I am writing this blog with a huge sense of relief and satisfaction that I have achieved something totally amazing in many ways. On Saturday at 7.40am three of my friends and I started our mission which was to walk for 100km along the Thames Path from Putney Bridge in London to Henley-On-Thames, in under 30 hours! And I am proud to say that WE DID IT!!!
On Friday evening we took the train up to London to register, eat and sleep nearby to avoid any stress in the morning. The registration was simple, well organised and there was a real buzz of excitement from staff and competitors. Then it was to the restaurant in Putney (where I lived and rowed for a few years) for fuel in the form of pasta and bread!
We were up at 6am on Saturday morning, last minute baggage check and panic over how much we should carry. Our backpacks included our 2l water, spare socks, blister plasters, sun hats and glasses, head torches, jelly babies etc… I would normally cringe at the thought of jelly babies!! But needs must and this was one challenge that I was going to have to switch off my Hygienist’s hat and do what I needed to for the sake of my body…
And so after a very fun and entertaining warm up session hosted by an enthusiastic chap resembling Mr Motivator from the 90’s breakfast show we were sent off on our way! We passed many places that I recognised and where great memories were made: Thames Rowing Club, Hammersmith, Furnivall Sculling Club, Chiswick Bridge (start of the head of the river race and the finishing line for the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race) and many regatta sites as we followed the curves and bends in the river.
Along the way there were many memorable moments, a great many that involved me crying which would come as no surprise to anyone who knows me! Blisters causing most of my upset and the pain at 50km with the knowledge that I had to go back out there and do another 50km when I was already so tired and sore…
The organisers and support staff were truly amazing and the heroes of the event, without their enthusiasm, support and help we would never had made it. We were able to have a massage at 50km and at 78km to release the tension in our legs and give us a little confidence boost. The long and hot summer had made the ground so incredibly hard which was playing havoc with people’s feet and was the reason for many people to stop at 50km or to pull out later on.
We met some amazing people on our journey, people raising money for the memories of loved ones, people who are so focussed and determined that this wasn’t their first ultimate challenge! There was one gentleman who was doing is 3rd 100km this year alone! I was in total awe of some of these men and women as I know that I will never do this enormous challenge again.
I saw a lovely lady from St john’s Ambulance who was so kind and tried to help me with my blisters at 87km by which time I just needed to grit my teeth and push on to the end. I saw her again at the finish and she hugged me and congratulated me on the achievement – of course I burst in to tears again!!
My wonderful husband has put up with me disappearing off to do training walks and was extremely patient listening to all my worries and concerns all along. He was amazing on the day with so many texts to encourage and push me to carry on. And of course being there at the finish with the children was more important than I could possibly say. I don’t know what I would ever do without him, he is my rock and always full of support and love. He even ran my bath and cooked a roast on Sunday when we got home…!
And now to talk about my girls, Sarah, Max and Carrie… Where would I have got to without these amazingly strong, determined and supportive women? We were there for each other all through our long training walks, there to chat and support each other in between walks with our various aches, niggles, concerns and panic attacks! During the walk we stuck together, waiting in turn for each other, finding ways to pass the time. We shared hugs many tears and concerns, I am genuinely enormously lucky to call them my friends
The Briars team were hugely supportive with numerous texts of support throughout. Thank you to everyone who messaged us, sent videos of singing, riddles for us to solve to pass the time. I felt your love and encouragement throughout. This also goes for my friends who all sent messages of support which got us through when we were having doubts.
I can honestly say that it was the hardest thing that I have ever done, but, in the same breath, I am so proud to say that through stubborn grit and determination all four of us crossed the line together with our families cheering and clapping! Seeing my wonderful patient and supportive husband smiling and cheering me in with my son, Thomas, aged 5 and my daughter, Jennifer, aged 7 left me feeling speechless (a rare thing indeed) and full of love, the best sight in the world!
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