I’m 45, soon to be 46 😦 and I live in Oxenhope, a small pennine village in West Yorkshire, with my wife and two daughters. I used to do quite a bit of walking and even ran on and off road pretty regularly for 5/6 years, until I injured my leg. I was never a natural runner, entirely the wrong build (others might make slightly less flattering observations) but I was made up with running the Abbeytown 10 mile in 1hr 15mins in 1995 (where have those 15 years gone?!).
Injury, complexities of life and taking on a senior manager role at Barnsley, with a minimum 1 hour each way commute, all combined to reduce exercise to the occasional stroll and bike ride with the kids.
This time last year Martin asked if I’d be interested in having a go at the Oxfam Trailtrekker event in the Yorkshire Dales. I rather foolishly agreed and began training and dieting for what proved to be a hugely inspiring and fulfilling challenge.
Martin and I finished the 101.5km/63m route in 23hrs and 23mins and amazingly ran across the line in 17th place out of the 136 teams competing (individually, I finished 61st out of 537 starters).
Unfortunately, two of our team colleagues were forced to drop out. Dougie Dunsmore-Dawson suffered heat exhaustion and sciatica on the stretch up Cam Fell out of Horton in Ribblesdale and retired at the half way mark. Later on, David Townsend retired at Kettlewell, after struggling with very painful blisters under his forefeet.
The event was incredibly tough. Physically and mentally demanding. The heat on Saturday during the hardest climbs was intense, only making matters worse. But the organisation by Oxfam was first class, very impressive and the camaraderie and sense of fun was overwhelming. All the marshals and volunteers tried really hard to provide encouragement and support.
Trekking through the night was interesting. The last major section, up out of Conistone in the cold and dark, was the hardest leg for me. I could hardly stand up after the 15 minute refreshment break and my feet by then were well and truly shot. Yet more dressings, fresh socks and dosed up on painkillers, the next 11.7km seemed to go on and on and the ‘fun’ and conversation dried up for a while. We did manage a laugh when we realised what I had thought was a route marker on the skyline was probably Emley Moor mast, 30 mile or so away!
Hope returned when we finally got to the stop at Hetton and had a cuppa and realised, for definite, we were going to finish come what may. And finish we did, in fine style. After the final 11km and climb over Flasby Fell we marched into Aireville Park at Skipton and ran through the finish section and over the line at 06:21 on Sunday morning.
The support crew, manned by Cllr’s Andrews, Howard and Hayward, were fantastic. They’d loaned a mini bus from Barnsley Hospice and were set up waiting for us at the four check points with all our gear ready and food and drink laid out. As well as raising the £2,000 per team pledged to Oxfam, the three Barnsley Trailtrekker Teams raised a significant sum for the Hospice.
It was during one of our practice walks, half way around the Rosedale Horseshoe in North Yorkshire as it happens, having walked around the Hole of Horcum earlier, that Martin, Dougie and I had a conversation about future challenges and the possibility of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It turned out Dougie lived just over the border from Tanzania in Kenya for a while as a child (as well as in Perth, Western Australia, where I spent some time with my family in the 70’s) and he had a painting given to his Father, with Kilimanjaro in the background. Martin mentioned that he had always been interested in the challenge and had a friend who had made the trek a year or two earlier, with Sunderland’s LSP. I’m not sure whether it was the heat, the beer at the Lion Inn half way around or the best fish and chips I’ve ever had, in The Feathers, Helmsley, after the walk but whatever it was, the Kilimanjaro idea was born and there was to be no turning back.
So, here we are with a planned trek next October and 10 months to get fit and lose more weight. Of more immediate personal concern is my foot. I injured myself in training and on the Trailtrekker itself and now have a painful Morton’s Neuroma in my right foot (diagnosis confirmed yesterday by ultrasound) and an appointment with a consultant on Monday to discuss options including possible surgery. Fingers crossed that will all be taken care of quickly and I can get back to some activity soon. I’m more than a little nervous to be honest but really looking forward to the challenge and to the fun I know we’ll have along the way. If we can raise further funds for the Hospice too then this will be a mighty fine achievement.