A few weeks on from our annual charity challenge and it seems like as good a time as any to reflect on our achievements over the last three years. It falls to myself to choose the challenge each year and the brief is to pick something which is challenging enough to capture the interest of our very generous sponsors, and to be inclusive enough to allow the maximum number of our team to take part. I will admit that each year I have been dubious as to whether each challenge could be achieved, and I’m very proud to say that each year we have surpassed my expectations. With every challenge the whole team have put in an excellent display of determination and grit to reach our goals, and the support from our colleagues, customers and suppliers has been a real help along the way as we’ve raised over £7000 for our chosen charities.
Each journey has been a tale of team success but has also highlighted some personal achievements. In 2013 someone had the crazy idea to cycle the length of the Leeds Liverpool canal – a mere 127.5miles up the Pennines. ‘Right, I’d best have a go at this’ I thought and I began practicing along our local stretch of the canal. After my first practice run with Frank I returned home saying ‘There’s no way he’ll do it’. After a lot more practice and a better pair of wheels, Frank became the best cyclist among our pack at the back, keeping us going and even cycling an extra 4 miles to look for Dave’s bag (which he thought he left at the canal side after a comfort break, but actually left in the van at lunchtime!). Completing this challenge was a massive personal achievement for me. I was the only girl who took part in the cycle and as I laid in bed in the hotel in Chorley after the first day I was convinced I would never be able to move again never mind mount a cycle. My saving grace was driving rain on the second day, as I discovered the joy of riding through deep puddles with my feet in the air and our support crew made up of Jenni, Eddie and Jon as they met us at completely random places along the route to just cheer us along (or hand out sun cream)!
Last year saw me 36 weeks pregnant at the time of the challenge so I signed up to join the support car with Jon. I planned the route using google maps (which I will never be forgiven for – 36 miles doesn’t look too bad but apparently its quite a long way to walk), and a provided copious amounts of chocolate for the walkers in an attempt to make up for my absence on the 36mile walk along the Pennine Way. I will admit that after the epic challenge the year before and the sheer distance that we covered, I felt a little complacent about the walk – after all we can all walk can’t we?! I soon learnt my lesson as even my fittest most confident walkers began to fall victim to blisters, aching muscles and sun burn! This was by far a much harder test of endurance and staying power, but again – even faced with a field full of Bulls and the prospect of being lost in a field surrounded by other fields (this was the description given to me of their location as we tried to find them at the end of the first day – with a few expletives added in there!), our walkers met the challenge set and even turned up to work on Monday! There were a lot of personal achievements this year, but the stand out for me was Sue, as she pushed through the pain barrier and just kept going to conquer first Pen Y Gent and then Fountains Fell – which I had promised her the route went around…. it actually went over!
2015 we set the hardest challenge yet, with three events covering cycling, walking and the new addition of swimming. We also had our highest number of people joining the team, with representatives from every department within our company totaling over 30 people. With an 11 month old I was only able to sneak in one practice of the cycling and surely the walking and swimming would be easy?? I was wrong again! As I struggled up Whernside, Yorkshire’s highest peak, I thanked my lucky stars I had a good excuse to miss last year’s walk! My tired muscles were only able to manage 1 hour in the pool on Sunday as I marveled at the staying power of my colleagues who just kept going!! Jenni swam for the whole FOUR hours without stopping (I’m sure I’ve seen a pair of gills when I’ve passed her on the stairs this week), helping us to smash our target of 21 miles. Les, Matthew and Hannah weren’t far behind her, with Les being heard to promise to finish after ‘just one more length’ for at least an hour before he handed his towel in after 3 hours of strong swimming.
As we count our sponsorship, I am already thinking ahead to what the challenge may be in 2016! For now we will rest our tired muscles.