A little story about a very (very) long walk…

As you’re probably aware if you are a regular reader of this blog (yes, we do have some!)…

100km challenge done

I’ve been training for a very (very) long walk…

…a 100 kilometre walk!

I’ve written about it previously herehere and here.

(you can also sponsor me, if you haven’t done so already, here)

However last weekend it was the time to ‘do the deed’.

It was time to actually walk one hundred kilometres in a day!

So, last Friday my wife Cassie, my two girls and I jumped in the car and travelled up to Yorkshire (The walk started in Denby Dale bright and early on the Saturday morning)

After a good nights sleep at the Premier Inn in Hartlepool (I still want to know the secret behind how Premier Inn beds are always so comfortable) we had breakfast by the Broad Canal and set off for Denby Dale for the start of the walk.

We arrived at the starting line.

Breakfast was being served in the form of tasty looking pies (we started in a pub called ‘pie hall’) however as I’d already consumed porridge, poached eggs, mushrooms, black pudding and a banana I decided that adding a pie to the mix probably wasn’t the smartest move in the world.

So, Cassie, Charlotte and Sophie wished me luck and I set off on the first part of my Journey…


Leg  1 – Denby Dale to Holmfirth (13km)

Considering the fact the majority of my training was conducted roaming the streets of London town one thing became almost immediately clear as I set off for my walk…

In London the prices are often steep but the terrain is pretty reasonable.

In Yorkshire the prices are often reasonable but the terrain is pretty steep.

Therefore I had to become Acclimatised to walking up hills and quick!

Apart from getting used to this the ups and downs it was quite a nice stroll…

I was feeling fresh and walking on road and track. The weather was good. The sun was shining and there was a lovely breeze. I also got chatting to some really nice people.

Things were going well.

Also, I knew that Cassie, Charlotte and Sophie were due to meet me at the 2nd rest stop…

…so far so good!


Leg 2 – Holmfirth to the A635 (7km)

I’d only walked 13km but as I arrived at Holmfirth my eldest daughter Charlotte ran up and gave me a cuddle (something she didn’t fancy doing the next day – more on that later!).

I’d only walked a short distance at this point so the rest break was short and after a banana and a couple of jelly babies I carried on walking.

The second leg started well. The terrain was still pretty solid, the sun was still shining and then something changed…

I hit the peak district…

…or to put it a bit more accurately the peak district hit me.

You see the terrain in the part of the peak district I was walking in was pretty precarious.

I stepped on what I thought was solid ground and it turned out to be a muddy bog, I tried to reach the next checkpoint in the quickest way possible only to realise that my ‘short cut’ involved walking knee deep through mud and I climbed what felt like mountains (although in reality they were only pretty big hills!).

(If you’re feeling my pain at this point feel free to help me by sponsoring me, if you haven’t already done so, here)

Luckily I had some great walking companions who I’d started talking to in the first stage of the walk and who were more used to walking in this sort of terrain.

When we got to the largest hill, many of us looking a bit dishevelled there was a photographer there to record the moment which means that somewhere out there is a photo of fantastic looking scenery and a not so fantastic looking me!

We trekked on and thankfully the rain stayed away until we made it to the next rest stop…


Leg 3 – A635 to Crowden Centre (10km)

This part of the walk was also on quite shady terrain.

It was hilly but also quite mossy and at one point the fact that I’d stepped in a well hidden bog meant that I almost had to complete the rest of the walk with just one shoe! 

During my preparation for this walk I made one pretty smart move and one pretty silly one and the impact of these decisions had started to become clear…

The smart decision was bringing hiking sticks along. They take some getting used to but it made the climb far easier, especially when the terrain was a bit rougher.

The silly decision was wearing trainers for the event instead of, erm, more appropriate footwear.

It’s not that I didn’t try boots out (I’d bought a new pair especially) it was just that when I’d tried to train in these boots they felt too clunky to walk such a long distance in.

In hindsight I should have gone for a trainer / hiking boot combination which would have been far better…

…However I didn’t and found myself walking in the peak district in a pair of trainers!

As I approached the end of the third leg I was mightily relived I’d made it with my will, my legs (and my trainers) completely intact!


Leg 4 – Crowden Centre to Pennine Sailing Club (15km)

Now although this was the longest element of the walk between checkpoints…it also seemed like one of the easiest.

For most of it we were back on firm terrain (a lot of it was along an unused railway track which now doubled up for a footpath) and whilst the weather was becoming cooler there wasn’t a rain cloud in the sky!

I got chatting to a couple of lovely fellas as we were walking who both worked for guide dogs. We spoke about the work they did for the charity and the fact that one of them had booked a client for first thing on Monday (when his legs still might be a bit sore!).

(The work the charity does is incredibly by the way – you can read about it here and support me to support them here)

As I was finishing the last part of this leg my phone rang. It was Cassie telling me they were waiting at the sailing club for me.

By the time I’d arrived it had just turned 8pm. A big plate of pasta and a nice hot cup of coffee was waiting for me as well as a lovely hug and kiss from the family. Then it hit me…

I’d been going for 11 hours but still have more than half of the challenge to go…and it was the bit I’d been dreading…Walking overnight.


Leg 5 – Pennine Sailing Club to Langsett Barn (8km)

As the sun started to go down and the moon started to rise I set off on the next leg…

It felt nice walking at sunset.

The colours in the sky were reds and blues and the weather was cool but calm.

However as the sun left the sky the walk went from track to forest and the visibility without a torch reduced to virtually nothing my mood soon changed.

I though I had nothing to fear…I’d bought my trusty headlamp and was hoping this would guide my way.

However when I put on my headlamp I realised that whilst it had seemed pretty effective in my local county park whilst I was training in practice it was as much use as a chocolate fireplace (and delivered a similar amount of illumination)!

Luckily there were two fellow walkers who had both more effective torches who I walked with for a decent amount of this Leg.

Pippa and Rachel also worked for guide dogs and as we walked through what seemed like an endless forest we chatted periodically as we navigated the forest illuminated by my two walking mates torches and my pathetic excuse for a torch.

Eventually we came out of the forest and for a little while longer arrived at our destination…


Leg 6 – Langsett barn to St Aidans Church (10km)

Strangely the ‘Langsett barn’ stop didn’t actually involve a barn.

What it actually involved was a car park, a couple of picnic tables and a small gazebo containing tea, coffee and jelly babies.

It was pretty dark at this point and we still had a decent amount of night walking to go…

This leg was tough.

Traipsing across farmland wasn’t my idea of fun at the best of times. However traipsing across farmland in virtual darkness only accompanied by a torch made it slightly less bearable. Then I remembered something my dad told me before I set off…

“Just remember Chris…it’s a mental challenge”

“Yep” I said laughing “It is a bit of a mental challenge!”

“No, half of completing it will be about just keeping on when you don’t want to…when part of you is telling you to stop and you’ve just got to carry on…”

It was at this point, hiking through farmland in virtual darkness, was that part of me (no, scrub that. most of me) was telling me to stop….however I knew I had to carry on.

(You must be feeling my pain by now! Please join the lovely people who have already sponsored me here)

Thankfully I had some company.

Pippa and Hannah were still walking with me as well as a bunch of fellas who were just in front guiding the way.

I chatted with Pippa and Hannah a bit more…

“We’re on a relay” Hannah said “I’ve already done my leg and Pippa is doing this leg”

I thought it’d be inappropriate to mention that the idea of a relay is you ‘pass the baton’ and let the other person take the next leg but Hannah answered the question so I didn’t have to ask it.

“I know I haven’t got to do this part of the walk” she said “But I wanted to continue the challenge”

“Fair enough” I thought but then couldn’t help thinking about what would happen if the British 100 x 4 Olympic team took the same approach…

“I know this was your bit…but you didn’t mind me carrying on running did you?”

(note – this is a joke and I massively appreciated the fact that both Hannah and Pippa allowed me to tag along with them)

After a bit more walking through farmland the terrain became a bit more stable and we soon found ourselves at the next rest stop.


Leg 7 – St Aidans Church to Grenoside Scout and Guide HQ (10 km)

We arrived at the next stop and Hannah had decided that she’d walked enough (which was fair enough as she’d already worked a decent distance over and above what she’d originally committed to).

By the time we arrived at this rest stop it was still pitch black but in the early hours of the morning.

Thankfully although Hanna had understandably decided to stop at the church Pippa still had a bit of her particular relay leg to complete and I was massively grateful for the company.

Pippa and I talked about a bunch of stuff including family, friends and work. Virtually anything to keep us going as we walked in the early hours of the morning.

We had a few games of twenty questions (or, for a reason I don’t even understand, we call ‘what’s in the box’ in the Daems family) as well as chatting films, festivals and everything in between.

There were periods of silence along the way (I can be chatty at the best of times but after 20 hours walking without any sleep I’m less of a conversationalist) but then we periodically started to chat again.

As the sun came up I start to feel more awake and after a little more walking we approached our next checkpoint…


Leg 8 – Grenoside scout and guide HQ to Sheffield Meadowhall (9km)

This rest stop was a bit of a big one…

It was breakfast time!

I’d been walking (and stopping for the odd break) for about 22 hours at this point and it was time for a bacon roll and a cup of coffee…

…and I don’t think a bacon roll and a cup of coffee had ever felt so good!

I also felt pretty good…

I was in Sheffield…

I only had 21km to go…

I was on the home straight!

and

I was back walking on roads and track!

It should have been easy from here!

However I couldn’t have been more wrong…

My legs and feet (as well as my head) were feeling the effects at this point.

This meant that whilst the terrain was a million times easier than crossing the peak district or walking throughout the night the tiredness, my tatty trainers and my tired legs made walking the last fifth of the journey pretty tough.

However I persevered and found myself walking around the streets of suburban Sheffield past houses and cars and even the odd person.

As we were now into the final part of the trek I was finding I didn’t see any fellow trekkers for quite a while. Thankfully I had downloaded some playlists and some podcasts onto my phone to pass the time.

As I was approaching my last checkpoint I called Cassie…

“Hello” I said “How you doing?”

“Really good” she said “The girls and I had a great nights sleep and have just finished a lovely breakfast. Dinner at the hotel last night was lovely too”

At that point I hadn’t seen any sign of a bed for over a day and whilst I’d had the odd bit of pasta and a bacon roll my diet had mainly consisted of Jelly Babies…I have to admit I was a little envious.

“Great” I said (probably a bit more sarcastically than I originally intended) “Can you come and meet me at the next checkpoint…”

“Sure” said Cass.

At this point it’s probably worth saying a massive thank you…

Over the past couple of months I’ve been out training virtually every weekend. This meant instead of spending massive amounts of time with Cassie and the kids I was getting up in the morning and walking for hours at a time.

Cassie supported me every single step of the way and I’m massively grateful for everything she has done and continues to do. There’s not that many wives who would say yes when asked to follow me around Yorkshire acting as a virtual pit crew accompanied by a 4 year old and a 12 year old.

I don’t say it often enough but I’m massively grateful that she supports some of my madcap plans every step of the way.

I arrived at the next rest stop, a little gazebo outside a Travelodge for the last rest stop before the finish…


Leg 9 – Sheffield Meadowhall to the Blind Veterans UK Sheffield centre (12km)

When I arrived at this rest stop there were a few fellow trekkers. Everyone had a similar look…

Tired but hugely determined to finish this final leg.

I was sitting on the pavement eating my last jelly baby of the walk when our car pulled into the car park…

Cassie, Charlotte and Sophie had arrived!

They ran up to me smiling but after a day of walking my odour wasn’t as fresh as it was a day ago…therefore they were a little reticent to give their poor tired dad a cuddle!

I didn’t bother me too much. It was just great to see them before my final leg.

10 minutes after they’d arrived and conscious that if I didn’t leave soon I’d probably never leave and they’d find my bones in a travelodge car park I set off on the final leg…

This final leg was through Sheffield.

I’d never been to Sheffield before and was surprised.

My assumption was it was a northern industrial town. However as I strolled round there were elements of natural beauty I didn’t expect to see. Particularly the river Don and the “Five Weirs”.

As I approached the city centre I realised I looked a bit strange…

A man with two hiking sticks, khaki shorts and wearing the dirtiest trainers you’ll ever see in your life strolling through the city centre.

I stopped briefly and admired the cathedral and was tempted to jump onto a tram but managed to resist at the last minute.

The fact that I was so near the end, I’d see my family very soon and I was raising money for a fantastic cause were the only things keeping me going at this point….Oh and Jelly babies, let’s not forget the importance of Jelly Babies.

Then I reached the final kilometer. Past the city centre, past the cathedral, past the university…

…until I reached the final couple of hundred meters.

It felt strange.

My legs at first felt as heavy as lead…and then lighter and lighter as the finish line approached and then suddenly…

I was over the line.

I’d walked ONE HUNDRED KILOMETRES.

Charlotte ran up to me and gave me a huge cuddle. Then realised that my odour hadn’t particularly improved…

“You Stink” she cried.

Now it wasn’t the greeting I was expecting after walking that far…but I’d take it!

I picked up my medal, had a cup of tea and a sandwich and then after thanking the team from guide dogs we headed back to the car where I slept soundly for the first time that weekend…


In conclusion

I just want to conclude by saying thank you…

Thank you to the teams who worked so hard to make the experience so worthwhile.

Thank you to my family who support me every step of the way in more ways than they can imagine.

Thank you to my fellow walkers who made the journey a million times easier by being such great company.

and

Thank you to each and every one of you who helped me raise a decent amount of cash for such a fantastic cause. (However if you haven’t had the chance you can still donate here)

It might be a bit of a push to say I enjoyed the experience of walking one hundred kilometres, however it is fair to say that I’m massively glad I did it.

Apart from being a great way to get me off the sofa and get a bit fitter it also showed me that some challenges no matter how daunting are worth taking on even if it’s just to prove to yourself it can be done.

I’m going to treat myself to a new pair of trainers this weekend (as well as probably a decent paid of hiking shoes) but one things for sure…

I’m not going to be eating another jelly baby for a long long time.

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