Last weekend, eight of our team undertook the challenge of a life time – walking 100km, almost non-stop, to combat poverty.
Crafted completed Trailwalker in 29 hours and 27 minutes, raising more than £3,400 for Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust. The epic challenge was to complete the 62 mile trek within 30 hours. I was part of the six-strong support crew, tasked with raising spirits and providing comfort at each of the 10 checkpoints.
During the weekend of 14th July, 14 Crafted members drove to the South Downs to start their colossal journey in the worst weather conditions in Trailwalker history. Not only did our walkers and support crew members have to contend with the torrential rain, the Trailwalker headquarters decided to drop all communication at midnight when all teams had to walk through the night and past dawn. Within 30 hours, numerous hold backs were overcome - along with monstrous hills and many blisters.
Due to the poor conditions, three checkpoints were closed. Cars had to be pushed and towed out of the fields and mental stability was pushed to the limit. There was even an occasion when a car had to be towed by a 4x4, which was towed by tractor. However, the support crew did their utmost to ensure that the walkers could be seen to, no matter what rest point was closed off.
“Checkpoint four and six were closed to all support crews, but we decided to surprise our walkers by parking on a road nearby to where they would be passing by. Our presence was always well received, offering smiling faces, friendly words and banter, as well as a dry place to change shoes and socks. To ensure that our walkers remained in good spirits and their energy levels remained high, we packed them off with snacks, home-made baked goods and, when they were at their lowest, letters from loved ones.”
Teamwork was essential for both groups at every stage of the journey. Without this, the walk wouldn't have been a success. The support crew delegated different roles to each member, which included topping up water supplies, ensuring food was offered and consumed at every checkpoint and timing every rest stop. Time was of the essence because the walkers were given 30 hours to complete this trek, putting additional pressure on the time that was spent at every stop.
“Watching the walkers during the evening checkpoints proved challenging for us. We watched their energy fade, their eyes glaze over and their bright personalities washing away. We all wanted to give them more time to regenerate and dig deep to find that extra bit of strength that we all knew they had.
“Having the time limit on each check point, not just the evening, was hard to stick to. However, we had to be tough to ensure that they finished on time. We had to encourage them to carry on, no matter how tired they were.”
The fifth rest stop marked the half way point and every Trailwalker had completed 31 miles, which was a terrific achievement in itself. However, this did mean the end of a journey for one walker. From this checkpoint on, two other members had to drop out, much to their disappointment. Every single walker showed grit, determination and desire to carry on, tackling everything that was thrown at them. They all did exceedingly well.
To keep spirits high between checkpoints six and seven, a few members of the Crafted support crew walked down a long, narrow and exceptionally muddy pathway to spur them on. As the sun had said farewell, head torches were worn to guide the path. To make light of the situation, we kept to one side of the footpath, turned off our lights along with a lamp, stood quietly (a few chuckles might have been shared) and waited for walkers to pass by.
As soon as distant lights of the walkers were spotted and they came closer, our lights came on and we cheered and clapped as the group carried on by. Our efforts to keep smiles on faces were well received by everyone, but our walkers failed to recognise us to begin with. After every Crafted walker had passed, we began to follow them, cheering and offering words of encouragement.
The evening had been and gone, and, when the morning broke, spirits began to rise again. This gave the support crew reassurance, especially as they knew that, from checkpoint nine, they wouldn't see them again until the end of the two and half marathon walk.
Checkpoint ten marked the finish line, and, at 12.30pm, five out of eight walkers passed, completing their task. An overwhelming sense of pride was on every face - including those of the families that had made the journey down to share the walkers’ triumph.
We're all very proud of the Crafted Trailwalkers that came to the start line and combated the weather head on.
To all Crafted walkers, bask in your glory, you've done tremendously well.
Written by Kate Southgate
Donations are still being gratefully accepted on our fundraising page.