Way back in March the idea of competing in the TrekFest 27-mile Peak District challenge seemed a great idea.
6 months of training (or lack of training) later and the reality dawned when the 5 team members (out of the 7 within the Digital team who originally signed up) lined up on the start line along with 300 apprehensive and excited Trekkers.
It was raining and the cloud was masking the beauty of the Peak District that would later reveal itself to us as we made our weary way to the end of the 27-mile course.
At 9 a.m. with a hearty breakfast inside us and a very loose egg in Pete’s breakfast bap, the start gun sounded and we were off… at snail’s pace along with the masses of Trekkers of all ages, shapes and sizes, drooling at the idea of completing the challenge within the 12 hours.
‘12 hours. We will be finished by 4 p.m. and if I feel all right, I’ll drive home!’ said Jason. About an hour later, he knew this was never going to happen as we struggled over fences, stiles and clambered up very wet and slippy rocks to climb what was to be the first of three mountains that day.
As the time marched on, we seemed to be going nowhere fast as we ascended into the cloud and ate copious amounts of Jelly Babies.
When Checkpoint 1 loomed into sight (5 miles in), it was a welcome relief to be back on flat ground. We duly stocked up on water and cereal bars, posed for a team pic and before we knew it we were on our merry way up – yes you’ve guessed it – another mountain!
This was to be an epic sector and started with a climb up Jacobs Ladder that nearly broke us both physically and mentally.
We reached what we believed to be the summit only to be told we were only a quarter of the way up. Great.
By now Mark was struggling with a groin injury, Pete’s ankle was hurting and James’ knee was aching. Checkpoint 2 (the halfway point) seemed a scarily long way off at this point and we were cold, wet and tired.
The descents were actually much worse than the ascents, and when we eventually got to the bottom of Kinder Scout we looked back and the reality of what we had just scaled kicked in, although none of our photos captured the scale of the beast.
At Checkpoint 2, the team needed to make a tough decision. Mark and James were unsure whether they could continue and we decided as a collective that Pete, Andy and Jason would crack on without them.
Having refuelled with pasta, bread and a huge slice of chocolate cake, we set off and left our injured colleagues strapping up wounds and resting tired limbs.
More rain, wind and a big climb up, yes, another mountain and Pete hit a wall. Not literally, but the cheeky banter he is known for disappeared and was replaced by a grimace and the question of ‘Are we close to Checkpoint 3 yet?’
It was a bizarre walk where we caught up with a lot of the walkers who were in front of us. The scene was similar to one out of The Walking Dead – with zombie figures hobbling along not talking and slanting across the road in a herd looking for their next feed.
Andy reassured Pete that Checkpoint 3 is just round the corner, knowing it was still a couple of miles away, but hey ho the good news is that we burned over 2,000 calories so far!
Checkpoint 3 was to be the saviour for Pete, who having changed his waterproof trousers for combat shorts was a rejuvenated man (the ibuprofen also helped). Off we set on the last 5 miles, which we were told were all downhill. That was partly true after we climbed up a steep hill first, boo!
11 hours and 15 minutes later we crossed the finish line to be greeted with cheers, photos and a much deserved glass of champagne. We were slightly delirious, exhausted and extremely proud of ourselves, so there was only one thing for it… yep, more cake!
But what of our two colleagues? We called, but their phones were dead and it was dark and cold. Were they still out there? Had they gone back to the hotel for a cheeky bath and beer?
We decided to drive back up the last couple of miles of the course to see if we could spot the guys. It was quite magical as out of the darkness head torches marked a procession of weary trekkers winding their way down the last hill.
Is that Mark? Was that James? Nope, no sign of them… and then out of the darkness they appeared, hobbling along. Brilliant. We were chuffed to bits for them. They even refused an offer of a lift down the hill to the finish line and rightly wanted to complete the trek themselves, which they did in 13 and a half hours.
So the team completed the challenge and raised over £1,000 for Cancer Research UK to boot.
Would we do it again? I couldn’t possibly say at this stage, but as the feet heal we may feel the need for a new challenge for 2015.
Thanks to all who sponsored us – much appreciated!