“Well, that was a nice little walk! 😊” were the words I tweeted at 9am on Wednesday 27th June. Precisely three days earlier I had started my SleepWalk Challenge, in aid of Bowel Cancer UK, the RNLI and The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.
In those 3 days / 72 hours, I walked for 225 km (140 miles) and had only 2 hours sleep!
My route took me round (and round and round!) London’s stunning Richmond Park, with occasional forays into Wimbledon Common, and along the Thames Path via Teddington Lifeboat station. Every six hours I would stop briefly at my support base (a camper van, parked with special permission in the corner of Richmond Park) for a meal break and to cool/wash my feet and change into clean socks. That way, I was essentially able to keep walking from 9am Sunday, through three days and nights, until 9am on the Wednesday morning.
For me, the SleepWalk represents the huge challenges some people face in their daily lives and I wanted to capture that spirit of positivity and endurance that enables them to carry on. Diseases like Parkinson’s, Bowel Cancer and mental health issues can be cruel and debilitating, but these charities fund crucial research, provide support in times of need and give hope to thousands – like my uncle – for a better life.
The high points?
There were too many to mention them all, but walking through Richmond Park in the moonlight – just me and the wildlife – is a magical experience. The Monday morning was particularly special; As the sky was starting to brighten, I indulged in my now-customary 3am disco dancing in the park (you should try it – it’s amazingly liberating and restorative! Strutting and twisting along the road to ‘Staying Alive’ or ‘You Sexy Thing’ is highly entertaining not only for the bemused deer staring at me, but it also makes me laugh out loud at myself – providing a huge good-mood boost. Just as importantly it also stretches muscles that don’t get used merely walking. There’s method in the madness!)
So, grinning from ear to ear after that, I was then treated to the most beautiful dawn, with the sun lifting the mist that had settled across the park. And I was lucky enough to share the sunrise with a herd of stags and fawns silhouetted on the hilltop. It was a beautiful and emotional moment.
The rest of the walk was no less special. I’ve been touched by all the wonderful friends and family – and strangers – who came to support me, some even walking with me for sections (ages ranged from 12 to over-70!). From those who couldn’t come in person, there were so many messages of support and donations, from across the globe, that kept me going.
Special heartfelt thanks have to go to the indefatigable Jenny and my Mum, who ran my support / meal base for the whole time, and to Angela who cooked me a delicious and varied menu to keep me fuelled. SBSC’s very own Jane SH even gave up her night and kept me going through my final midnight to 6am stint!
The low points?
You know what, there weren’t really any! It was an amazing experience.
Yes I got a couple of blisters and my legs were pretty sore, and I got tired at times – but it was managed with careful planning, pacing, physio attention and an ice-bath at the mid-way point. It just goes to show what is possible with the right support.
Oh, and a positive attitude – that probably helped too!
The point of it all?
To raise awareness and funds for three brilliant charities, who help people through adversity and huge challenges in their daily lives.
I tweeted updates during the walk – which can be found by searching for @SleepWalkGiles (you don’t have to be on Twitter) – most of which were shared multiple times and must have been seen by thousands of people. More of my story, and the reasons I’m supporting these charities, can be found (until mid-September) at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/sleep.walk.
And at the time of writing the total amount raised is edging towards £8,000 – Now, that’s worth staying out of bed for!!