Our communications officer, Erin, took a break from her usual writing, website and design duties to help our events team prep for the 28th Mendip Challenge by testing out the 10-mile route. Keep reading to see how she got on:

I should start by saying that I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, athletic. While my siblings were playing kickball in the street with the other neighbourhood children, I was sat on the sidelines, reading a book. So, when Kelsey and Rachel from our fundraising team invited me out to walk the final 10-mile stretch of the West Mendip Way with them, it was with a bit of apprehension that I said yes.

I love looking at Pinterest and Instagram feeds of these gorgeous, remote locations that people visit. You know, the ones you absolutely cannot just drive to, but that’s why they’re so darn pretty. And, at the hospice, we’re always focused on how we can add life to days —- not just for our patients and their loved ones, but in our own lives as well. Sometimes, being around death makes you realise the value of life and the importance of taking advantage of what it has to offer.

So, this morning, I woke up — slightly excited, slightly nervous and definitely sniffly. (This cold I have keeps coming back, but I thought a bit of fresh air in our local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would be just the ticket.) I told my husband that I would be navigating our little group, doing my best to follow the Walk Guide that’s been lovingly prepared by our team and offering up suggestions of where some text changes might help make it easier for the 700+ people who take part in the challenge to find their way. My husband’s response? Uncontrolled laughter.

You see, in addition to being less than athletic, I’m also terrible when it comes to directions. I get turned around easily. (Perhaps that’s what makes me a good addition to this little expedition, though?)

We all met up, bright and early, at the hospice in Uphill. I had layered up in spite of the sunny skies promised, largely because I’m always cold. Wearing trainers, gym leggings (with jeans on top), a tank top, a T-shirt and my athletic jacket, I felt like I was pretty well prepared. I had a bottle of water in my bag, several snacks, some bread, throat drops for my cold and my phone to document our trek on the hospice’s Instagram. But the others were even more prepared — Rachel had a separate water bottle for her dog, Bodhi, and was wearing lovely thick socks with hiking boots. Kelsey had special walking trousers and boots. And Phil, a volunteer who’s helped to backwalk the event in the previous years, even had a telescopic walking stick!

Together, we drove out to the starting point in Winscombe. Full of optimism, I set off with the group on the West Mendip Way. It was a beautiful walk, particularly with the sun shining. We saw so many animals; there were sheep to baaa with, horses having a little snooze in the sun, cows literally running in the fields and even alpacas (or were they llamas?). Getting to be out in nature, walking amongst the beauty of spring, was just what I needed. Although I’m not athletic, it was a treat to see the sights and to enjoy the company of friends while doing so.

The walk is difficult. I’m not going to lie to you. (Although I do think it didn’t catch up with me until we were at Bleadon, where I started to notice that my thighs and feet were aching a bit.) But it is definitely worth it. In hindsight, I wish I had done some sort of training before setting off. Although I run around after my twin daughters in my day-to-day life, I don’t really get much in the way of proper exercise — unless you count my 30-minute lunchtime stroll around the block.

Whether you’re wanting to challenge yourself physically, keen to see the wonders of the West Mendip Way that you just can’t see from the roadside or looking for something unique to do with a group of friends, I can highly recommend taking on the Mendip Challenge in aid of Weston Hospicecare. Not only will you get to experience the wonders of this walk, your fundraising will also help support the work that our wonderful team of nurses, doctors, consultants, therapists, chaplaincy experts and more provide. Together, we can make the most of every moment — in our own lives and in the lives of those we care for.

If my story has you feeling inspired to take on the Mendip Challenge — whether that’s 10, 20 or 30 miles — head on over to westonhospicecare.org.uk/mendip to see more photos and sign yourself up. With just two months left to go until the event, now’s the perfect time to sign up and start training. Good luck! (Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen!)

 

TIPS FROM RACHEL SMITH, FUNDRAISING ASSISTANT

1.) Make sure you build up your training by gradually increasing your distances AND increasing the intensity by including longer and steeper climbs!

2.) On the day – Warm up your muscles by starting off gently or even cycling to the start! Give your legs and arms a good stretch. Remember, it isn’t just your legs that will be working; your core and arms will get a good workout in as well, so don’t scrimp on these in the warm-up!

3.) A lot can be said for a good bath, post-event. Grab yourself some soothing salts (or even some deep heat bath bubbles) and enjoy the warm water soothing your sore and tired muscles.

4.) Kit list:

* Make sure you have a decent-fitting pair of well-worn walking boots.  They mould to the shape of your feet, and this helps prevent rubbing and blisters.

* Invest in a good pair of walking socks.

Things to put in your backpack (but keep it lightweight!):

* Water! There will be water stops along the route, but don’t just rely on these. Bring along your own, as it can be very hot and exposed in places and there is a risk of dehydration if you don’t top up your fluids regularly.

* Fully charged mobile phone in case of emergencies.

  • * High energy nibbles such as dried fruits and nuts.
  • * A very basic first aid kit in case of any bumps or scratches from those nasty nettles.

* And of course a camera to take in all those spectacular views!

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