One day, towards the end of 2009, my husband was reading his Rotary magazine. He came across an advert for the Rotary Mountain Challenge. It was a fundraising event, walking three of the highest peaks in Britain within 24 hours. This was the kind of thing I always saw “other people” doing. Those people who cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats, or climb Mount Kilimanjaro, or do the London Marathon, or any of these other challenges that involve being very fit and doing a lot of planning and preparation.
So I just laughed, and said if he could get a team together from his Rotary club, I’d think about joining them. I didn’t think he’d get enough people, so the last laugh was definitely on me. He came home from his next Rotary meeting with a list of names of people who also wanted to take part. And they needed one more person to make up the team. Oh, that would be me then…..
And so began what turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done, something that gives me great satisfaction to say I completed, and an experience that gave me so many memories and stories as well as new friends and skills.
In early 2010 we got the team together for our first planning meeting. There were 6 of us walking, and we had 2 drivers. By June of that same year, we had to have found transport, planned our journey, organised logistics, raised money, sorted out a food menu, worked out what equipment to take, walked at least one of the peaks as a practice. Plus the small matter of having to train to make sure we were fit enough to take part…..
Weekly walks commenced, some as a whole group, some just a part of the team. We soon found ourself frustrated at the lack of hills in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, often declaring with disappointment that a walk hadn’t been hilly enough! Box Hill in Surrey proved a good place to test our legs, and many of us made visits to Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Lake District in the course of our training.
Fundraising proved reasonably straightforward, as everyone thought we were mad and people were happy to sponsor us! It just took a few reminders along the way to get them to click on that website link and part with some money. This is when I discovered the world of blogging and use of social media to communicate specific messages (rather than just for chatting to friends). I set up a blog for the challenge – it’s still there if you’d like to visit and read more detail about our training walks and about the weekend itself. I also joined Twitter around this time, and set up a Facebook page for us all to share news with friends and family.
We completed the challenge successfully and raised over £8000 for a charity called Sightsavers, which aims to eliminate avoidable blindness in the developing world.
I never thought I’d be one of those people who did things like that. But I am. I am one of those people. When we started the planning we had no idea what was ahead of us. It wasn’t easy – the time spent on fundraising and planning while holding down full time jobs and other commitments, improving our own individual fitness and training walks every weekend – and the event itself was mentally and physically tough. Along the way we learnt about our own fitness levels, how to read maps correctly, and the importance of drinking a lot of water while walking. We developed our perseverance and determination, we excelled at fundraising, I experimented with social media and blogging, we appeared in countless local papers and national Rotary publications, we spent time with a new group of friends, and we got to see some of the most beautiful sights in Britain.
So if you’re sitting there reading this, thinking “yes, but that’s not me, that’s her, she’s one of those crazy people, I’d never be able to do something like that”, you might like to cast your eye back to the top of the page and remember what I said there…… And if you do, let me know!
If you’d like to get out and about walking in the UK, here are a few resources that might be of interest:
- London Hiker’s “Escape London” pack – practical advice on walking weekends that are accessible from London. I recently bought this and am having trouble deciding which destination to try first!*
- Three Peaks walk information – I bought this when we were planning our trip, and it made it a bit less daunting.*
- Rough Guide to Walking in London and the South East – some ideas on where to start walking.*
- I recently discovered iFootpath, which is a website and iPhone app with a wealth of walking routes, including leisurely ones with pub stops en route.
- The website Charity Challenge lists walks, bike rides and other active fundraising challenges, as well as giving advice for preparing for the events.
*These are affiliate links which means that I will get a small percentage of the sale for referring you to the websites. You won’t pay extra for buying them this way. You can also find the books directly on Amazon, and the Escape London pack on London Hiker’s website, if you prefer.