As I sat waiting for the train on Friday to begin my journey to Petersfield and join the rest of Team G & T (Girls and Trails), I wondered if I really knew what I had let myself in for. 100k walk across the South Downs, it wasn’t a decision I took lightly!!
I knew we had done enough training and walked enough miles, most of which was on the North Downs; none of us will ever look at Bluebell Hill with fond memories again, my mantra “tough times don’t last, tough people do” was used many times on THAT walk!
It’s been a “journey”, as a foursome we have laughed, talked a load of rubbish (what else is there to do when you are out for 8 hours+), ridiculed each other but also learnt a great deal.
- what knickers are best to wear (I will be forever grateful for discovering Runderwear) or whether it is better to go commando
- what snacks will travel well in a small rucksack and what will end up as a load of crumbs which are no good to anyone. Protein balls, frittata and jelly babies were my winners.
- to Vaseline your feet or to tape them
- to use poles or not
The weather was kind to us on our training walks, although we did have a couple of hot ones but coped well and hydrated throughout. Leading up to the event I was constantly checking the weather and lets just say it didn’t look promising, my usual trick of trying lots of weather apps wasn’t working either – they were all saying one thing – rain, and lots of it!
We headed down to register on Friday evening and as you would expect with an event with military presence it was highly organised and we got a good feed to prepare us for the next morning!
“Each year, the entirety of the three Squadrons that form the Queen’s Gurkha Signals deploy days before participants arrive to begin setting up each of the checkpoints along the route. In recent years, this has grown to include all elements of the Brigade of Gurkhas; The Royal Gurkha Rifles, Queen’s Gurkha Engineers, Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment and the Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support each play an important role in the delivery of the exercise. The chefs of the Queen’s Own Gurkha Logistic Regiment set about cooking traditional cuisine for over 3000 participants, whilst the Gurkha Staff and Personnel Support assist with race registration and tracking.
Over the years of charitable partnership, the exercise has raised significant funds for Oxfam GB and the GWT, making a real difference to the lives of families and people around the world. Most recently, money raised from the Gurkha 200 edition of Ex TRAILWALKER was instrumental in reconstruction and relief in the wake of the tragic earthquakes in Nepal.”
The job now was to get back for an early night and hopefully enjoy a good night’s sleep, but with an alarm call at 5am this wasn’t going to be easy! The next morning came around all to quickly but the sky was bright and it looked like we might at least be starting in dry weather conditions. A hearty breakfast, filling our water bottles and last-minute trips to the toilet were all that was left to do before heading to the start line for 7am. All a bit emotional being cheered on our way and hearing the bagpipes, but this was it, no turning back we were on our feet for at least the next 24 hours!!
We made the first checkpoint (CP) in a reasonable time which motivated us onto the next one, quite a few hills, but talking to lots of people along the way it was all quite good going for most of the morning. We were met by our support crew of Max and Simon through the early stages and they looked after us well; providing us with plenty of food, drink and encouragement. This was much-needed particularly when we got to CP4 and CP5 when the rain had well and truly set in. They showed great resourcefulness by rigging up some tarpaulin to the boot of the car and then these were held in place by some football poles, they even allowed another team of walkers to use this shelter and attempt to dry off, this was posted on Facebook yesterday:
“Is this you? At CP4 you and your son kindly let our team sit under your tarpaulin that you had hitched up at the back of your car so they had somewhere dry to change. Thank you so much. Only sorry we forgot to ask your name.”
“Thank you so much Simon and Max, it made a huge difference for us. We managed it in 29hr and 37mins”
“Ditto you guys were amazing and then max even found us at the next check point and asked if we wanted to take shelter again but we needed to get a jiffy on. Soooooo appreciative.”
There are so many other stories like this, of complete strangers helping each other out, a real sense of community and absolutely restores your faith in the human race.
Rain continued and as night-time approached it looked like it might be a difficult evening ahead of us. Richard, Mark, Maisey and Max (who decided he quite like this support crew lark) took over from CP6 and that was the longest 10k I have EVER walked, it went on and on and on! Fireworks in the distance, pigs and a whole load of mud but eventually we got there and were greeted with hot chicken soup and the chance to change into some warm dry clothes before heading off again. More rain, more mud, a little bit of fog and bruised feet were the highlights of CP6 to CP7 but again we made it and all squeezed into the camper van for a rest and to try to muster up the enthusiasm to get back out in the elements for the remaining kilometres.
CP8 is where the party is (you can view this in the YouTube promotional video) and we could see the lights well into the distance so was a great motivator to get there quickly and also the chance to finally remove wet weather gear with the promise of a better day of weather ahead of us. I even managed a 10 minute nap here which was enough to take the edge off the tiredness, but this was the longest stretch between CP’s at 13.8km and boy did we feel every moment of that section. My new mantra “strong body, strong mind” was working overtime but with the help of a fabulous Oxfam volunteer we climbed the final hill and reached CP9 to be greeted with a bacon butty and a hot drink – very welcome!
We were nearly there, just 9.8km remaining before we reached the finish line at Brighton Racecourse, which was in view for what seemed like the whole of that distance, teasing us that the finish was in sight, but still a way to go…
We made it!
We started it as a team of four and completed it as a team of four in a time of 29 hours and 26 minutes!
We were #trailwalkerstrong!
For me, at the end of the event it was a case of never again but by that same evening I was already thinking about next year’s event – watch this space!
Thank you to Suzanne, Louise and Helen for being fabulous, special thanks also go to Simon, Max, Maisey, Mark and Richard for their support and for every single person who has sponsored us. It has been epic!!
If you’ve got a goal, get a great team behind you and just go for it! xx