Emma does her first (and last) 100k
It seems forever since my last quarterly update - and, wow, what have I achieved in that time! The main challenge that this year was all about, and my first ever 100k walk. I am so, so proud of that medal – The Thames Path - Full Challenge. Woo hoo!
The last three months have all been very different. July was all about panicking because what with holidays and heatwaves I was concerned I was falling behind on my training and wondering whether I had finally bitten off more than I could chew. I did manage to clock up one 20 miler though - from Sloane Square down to Chiswick on the north side of the river, and back on the south side, finding a fabulous lunch stop in Barnes on the way.
August... the most active August I have ever had, for sure! Getting up early in the morning to fit in "short" walks of 6-8 miles before starting work, and majorly long walks at weekends. We had a core team who tried as hard as we could to do as many walks together as possible. Without Elizabeth, Anne, Rachel, Tricia and Andy I don't know how I could have possibly covered so many miles! But together we covered some lovely ground. One weekend our long walk was from Lea Valley (near the Olympic Watersports venue) to Waterloo via Limehouse. The next weekend was the double whammy - 30 miles on Saturday and 24 on Sunday. On Saturday, our rather lengthy "loop" walk was designed to take us past the home of Walk the Walk, the wonderful charity through whom we all met, and for whom we were all walking the Thames Path. Sunday saw us walk from Windsor to Henley, to walk in daylight the part of the walk we would be doing in the dark "for real", and pose at what would be the finish line! The month finished off with the official training walk for the event organised by Walk the Walk and a final 20 miler before the bank holiday weekend.
And then. It was here! The Thames Path Challenge. Why on earth did I sign up for it? Well. My regular stomping ground for training walks is the Thames Path stretch between Kingston and Chertsey. When I walked the first half of the TPC last year, some inspirational friends went on to complete the full challenge - all 100K of it. It made me wonder if I could do it, and fortunately, the same thought was in the minds of at least a dozen of my walking friends, all of whom I have met through Walk the Walk events. We set up a group called "TPC 100 Loonies", because we are. We spurred each other on to train, meeting up to stick as best we could to the training plan Walk the Walk had sent us.
The day of the challenge dawned beautifully. We started from Putney at 7:10am and we got to halfway (Runnymede) in the light. One added bonus of living close to the quarter- way mark was that friends came to see us en route.
But once it started to get dark, it also started to get cold. And foggy. The stars were amazing, and the mist rising from the river and fields made us feel as if we were walking in a fantasy novel. Seeing many of our fellow walkers (who were in a much worse state than us), we wondered if in fact it was the Walking Dead. At times, points we knew were coming up seemed never to come (no offence to Maidenhead, but I developed a violent dislike for it because it refused to be where I wanted it to be). We dug deep, deep into all the reserves we had. We ate food at all the stops - and told ourselves the event was an all-you-can-eat buffet punctuated by 8 mile walks! 7 buffets, and the 8th at the end. And I am so, so proud that I reached that 8th buffet in just over 23 hours. We had no idea what to expect, but hoped we would complete in under 24 hours. We didn't realise at the time how relatively few people manage to do that. As an added bonus, as I reached kilometre 98, I saw a meteor - it was magical! Though at the time what was more magical was that my lovely husband was at the end to meet me, after being woken by a phone call at 5am, so that within an hour of finishing I was home and in a lovely hot bath!
The buzz afterwards and the party on Sunday night with the friends who could stay on in Putney, back where we started, was amazing. Equally amazing was that I had only a couple of small blisters and no injuries apart from general tired legs!
I am so glad I have conquered 100k. If anyone else is wondering whether they can do it – yes, you can. In the main, our team is a bunch of middle aged people who are far from gym bunnies. Put the time into the training programme, and you can do it. Walk the Walk know what they're doing and gave us fantastic guidance and support. With Walk the Walk you are never alone - you will meet friends for life and you will always find someone who walks at your pace. As if to prove we are never alone, a group of us even managed to be in Putney and awake for a celebratory dinner on Sunday!