just got 'the' look. And planted a seed.
The organisers Action Challenge were absolutely brilliant. If you are looking for an organisation to do events with, based on this experience I fully recommend checking them out.
All of our wonderful 50k and 100k walkers:
- Andrew Ackroyd Davies
- Jackie Boath - follow on Twitter: @jackie_boath
- Tom Berry - follow on Twitter: @Moonbolt
- Simon Blake - follow on Twitter: @simonablake
- Kristin Corbet-Milward
- Sarah Davies
- Harriet Gill - follow on Twitter: @HarrietKJGill
- Ed Hemmann
- Clare Hemmann - follow on Twitter: @ClareHemmann
- Juliet Hillier - follow on Twitter: @rosylight
- Emily Kendrick - follow on Twitter: @emilykendrick82
- Sharon Munnings - follow on Twitter: @smunnings01
- Rebecca Musgrove - follow on Twitter: @beckymus
- Carrie Quinlan - follow on Twitter: @quinlan_carrie
- Natalie Richer
- Nicola Stewart
- Jonny Swift
- Nicky Trimboy - follow on Twitter: @trimmersnicks
- Ralph Wallin