It was Friday morning, I’d not had much sleep as I was so excited, nervous even, having done this before, I felt under even more pressure to make the walk, knowing that it’s not going to be easy.
First things first, a decent fry up, at “The Shack”!! And what a fry up it was, we all had the chance to meet, and we all took the first short stroll to Twickenham stadium, our starting point.
Everyone was so excited, you could see it.
11am and we were off!!
With some spare change in the pots to make some noise, we started looking around for people to shake our pots for the first donations to get the ball rolling.
Plodding along at good pace, eager to reach our first stop off points, Thames Ditton Cricket Club followed by Old Cranleighan Rugby Club. I think we were all surprised to be met by applause by the kind patrons of this fine club!! They gave us refreshments, a chat and some laughs before heading off.
This was probably about the first time we started to……talc!
As many of the first time walkers would discover, talc is a god send!!
You simply put some talc in your hand, and down it goes…… down the front of your shorts.
Now believe it or not, this stops chafing – the walkers’ worst nightmare.
If chafing takes hold, walking becomes very unpleasant!!
When you’re asking for money from passers-by it can be a lot of fun. It can be quite heartbreaking at the same time, most of us know the real heartache cancer causes, seeing it in someone’s eyes, just makes it all the more real.
At Cobham Rugby club, we were met by some lovely tennis-playing ladies who’d be waiting around so they could put money in our pot – the precise reception we all wanted!
We also got served lovely Pasta Bolognese, fruit and plenty of fluids, what a lunch that was, and of course……time for a cheeky talc!!
Onwards we went, shaking our pots, people really can be generous!
One guy had no cash, he was with his family, asked us what we were doing, with that, he said “I’ll go to the cash point”
I must admit as we went with the guy to the cash point, we all laughed that it probably looked like we were frog marching him there, as four of us chatted with him. He gave us £40!!
That generosity, from a complete stranger, left us in awe.
Now as fun as this all sounds, this is around the time your feet start to hurt, your muscles, your joints, and for me, where I start to rotate the painkillers, 2 every couple of hours, switching from paracetamol to ibuprofen.
Country lanes are a hazard in themselves, no pavements and constantly shouting “CAR” when one was coming to warn the other walkers, slowly but surely becoming “CA CAR CA CA CAR CA” like we’re some kind of exotic bird!! It’s surprising the sort of thing that can keep people’s spirits up.
Arriving at The Jovial Sailor in Ripley, was a more than welcome sight. A brief 15-minute sit down, refreshments laid out, and a quick beer garden tout for donations.
As the night drew in, and it was starting to get dark, we were heading for the Three Pigeons in Guildford, where we would stop for a well-deserved pint or 2 and our dinner break. With little under an hour before getting back on the road, we were all high-vized up with head torches.
This is the serious part, the hard part, the dangerous part.
The night time walk.
This is the part I don’t like, I’ve done it before, and I was dreading it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, our spirits were still high, we’d just eaten, had a pint (or 2) and we had music, music we could all hear, jig too, dance too, sing too, which is a good giggle, for a couple of hours.
As it fast approaches midnight you find you spend most of the time looking at your feet, this is where injury can happen and no one wants to be taken out by tripping over a fallen branch, low kerb, it’s surprisingly easy to twist your ankle, as our very own John Cole will tell you!!
At this point now, 1am, 2am I’m kind of starting to feel a bit weird, a bit jumpy, a falling leaf on my shoulder would make me jump, I was feeling quite sleep deprived by now, and looking forward to stopping at our next stop, it would be just us, no one to meet us, no one to say hi, just us…..and a fist full of energy shots and drinks!!
Ask any of the walkers about the nighttime, but ask them about the never ending hill. All will agree that it seemed to go on for hours, I’ve never walked a hill like it, just a long steady upward mission that never seemed to end, trust me, it was worse than it sounds.
I was walking along thinking about the sunrise, praying it will be soon, I didn’t really want to know what the time was. It’s just too damn depressing, the daylight was all that was needed.
Through Liphook, smashing the nighttime walk, and the sun starts to show its beautiful face!!
You can tell that everyone was glad the night was over, we were all absolutely elated!!
I’m not sure I could describe the feeling or the atmosphere that surrounded everyone, it was phenomenal, and now there was just one goal, one goal for now…….Petersfield, and the breakfast that awaits us!!
Cloisters!! Woohoo!! A breakfast wrap to beat all breakfast wraps, unbelievable!!
Coffee, wow, the coffee!
The thing I loved the most, was the amazing reception we received upon our arrival, it quite literally made me want to cry, I held it back though. We were now over 50 miles in, and we were all broken, our feet were killing us, we stopped and ate, chatted, raised a little more money, strapped the absolute hell out of our feet, and yes, talced up…. onwards we went.
At Charlton a few were lucky to have family meet them, some Legend bought a load of ice lollies for us!! My god that was probably the best ice lolly I’ve ever eaten, and it was lovely to see some familiar faces, knowing we were on a home stretch.
Next stop…..QA Hospital.
It was overwhelming to see people clapping at the hospital.
At this point there was one focus – getting to Canoe lake!
I would finally get to see my family, and any of my friends who would hopefully have a few cold ones waiting for my arrival. I really missed my kids, but for now we had more pot rattling to do. Our spirits were on top of the world considering none of us had slept since probably 5am the previous day, we headed through Cosham, splitting up to hit as many areas as possible as a last ditch attempt at raising money, after all, that’s why we’re here.
The best part of the last walk towards Canoe lake was seeing my kids, they and my wife Sophie had come to meet me and walk the last 2 miles with me, I can’t even explain the feeling of seeing those little faces running up to hug me, amazing!!
As we reached Southsea, we knew we were not far from the finishing line, and the pain would almost be over. I truly can’t believe how much money we had raised at this point, and it made all the pain worthwhile.
It was truly humbling walking towards Canoe Lake.
To see how many people had come out to see us. To cheer us home.
It was unexpected, and I honestly thought I’d only see a few mates sitting around with a few cold beers and ciders for us.
This is something I will never forget.
What I will also never forget is seeing everyone help John walk in with us.
Suzi and Sandy who struggled past the finishing line gritting through the pain of earlier injuries.
We started together, we all finished together, one team, one goal, one group of amazing individuals, who were brave enough to take the challenge on, and gave it they’re all.
I’m so proud to have been a part of this team.
And now, there was one final thing we had to do, the one thing we said we would do as soon as we got to Canoe Lake, all the way back when we started in Twickenham.
Jump in the sea with a nice cold Cider!
Picture Credits: Ruth Lilley & Keith Woodland