Report by Ann Fowler, Deputy Director, Clifton Schools and Colleges.
8.30 Saturday morning June 29th. Over in Glastonbury people are just beginning to stir, waking up to celebrate the fact that this Glastonbury they are not mired in mud, the sun is shining, the temperature is already in the 70’s and all’s right with the world. Over in Victoria Park in Bath however the mood is a little more subdued. Half of the competitors have already set out and the rest of us are waiting for the signal to begin. The crowd is noisy and mostly optimistic though the rising temperature and the news that this is going to be the hottest day of the year casts a slight air of apprehension. We begin with warm up exercise; the music goes in to overdrive and we begin stretching and bouncing. This is where Tony and I realise that the majority of people around us are at least 20 and in some cases 30 or 40 years younger than we are. They bounce higher! Ah well too late to turn back now.
Then we are off. People cheer as they pass the first kilometre mark, only another 49 to go. We come to a ‘kissing gate’ and join an orderly queue of about 150 people going through one at a time, reminiscent of Bath traffic on a Monday morning. We reach the racecourse our first check in point after 9K. We don’t bother resting but set off almost immediately. For some this has already been two much and they drop out of the challenge completely. Then the temperature soars into the high 80’s and reaches 90 degrees. We are walking in full sun with no shade and going upwards. My sister and her partner are doing back up for us and they are amazing. They intercept us as we cross the A46 with ice cold water. Our pace drops but eventually we complete the next 16K which brings us to the halfway point. Family and friends are waiting to cheer people on and for some, those doing the 25K walk time to rejoice as they finish. Inside the tent the medics are out in force and many don’t make it past this point. (In fact about 70 people doing the 50K walk will have withdrawn before the end). We stop here for nearly an hour (In my case drinking tea, (fresh milk provided by my sister,) in Tony’s case drinking endless amounts of iced water and wondering why he believed me when I said it would be fun!
We begin again and the next few kilometres are really hard work. We climb up the hill towards St John’s Church, Old Sodbury and the people at the church are amazing. They have tea on the go. We stagger inside the beautiful old church and look at the amazing flower festival they have on. Every flower arrangement in the church is themed around a Beatles song. As we leave the church the sun drops a little and the going gets a little better. We finally make the 38K stop. As we leave here the daylight begins to fade and everyone switches to torches and glow sticks. The organisers (and the organisation was truly amazing) have been out and put glow sticks on the route markers. As we walk through the woods you can see the lights ahead of you. We are really tired here but it does feel magical. We begin counting down the kilometres. With 5 to go for the first time I think we might do this! The finish line appears in the distance people cheer you through. Someone gives me a medal and a T Shirt. It’s almost 11 at night we’ve been walking for almost 14 hours and we are elated. We made it!
On the walk most people are doing it because they want to do something to help others. Tony and I did it because we wanted to raise awareness of the work of Mission Together/Missio and St Rose’s Special school. Both organisations work to support the most vulnerable. If you want to find out more about these groups please go to: https://missiontogether.org.uk and www.stroses.org.uk. If you would like to contribute to their work you can still make a donation on https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ann-FowlerClifton for Mission Together and https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/TonyHickeyStRoses for St Roses.