Thursday, 30 June 2011

Help for Heroes Challenge – Avebury to Stonehenge

On June 26th, my Dad and I took part in the Help for Heroes Avebury to Stonehenge Challenge – 26 miles of walking through the Wiltshire countryside and Salisbury Plains to raise money for the charity. We headed over the night before and checked into our Travelodge. I managed to get a good night’s sleep, and was excited about the day ahead when the alarm went off at 5:20am! We headed to Larkhill and parked the car. There were loads of other walkers there waiting for the bus to take us to the start. On arrival, we donned our t-shirts, picked up our packed lunch, and headed off. It was 7:30am, it was warm but misty. We’d been warned it could end up being the hottest day of the year so far, so we had sun cream at the ready!

The first few miles took us through some beautiful, undulating Wiltshire countryside. Very different to the Scottish scenery I’ve become used to, but equally as stunning. We passed numerous poppy fields. We headed past the chalk horse and along the Kennett and Avon canal. The first water station was at 7 miles, and was well stocked with jelly babies, cereal bars and water. We carried on through varying terrain. The half way point was conveniently at lunch time, so we got some shade in a barn sitting on a haystack and refuelled. There was also a pub, so we popped in for a quick drink before carrying on up the hill. We were feeling the heat at this point and there was not much shade.

At around mile 15 we entered Salisbury Plains – army training ground. Not ordinarily open to the general public, it had been opened especially for us to cross. There was no shelter here at all, and the chalk road made for some hot and relentless conditions. We arrived at the next water station at mile 17. We noticed a few people tending to blisters and others starting to look weary. The support from the Help for Heroes staff along the way was great and we were all very well looked after.

It was to be another 4 miles to the next (and final) water station. Again, the path offered no shelter. By the time we arrived my Dad was feeling pretty tired and had developed some nasty blisters. We dressed them with compede but they were pretty bad. My Dad decided he would stop at this point. I felt so bad; perhaps we should have just left the blisters, rather than try and treat them. He told me to go on without him, but I didn’t like leaving him. He assured me he’d be ok, and so I set off for the last 5 miles alone. I felt sad to be continuing without him, and was battling in my head whether I’d done the right thing. I set off at a fast pace – I just wanted to be at the finish now! Two minutes later, my phone rings. It’s my Dad…. “Wait up…I’m behind you…I’m carrying on!” I turned around to see my Dad hobbling across Salisbury Plain…I welled up with pride! Within a few moments we were reunited and continued the last 5 miles to the end. It was tough, energy levels were on zero, but we made it. We crossed the finish line just over 10 hours later, with Stonehenge looming over us in the distance. We’d done it!! We were handed our medals and certificates. What a great challenge and fundraising event! We’ll definitely be back for another one next year!

Mile 26 - the end is in sight! from Jo Kirby on Vimeo.

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