Walking non stop for charity
SG Marketing’s MD Caroline Mitchell talks us through the challenges.
As part of a team Saturday and Sunday, the 7th and 8th December 2019, I was a participant in a team of 3 attempting 50 miles for charity on the Tour De Trigs https://www.tourdetrigs.org.uk. A non stop attempt to walk 50 miles in the darkest of Oxfordshire countryside. December is not the friendliest of months to walk non stop and that is all part of the challenge.
3 different lengths to attack. We elected to walk 50 miles, but you can go for 15 miles or 30 non stop. Any choice is still a challenge. Walking non stop for charity requires fitness. Don’t forget to pack mental strength and a sense of humour as these too are necessary items on the checklist.
Having been given a sheet of co-ordinates, we firstly had to map our route and identify various checkpoints, some manned, secret and unmanned. The challenge began….
We also had to pass a kit check ensuring we were all carrying the correct amount of crepe bandage, spare torch batteries, food and spare warm clothing. If you really don’t have safety pins and enough of them, you aren’t allowed out the door at the start.
Relentless weather and miles
Through Saturday and into Sunday morning, we encountered strong wind and rain. The weather wasn’t on our side. There were plenty of boggy fields, hills, lost checkpoints, blisters, cracked heels, the battlefields of Edge Hill and the odd windmill. Add to this fatigue, general dampness and sore bits. We therefore said goodbye to team members as they had reached the end of their particular road.
High points were manned checkpoints in tents, barns and village halls. Through the muddiest farmyard ever, we encountered a checkpoint at a doorless barn. Bedecked for Christmas and so near to the 25th, I believed it to be the Oxfordshire equivalent of Bethlehem! No baby but such a warm welcome.
Another was the surrogate Grandad we found at the Village Hall in Farnborough. His welcome made me believe I had actually been invited into his own home. Despite the late hour he didn’t care a jot about how muddy my boots were. I should just take the comfiest seat next to the fire and he would go off and immediately find me a tea.
At 30 miles, it started to become more difficult. I had no blisters, but I was fighting fatigue and just wanted my bed. It was around 2.00 am. The rain fell some more. At one point, we stood like cows with our backs to the elements in a very large field of mud with no cover. We stopped to check our direction.
Finding a road cone, representing an unmanned checkpoint in a random field in a random county of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire or maybe Northamptonshire with only a grid reference was proving more tricky. We also started to find that we rarely saw any other competitors as it appeared that a high number of teams dropped out at the 30-mile mark.
Tired and wet
Around 3 am, at about 35 miles, we made a couple of navigational mistakes. This cost us more time and we began to realise that it was going to be tight to finish in the 24-hour time limit. Slogging on to 40, one of our team started to experience breathing difficulties. Again, standing in another muddy field with poor weather we paused to let him catch his breath. We also had to establish where we were.
Having reached a road, I suggested we turn on a mobile to find our exact position. This is absolutely against the rules but we were worried for our mate. However, there was very poor mobile signal so we didn’t gain much. As luck would have it, the one mini-bus working the course at 3.30 am happened along the lane we found ourselves in. So, we fell into it.
It took a while to sign off, going back to a manned check point, then onto the HQ and finally home getting to bed at about 5.30 am.
At 3am I needed my bed. I was just tired, not because of the walk but just the fact it was 3am.
I carried too much food, and the food I carried was repetitive. It also weighed me down. There was hot water at manned check points and a number of team members took the opportunity to eat a Pot Noodle or derivative. They have come a long way. It’s warm and there are a lot of varieties to choose from.
On the food front, my Grandmothers’s Brack (tea bread) recipe. I made a loaf for the team and in the early hours, it did the trick. Still a favourite.
The team – The banter, supportive attitude, skill and tenacity pulled me through. I walked with some amazing people.
To conclude, walking non stop for charity is not a piece of cake! In short, our MD Caroline Mitchell had to draw on a lot of inner strength and capability to make it happen.
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.
Everyone who has sponsored me, thank you, thank you, thank you. In the unlikely event, you haven’t managed it yet, there’s still time. https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/CarolineMitchell22