To walk over that finish line was the most indescribable feeling, the emotion, the achievement and the sheer grit and determination that got us there. Seeing my mum standing in the middle of the finish line so proud was just a wonderful feeling, I’d spot that coat a mile off almost as distinctive as my offensively bright leggings but I wouldn’t have changed that moment for the world.
Things that got me through the walk
- The reason for doing it – In many ways I needed no better reason to get to the end than the cause we were walking for and the condition we all share
- The shoes – no blisters, no strapping for 100km now of course I am sure the training helped but the shoes were awesome. So awesome I am sad enough that I emailed Hi-tec to tell them how great their shoes were…and I got a response. 🙂
- Peanuts – I just like them
- Laura’s head torch – without which when Jen’s broke at 2am we would have been a bit stuffed. The headtorch that I am pretty sure could be seen from space was an absolute godsend, even if it did mean I was at the front ‘finding’ the swampy mud bits before Jen and Laura
- Shelley’s letters – these made me cry before the walk, just as I was about to embark on the nighttime section (always embarrassing when I read that one in front of her brother) and then at the end. Your support and your calls at random times (despite being on holiday in the sun…not that I was jealous at all) were a really awesome boost. Love you
- My goddaughters pledging their pocketmoney – this made me cry at about 5km, I am sure however when I next see them I will get the same question I have had from other little people in my life – ‘but why didn’t you just get the train auntie charlotte?’
- Cheese and marmite sandwiches – The best sandwiches known to man, ever
- Banoffee Pie – the local support was amazing and the house somewhere in Sussex who were offering banoffee pie totally won the award for best local 🙂
- Double socks – oh how people laughed, and it probably did contribute to my heat rash but it worked 🙂
- The endless messages of support at all times of the day and night – you guys got me through, thank you to Rob who was ready to give me a pep talk at 11.30pm if needed, although I decided not to take my friend Ondrej’s advice to ‘break a leg’
- Surprise visitors along the walk – you know who you are and it was awesome thank you
- Laura and Jen – we did it together and for something so important to all of us…I couldn’t be prouder
It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, much much harder than I imagined, the physical strain of walking for so long as well as the mental will to keep yourself going, even in the dark, when most of the paths are single file was quite frankly horrific.
When I signed up to this I initially thought, walking, well that can’t be that hard right? But I quickly realised that whilst very difficult to train for because endurance walking takes a physically long time. You absolutely do have to train, you have to condition your muscles, build your stamina and endurance, and soak your feet in surgical spirit to harden the skin and prevent blisters – I’ve got great ‘summer feet’ right now.
The feeling at the start is something in between excitement with a tinge of trepidation. Spirits are high and those first miles seemed to fly by as we talked through all the gossip we had been saving up for the walk. Passing many people along the path to Kingston who kept saying ‘I wonder what they are up to, there must be an event on’…no shit, what gave it away the rucksacks
with our bib numbers on or the fact there were literally thousands of us doing the same thing?
In any case the first quarter seemed to go quite well, I saw parts of London and the suburbs I have never seen (that could be considered good or bad). My friend Andrew timed it perfectly for a quick hello as he cheered us on through Nonsuch Park and then we were on to Oaks Park for our lunch stop where I was the first of us to require the medics having taken my shoes and socks off to find immense heat rash on my feet and ankles. Now I was prepared for this a
s it happened the weekend before but still even preempting it with antihistamine hadn’t stopped it happening.
As we left the urban jungle at Coulsdon and started to go over the downs it was hot, like really hot, but we started to see greenery (yay) and hear the dulcet tones of the M25 (always a delight). We soon realized that there were actually a number of stiles on our route…and not just a few, someone told us there were 56!! I am sure there wasn’t quite that many. We did start counting them but that got pretty dull quite quickly. It was interesting that when people have already been walking for many hours getting over a stile is, it appears, frustratingly slow. Watching people so tentatively getting their leg over the stile was tedious to say the least but just shows how used to a certain motion your legs get into.
Arriving to the half way point at 10pm, in the dark, borderline requiring head torches (in fact we probably should have as woods are really quite dark) it was a relief to see our family and friends and have a much needed hot meal, get some hydrocortisone cream on my heat rash (finally) and prepare for the onslaught of the evening. None of us had any idea what walking in the dark, through woods would be like. I can tell you now I really didn’t like it very much, in fact it was horrible. We set off glow sticks in hand and head torches ready but nothing really prepared us for it – I am not even sure a training night walk would have helped, unless it had also been in a wood.
About 1.30am Jen’s knee, which we knew was dodgy, gave out. In fact both knees weren’t having the best time but after that point the pace slowed, coupled with Laura having some horrible blisters the next 10km…which took 4 hours…..in the dark…largely in single file….with only 2/3 head torches working…..were easily the hardest of the whole walk. Whilst I didn’t have any ailments per se the stopping and starting and slow pace was making my muscles cease up and I was really struggling to will my legs on. We arrived at some school in what I am sure is a pretty village somewhere about 20km north of Brighton about 6am, by this point I think its fair to say we were all rather despondent, tired, in pain and the prospect of even daylight wasn’t lifting our moods. We sat in that tent on a massive table not talking to each other and trying to make ourselves eat the porridge that was in front of us. It was a low point, I am not even a massive fan of porridge but the prospect of bacon (which was also on offer) made me feel sick.
Then we had a massive energy boost in the form of Jen’s sister Louise and Louise’s brother Richard. Louise and Richard having completed the 100km the year before knew how bad it can be, Louise felt every ounce of pain that Jen did at that point having been injured herself last year and that positivity from them not only that we could do it but that they would take our bags off us and drop them at the end (which was an amazing feeling by the way) and walk the next 10km with us to get us up Ditchling Beacon. This filled us all with an overwhelming sense of joy and relief, the boost we absolutely needed. With extra support for Jen and Laura I was also able to stretch my legs out walking to the next stops at a faster pace and waiting for them with Richard without them feeling I was having to keep stopping and with me being able to stretch out my aching muscles.
At 90km we regrouped, the three of us, back on the path for the last 10km, whilst the pace was slow the reality that we only had a few hours left and we were there was the boost, the motivation to keep going. The family whatsapp group I had set up being used almost continuously by my parents at this point to find out where I was, mum got obsessed with location pins which for a large proportion of the walk seemed to keep telling them I was in Teddington.
At 92km I had a message from my brother asking where I was, my family waiting at the end enjoying the sunshine. I had no idea that he would come and meet us, I didn’t think he would even make it to the end as we ended up being later than we thought. But he did, resourceful as ever (lol) he found the nearest rest stop to us and worked out about how far we would be away from it. I am genuinely impressed by this particularly given my brother is notoriously shit at geography so I am surprised he even made it to Brighton (its near Bath right bro?) and I have never been so pleased to see his smiling face shouting to me as he walked up this stupid uneven path down from the beacon. He ended up walking 8km with us coordinating with my boyfriend too who couldn’t make it to the end but surprised me by joining us for a couple of km – James I owe you that was literally awesome.
I have never been so pleased to see the end of anything, the endless ‘its just around the corner’ did get rather tiresome and given a lot of the rest stops weren’t quite at the km mark that we were being told it felt like the marshalls were lying to us. Seems stupid but when it gets to the point that the main way we were measuring time was in km the excitement to get to that next marker was what kept us going. That great feeling seeing the pink square signs you knew to be km markers only to find out they were in fact hazard markers, often with no obvious hazard, were becoming mightily frustrating. That last bit…on the grass of the racecourse walking to the end we were all on the verge of tears, Jen also because her knee was spasming by this point, my dad meeting us with about 50m to go before running back to meet my mum.
I collapsed on my mum in tears that I couldn’t stop, I think my mum was crying too, it all seems a bit of a blur. It was the relief and happiness that we had actually done it and I didn’t have to walk anymore plus I knew my mum had sausage sandwiches (she could have fed half the racecourse) and champagne for me :).
I always knew I would complete it but nothing quite prepared me how amazing that feeling was. My aunt and uncle also coming down to the end and I apologise to my uncle Mike when he asked me ‘how was it’ and I replied ‘f***ing horrible’ that was just the emotion…I promise 🙂 but thank you for going to retrieve my tshirt and other free things at the end whilst pretending to be Charlie Bishop.
We have raised more awareness than I ever thought possible, we have raised so much money (£3,761) for a cause designed to help connect people and get them to the much needed support groups and I couldn’t be prouder or more overwhelmed by what we have achieved. Whilst the best foot forward challenge is over and Jen and I put this blog to rest, the awareness raising doesn’t stop and I rather enjoy blogging so I will continue to do so under https://mrkhmakingmymark.wordpress.com so watch out for more posts 🙂
Thank you doesn’t really seem ‘enough’ to say for all the support we have had but thank you, it has been incredible and something I really will never forget.
THIS was more important than fear and we only went and bloody did it 🙂
love you all