KHIST Sponsored 35 Mile Walk in Memory of Charlotte May  - Friday 3rd April 2015

So, walking is easy right?? You're just putting one foot in front of the other and it's something we all do every day. So it may be that some might not quite realise quite how tough walking 35 miles in one day actually is! I am a little guilty of that, or I should say I was. 

When Beckie and Dave chose our charity branch to support with their sponsored walk this year in memory of their beautiful daughter, it was not long before myself and my husband decided to take on the challenge along with the other walkers. 

Organising this event was no small task by the amazing Beckie, Dave and Karl to begin with. Organising over 50 walkers to participate in practice walks beforehand can not have been easy. Route planning for the practice walks, let alone the huge 35 mile walk was also a ridiculously hard task for the organisers. It involved endless searching on google maps for safe paths, driving backwards and forwards along the road part of the route and of course walking the river path itself. On top of this, there was also tirelessly contacting local companies for support and sponsorship, keeping all of the walkers motivated to fundraise and talking to the press and radio. 

That was all before the walk itself. To try to explain just how hard the walk actually was, I can only really talk from my own personal experience, so excuse the next part talking from my perspective. I take no credit at all for the organisation of this event, only (slowly) sharing the pain of completing the walk! Now I'm not super fit, but I have done a little running in the past (not far!) and I do train in Taekwondo each week. So not super fit, but I'm no couch potato either. The first practice walk we did was about 13 miles. What did I learn from this walk? Mainly that my feet grow a whole size after about 6 miles which results in horrible blisters and black toenails, OUCH! Also that I am a slow walker (“it's not a race” organiser Karl is the fastest walker I have seen in my life by the way lol!!) Phil and I were faced with a small set of subway steps at the end of this “short” practice walk that looked like the biggest mountain ever and Phil uttered the words that this would be the plateau of pain and all would be fine. 

We were unable to attend some of the other practice walks and our next one which was 20 miles we did on our own. The first 10 miles were pleasant, but the next were pure hell. It did not stop raining, my toenails were killing and no part of my body did not ache. You know that feeling a couple of days later after exercise where you can hardly lift your legs? Well, we experienced that actually during the walk. I literally could not stand afterwards, I am not exaggerating when I say that I actually cried trying to walk up the steps to my house and I sat on the settee shivering for over an hour before crawling up to bed. I scoffed in the face of Phil's “plateau of pain” and seriously could not begin to imagine how on earth I could possibly add another 15 miles on top of that?!! 

New boots a whole size bigger, the most expensive pair of socks I have ever purchased and some pretty decent insoles later, I hoped I might just be able to manage the walk by the time the day came, but was not feeling overly optimistic. We asked to be in the slowest group and arrived at 6am along with all the other fantastic walkers to start the day. 

We walked with some really lovely people which made it so much easier, but there were also parts where we could not speak, felt like giving up and just had to put heads down and keep going. Due to the weather, large parts of the walk were so muddy it was like walking on an ice rink! So tough going!! There were just 2 stops along the way and the biggest hill after the last stop that I have ever seen, but what made the walk so much more bearable was the support drivers following us and parking up at certain points to give encouragement, snacks and drinks. It was so lovely seeing their faces and really gave a boost to keep going to get to the next bit. 

So I am proud to say we, along with over 50 other walkers managed to complete the walk. We were almost the slowest finishing at just after 9pm (the other groups finished around 7pm!), but we did it!! It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Amazingly, many of the walkers played a football match the next day, winning 4 nil! Hats of to you for being able to move, let alone run and play football. 

Everyone worked so hard, not just on the walk and organising, but raising funds. The initial target of £10k was smashed before the walk even started! It has been rising ever since and now stands at over £17k!! How amazing is that?!? The £17k is made up from the amazing fundraising efforts of the walkers, but also from other sources as again, the organisers have been tirelessly finding avenues to raise as many funds as possible. Collection tins in cafes, collection buckets at football matches, school non uniform days to name but a few. We are totally overwhelmed at the funds that have been raised. Amazing new services that will be available to bereaved parents thanks to this event include alternative therapy sessions, short breaks away, increased support groups to include evening relaxation sessions and play sessions for siblings and we can't forget the publicity and awareness that has been raised meaning already more parents than usual are accessing our services. 

On behalf of the charity, we would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone involved. The words really don't seem sufficient. I have written about my personal experience of the walk, but I know others had their own battles on the day including injuries, blisters the size of an actual foot and almost passing out, yet still completing the walk. 

Thank you everyone for welcoming us on the walk. You are all such a great bunch who Beckie and Dave refer to as their “football family”. Thanks to everyone involved, bereaved parents suffering from the most devastating time of their lives will have the chance to receive such vital practical and emotional support and Charlotte May's memory will continue to live on through the lives that will be helped.