Re: Winter 2013/14 - Page 31

were struggling to find our way in the darkness. It turns out we got utterly lost until we stumbled across a main road. We knew we had to head north along the road, but the problem was it was a 60mph road with no pavements, and it was pitch black. We decided to run along the road as quickly as we could, and every time a car came we had to dive in to the nettles at the side of the road to avoid the cars. Not ideal. It was because of this “detour” that the 51 mile walk ended up being 52.3, but of course we both maintained that we walked a bit further because “we were enjoying it so much.” That may not have been entirely truthful, particularly if you had heard some of the colourful language which peppered our diction. When you’ve covered about 45 miles and you get lost six miles from the finish line, in darkness, when it is cold and damp, I think you can be forgiven for turning in to actor Ra y Winstone momentarily. instructions to that effect. It turns out we had to learn to read a bearing, a map and use a compass. It has been a few years since I last tried that in my shorts at school! It also turns out we would be walking through the night too, so we had to learn these skills in the dark. Little Dave very kindly offered to take Victor and I out for a night walk, a cheeky little 12-miler through Littlington and Southease just to see if we could read a map, take a bearing, and not kill ourselves. Little Dave is a top man, but I am sure there was a small part of him that felt a sense of responsibility to us. I suspect part of his motivation for taking us out for that night walk was to make sure he didn’t read about us in the local paper - missing in action! The day of the walk arrives. Victor and I arrive at Longhill School in Rottingdean and are greeted by the sight of the 148 other competitors. I have never seen such a gaggle of thin wiry mountaingoat-esque looking dudes in all my life. Victor and I must have lowered the average age by about 20 years but these people looked tough as old boots. It was at this point that I may have started to feel slightly nervous, and the prospect of walking the equivalent distance from London to Brighton but off road, over steep hills, with a backpack on, in one hit, and partially at night, was a reality that suddenly dawned on me. I may have been nervous, but I was strangely excited, and I felt like I really came alive. We started the walk at 10am and headed up over the hills at Woodingdean. Little Dave was towards the front, and after about two minutes he was out of sight. We wouldn’t see Little Dave again until night fall. We headed east over Falmer along the South Downs Way before turning north over the A27 and round the north of Lewes before going up over Lewes Golf Course, Glynde, and then we stopped at one of the check points. The check points arrived every five to seven miles, and they were always a welcome sight. The first checkpoint had flap jacks, but this checkpoint had quiche, and if you know me you will know I love a good quiche! After wolfing down some of the said quiche, we crossed south over the A27 before making our way up over the ridge on the South Downs Way and turning east towns East Dean. By the time we got to the check point at East Dean we had covered 28 miles, a distance that Victor and I had never accomplished before and we were absolutely buzzing. This time our good friend Kathi Archery (or “Klick Chick” as she is known - great photographer) met us with a piping hot lasagne. That lasted all of two minutes before we devoured the ravioli and cheese, tea and cake. I have never eaten so well! After filling our guts, we wobbled out of the check point before heading over five of the Seven Sisters. I told Victor they missed out the two other sisters because they were ugly, but I’m not sure he believed me! Before we knew it we were clipping along at mile 35, heading over Friston and slowly making our way back west towards the finish. We managed to get back on track after our 1.3 mile “detour” and it was not long before we stumbled across the last check point. I am sure that this check point was sent from the heavens because when we arrived there at about 10pm it was pitch black, we were greeted by about eight marshals who were the most incredibly friendly, lively, warm people you could ever want to meet. To top it off, they fired up a gas stove and made us both bacon sandwiches and a cuppa. I could literally have died and gone to heaven at that point (if God forgives me for my colourful language of course). With the bacon sarnies warming our bellies we headed off in the darkness to complete the last six miles, merrily singing our way towards the finish line. We crossed the finish line after 12 hours and 58 minutes with massive smiles on our faces and were greeted by Little Dave. It turns out Little Dave finished in 10 hours and 1 minute, and smashed the course record. He stayed behind for three hours to watch us cross the line before presenting me with a massive Children in Need style cheque to cover the entrance fee, dressed up as what can only be described as a very ugly and scary lady. I can honestly say that the sense of achievement I felt crossing the finish line was tremendous. It is not often you get the chance to take in the wonders of the South Downs for 13 hours and enjoy exercise, friendship and laughter. It is moments like this that you reflect on just how privileged we are to have our health, our friends, and to live in such a wonderful part of the country. Now for the next challenge… By Scott Gair The night drew in a little quicker than we hoped, and with it came the fog. Before we could say “Phillius Fog” the visibility was down to about 12 foot, and we 29