Grovelands’ Dan Boteler and his team, ‘Sole Survivors’, complete Oxfam’s Trailwalker Challenge 2015!
Last Friday evening the Sole Survivors team made the journey by car to Queen Elizabeth Country Park in Portsmouth. We went through registration, set up our tents, over indulged in the pasta party provided by Oxfam, and then tried to settle down for a well needed sleep. Unfortunately torrential rain, heavy winds, and a slowly deflating mattress meant the sleeping part didn’t go so well!
The alarms went off at 4:30 Saturday morning; we packed up and loaded all our equipment into the support vehicle, had some breakfast, and made it to the start line for 06:20. Our timeslot for starting was between 06:00 and 07:00 but it seemed everyone other than us must have started at 06:00 on the dot because we were the only ones on the start line at this time.
We got going! Randomly, we found out that there was another team also called Sole Survivors, but considering there was about 2,000 teams taking part we didn’t expect to bump into them. How wrong were we! The first team we came across at about 25 minutes into the walk were the other Sole Survivors team.
I have to say the first 50km of this walk was brilliant, the views were incredible, the atmosphere was great, and we had some great team discussions and laughs.
Along the route there were 9 checkpoints at which the Oxfam crew scanned your tracking device, and participants were able to top up their water bottles and cram in some well needed nutrients. A big thank you must go out to our support crew Sue Reed (AKA my mum), who met us at all bar one of the check points with piles of energy fuelled snacks and a well needed hug.
About 15 hours into our adventure it started to get dark, by this point legs were sore, blisters were getting bigger, and the enthusiasm had waned a little, but we continued on to the check point at Devils Dyke. Personally it was this check point where it dawned on me how much I was struggling and how much harder than I expected this challenge was going to be. During the next stage one of our head torches stopped working which meant two of us were trying to walk at night on rocky terrain with one head torch.
The penultimate stage of the walk was the longest at 14km, we completed the majority in the dark and really battled with the hilly and unrelenting terrain. About a quarter of the way into this stage Alexandra Perrin (my fiancée) injured her knee to the point where she could barely walk, but with her determined Scottish blood she pushed on to the end of the checkpoint. Unfortunately this was the end of Alex’s Trailwalker Challenge, at only 10km from the end it was very sad to see one of our team members leave, but it was the right thing to do with the amount of pain Alex was in.
Powered with pure grit and determination, Oli, Jason, and I pushed on for the last 10km stage, and on Sunday morning at 08:26 three remaining Sole survivors team members made it over the finishing line at Brighton Racecourse. It took a staggering 26 hours and 6 minutes, and was by far the most painful and incredibly hard thing I have ever completed, but it was finally over!
On arrival to the finishing line we were greeted with applause and cheers, handed our completion medals and photos were taken.
As a team we want to say a huge thank you to everyone that sponsored us, we raised an impressive £2,200. A special thank you to our main sponsor Grovelands and to the hugely generous contributions from Wenban-Smith Timber Merchants and Total Ltd.