My Thames Path Challenge I walked from Fulham Palace in Putney to Richmond Old Deer Park, then onto Hurst park for lunch, stopped at Manor Park, Runnymede, Eton Wick, Marsh Meadow, Hurleyford Farm finishing at Henley Mills Meadows, starting at 8.30 am on 13th September and finishing at 12.40 pm on 14th September. Official time 28.00.18.
Post-walk email: 'Hello Everyone, 24 hours later, I can safely say I am alive and just about kicking. Am generally stiff, with a couple of blisters on the balls of my feet. At 2 am when one isn't the sharpest pin in the box, I had put my socks on inside out and the rough exterior aggravated my feet.
But you should have seen the walking wounded - grown men crying, 'cripples' wandering around in a daze with heavily bound feet, people unable to move on their feet, people being sick, people shivering in space blankets, people lying comatose on the ground, people sobbing in the taxi queues asking to be taken away. So I got off pretty lightly!!
It was such an ad venture and I am so thrilled to have done it. Also thrilled I'll never have to do it again! The walking at night was the best which is why I wanted to do it in the first place. I walked behind my shadow from 2-5.30 am pretty much on my own and it was thrilling. I had a grin from ear to ear. It was just amazing until I got frightened in some woods as I could see a light behind me. I thought I was being followed until I realised it was my glow stick hanging off the back of my knapsack lighting up the trees overhead! One's imagination at 5 am is a bit wild! I did carry my full water bottle in one hand and my trusty penknife in the other ready to cosh someone over the head and spear them in the ribs if necessary.
The weather was perfect - warm, no wind and the river was mirror-like reflecting the trees. I had the occasional hoot from an owl and bird sounds from the river. I'll never forget seeing Windsor Castle inked out against the moon-lit sky and the ghostly shape of 40 swans, tucked up asleep on the river.
I was amazed how fast everyone walked. I had started first in my group of 50 just because I was near the exit gate. Within 20 mins everyone had passed me which was a relief as 50 walkers stir up a hell of a dust and once I was left behind I would breathe again! We had done a great dance warm-up with a huge black guy leading us to loud throbbing pop music. Everyone was flushed pink as they crossed the starting line!
Not many were walking solo but I joined up with some of them including Daniel, the accountant from Bristol and James, the roofer from Sutton - only first names were printed on our 'bibs' so never got to know surnames. We all agreed that it was a tough challenge and we wouldn't be signing up again! We were OK up to 75K which brought us to the last major rest point at about 6 am Sunday morning.
I left there with the sun coming up over the hills for the final 25k, little knowing what hell was in front of me. I was picked up by a dog walker at some stage who saved my bacon by chatting away to me but he left with his two dogs. I was desperate for a pee but that part of the river is flat open country with not a twig in sight. Eventually, PK found a blubbing shivering wreck on Henley Bridge six hours later - every bone, muscle, nerve ending was twanging and thrumming and I thought I was in melt-down.
You think you have arrived but oh no, they send you up the High Street, up the hill then back down again to the river for the final 1k. PK escorted me, carrying my backpack which was so heavy as it now had all my night clothes in it, and bringing me back to normality. So when I reached the finish line I was able to prance across, pose for the cameras, receive my medal from the Lady Mayoress and drink my glass of champagne with everyone cheering and clapping, looking as if I had just strolled in from Hambleden Lock!!
400 charities were represented with over 2 million pounds collected. Action Challenge, the organisers, were amazing and all the volunteers were incredibly helpful and encouraging all the way through. The event was so well run and your every want seemed to be catered for except I never got my massage as the queue was too long. So maybe they should have more masseurs!
I was the only representative of Excellent Development, Pioneers of Sand Dams. It is such a good cause and should be better known. To those of you who have donated already, the charity is really grateful to receive your donations. I was so glad to have your backing too as I struggled up that famous rowing mile to Henley Bridge determined to finish. Remind me never to go to Henley Regatta - I don't want to ever be reminded of it!