This has been the most exhilarating and humbling experience ever!
5 marathons in 5 days .. 132 miles of waddling from Ilfracombe to Bulford in 5 days with the most incredible, selfless, inspiring bunch of people.
This chunky munky overweight, underfit, working Mother of 2 of gorgeous children, can finally lay claim to being an endurance athlete of mind,body and soul.
A quote/statistic stolen reads -
Only 10% of nearly 300 participants over 3 years have completed all 5 stages, (132.5miles) of the "Forces March", I am VERY proud to now be a member of the very small group.I was also awarded the Sarah Byrant Trophy for most outstanding female
, presented by General Pascoe, the President of The Veterans Charity.I held it together and didn't cry at this point but my goodness did the flood gates open when it sank in
what I had achieved over the last 5 days, and indeed over the last two years. It is a very humbling experience to have received this award when everyone has been truly tested and as equally outstanding, if not more! Rita, aged 62, ran every day, and not once did she visit the physio, or grumble.. even when there was no vegetarian option on the first night! Alice with her latticed work K-tape that kept her bound to run another day despite such bruising and pain. Debbie who had her hip displaced from the constant running on cambers. Brenda, from USA, learned the art of Tabbing with Graham Povey, a baptisim of fire! Kaja who every day just got in there to do her run thing on just rice-refueling initially! She had some tough battles to overcome through positive focus and mindset. This account can go on for every individual. Everyone should have their hand on that award.
My strategy for the week was run/walk the event. I had trained hard for hills and really trained hard for the mental attitude of long slog days, so when the going got tough this Duck just got tougher.
The first 2 days I had many hours on my own marching through lanes with fast moving vehicles who paid little regard to pedestarians. I did a lot of hedge diving, and trying to not get caught too much in the right hand cambers!
My focus was to pick on a target ahead, pick up speed, over take. The team from RAF Odiham, nicknamed "My Boys" were always ahead. I could only over take when they took a rest stop with their support crew. I would then waddle through as quickly as possible to make it harder for them to catch up. Most of the time, they did. Just. The last 4 days I beat them back. In my mind, that was a huge powerful motivating factor and kept me powered. Yes, they were carrying 20kgs in their bergens and wearing those goddam awful military boots whilst I skipped through with my dinky Nathan Hydration pack with just 2 kilos of water and my duck gold bling asics! On the last 2 days I was able to overtake on the waddle... and they just couldn't up a gear to take over.
I should like to give them a special hip-hip-hooray for selflessly always looking out and caring for me by offering water, electrolytes, snicker bars, pieces of chicken.. anything to make sure I wasn't underfueled or dehydrated. It wasn't just about them, their team, but about everyone finishing safely. This was one big team effort with lots of cogs supporting the Forces march.
This photo is taken at the end when they presented me with a Golden Egg! How on earth did they source that months after Easter?!
The 5 days were filled with some extra adventures for me. The Duck seemed to attract a fourth dimension no one else experienced.
Firstly, I must thank Danny for finally plucking up the courage to allow me to wear my ducksuit. I think he though I was a gimmick initially, but hopefully I have proved my weight in gold that not only can some one physically and mentally take on this endurance event as a serious challenge up there with Everest Ascents, round the world solo sailing, Marathon Des Sable (oh, wait, we just done that from Ilfracombe to Bulford!), but you could also have some fun in fancy dress.
I wear the suit as part of my other charity work and challenges. The focus was always on The Veterans Charity this week and I attracted a lot of attention to be able to verbally express my dedication and admiration for this charity. The suit became my albatross almost as I said I would wear it every day. I had not imagined that after unseasonally wintry conditions the previous week, the thermometer would jump up a few thousand centrigrades and be so relentlessly hot! I did promise to not wear it if I felt my health was at risk. But I over came the heat and discomfort and just carried on regardless.
In fact, I was getting a little cheeky with my replies when asked "Aren't you hot in that?"! Erm ,yes..ducking hot!!! So I would humour people and say "It's OK, I have aircon"! Oh the looks on peoples faces! Especially those that believed and asked how was it powered? "Solar energy and kinetic energy from heel strikes with every step", was my answer. If there had been any more techncal questions I would have crumbled!!!
Day 1, mile 5, I had an encounter with a Jack Russell that took exception to a 6ft Duck invading his "space". I had seen him on a leash in his garden, held by his flag-waving owner. I gave the gateway a wide berth, but it's "Little man syndrome" still gave it the courage to lunge at me, and there was enough length on that lead, to make sure he nipped me in the ankle!
I was checked over by our marvelous St John's ambulance crew, a mile away when I realised I really could feel some "pain". There were 2 little slash marks where I think the JRT claws must have scratched down the sock and into the trainer. In just the wrong place to be rubbed raw! The JRT must have had a mouthful of feathers, so I got off quite lightly!
Day 2 I had an encounter with a dairy herd and an alpacca! The Alpacca had spotted me waddling along a road, and it was up on a hill. It must have got whip lash the way it's head came up suddenly from grazing, then strained forward to check me out. A split second later it came galloping down it's field, scooby-doo stopped at the 5ft hedge and spat at me. Quite a feat as it missed me by a foot and I was at least 20 feet away!
The dairy herd were being held back in their field by a piece of string. I was coming down a lane ready to turn left into another lane, where a Farmer was sitting in a tractor, on the corner. A member of the Navy was just in front and said to the farmer "Oh let me through, and there is a Duck behind"!
Not sure what thought processes were going in either of their heads but the farmer turned around, saw me, winked .. and just as I rounded him and the corner, and was adjacent some string and cows, the Farmer dropped the string. I was then in the middle of the Milk Run. 12 cows heavy with milk, bolting across the narrow lane from their field to the milking shed opposite. I stood still, not bothered by this little tease until I questioned why was I getting wet? I was being covered by milk spilling from heavy swaying udders! Oh, and a little something extra brown!
I had 2 miles to go and I was due to meet with the locals at Crowborough Station, although I missed the last steam train leaving. I was a tad smelly with the milk quickly going off on me!
The photo above is me coming in to the station, and I do hope Rob wasn't laughing at the Hum!
I did rinse the suit off when I got back to camp! I had left the suit to dry over night in the barn and hoped I wouldn't wake up to see it up a flag pole or worse! I actually woke up to hear the support crew quacking, and they were chatting to it as if I had lost weight and humouring me! Erm boys..when have I ever been that quiet or not replied? I am actually also quite surprised nothing worse ever happened to the Duck, or the Ducksuit...especially in the middle of the night!
Another incident involved a talking hedge. Long story cut short, I was singing. I didn't dare put my ipod on as I needed to keep an ear out for the traffic from front and back! So I amused myself by singing and making up songs. This Hedge added in some extra lines as I sang the Yodelling song from the Sound of Music! The voice belonged to an invisible some one at the allotment!
I also made a pig jump out of it's skin when I "quacked" and it looked up.
I had my bluff called by Danny on day 4 when I was at the front of the queue to head out from the leisure park. I jovially said did he want to give everyone (the runners all queued up) a head start on me, and let them go first?
Danny said, "Let's give the Duck a count down to get away first, and ahead of you all..."!
After 5, I ran up the village. I was surprised I was ahead for so long. Did he give me a half hour head start? The poor horse trotting down the street towards me really didn't know what to make of the yellow spectacle moving quickly towards him! So he skidded sideways to a stop and reared! Luckily his owner stayed seated, laughed and thanked me for sidling past quietly!
So, 5 days of the most fantastic scenery and challenges. I know there were a lot of hills, and some very very tough hills, long roads, and some very very long roads. I kept to the positive outlook that I was traversing from A to B and occasionally the incline changed. Mind over matter.
I thought cooling thoughts whilst I became a boil-in-the-bag Duck in such heat.
In my head I constantly thanked Adam, Chris, Lauren and all the Physios for their strapping of my blisters so I could march another day.
I sang songs to keep up my morale - 6 RAF Squaddies marching on the road..and if 1 RAF squaddie should accidentally fall... (yes only 2 made the last day ;0) )
5 days of being looked after by the most excellent support crew, and in particular, Sarah, Ross, Porky, Danny (RAF) and the Navy Driver.
5 days in the company of initially strangers, but now people I would happily call my extended family, I feel quite priveleged to have been a part of this character building, awe inspiring endurance challenge. I had some great chats with Paul, Pete, Graham and Andy, who I did spend a deal of time walking with, at different times. But I don't want to single out any one person who really made this all so much more "do-able". Although Ross gets a special mention for making a poached egg without a ladle, just 2 wooden teaspoons! Plus Dan, who upon hearing about my hallucinations of Chucky The Clown bringing me a box of maltesers whilst camped in Cow Pat Field, went out and bought me a bag. Heroes!
2 years ago I signed up to do something quite fantastic to prove my doubting Thomases wrong. I was hoping to do the North Pole Race. The £25,000 entrance fee crushed that dream. I have no inclination to ever need to chase that dream, or regret I couldn't do it, as I did something far more challenging. I did the Forces March. Will I do it again? Oh yes, because still my husband has not voluntarily said he's proud of me. He acknowledges the endeavour but just the words have not been uttered. Perhaps he will learn to say it to stop me signing up for a third ;0)
I know my kids, Mother, sisters, friends and work colleagues are proud of me. But equally important, I have finally learned to recognise my achievement and be proud of myself.
The Forces March 2012. The most wonderful people, ever! Thankyou
Reminders and awards of the most incredible personal and physical journey - the Sarah Byrant Trophy, the Forces March medal, Gold Foil (all that is left of the Golden Egg), Champagne to celebrate and a Ducksuit and Hat to Treasure
Hello Quacks from an overweight perfectly sane 46 year old Mum!”
Yes that’s my introduction line when I begin a motivational speech to explain why I dress as a Duck. I am also usually wearing my Duck suit. So the reference to my sanity is imperative before some one shouts out for the straight-jacket!
I do my talks to a variety of people – school children, international police officers, Fibromyalgia sufferers, dancers, teachers, pensioners, active service men and women, disabled people. My talk is often a digression from the main theme of motivating oneself to do something out of your comfort zone. To focus on achieving anything. To be a true and honest character passionate about what you believe in.
Seven years ago I was very overweight. My children were at primary school and taking part in horse riding, dancing plus a variety of after school sport activities. I would watch them, jealously. Watch them as they energetically bounced, ran, jumped everywhere with huge amounts of energy and massive smile! Why was I jealous, as they are just being children? It’s because I didn’t have that energy, or zest for life.
Before being parents, my husband I would spend many weekends away with friends kayaking, mountain biking and living a fantastic energetic life. We were quite self indulgent in just enjoying ourselves. We didn’t save money just lived for the moment having fun. Why did it all stop and change?
It does take a lot of energy and money to raise children so our priorities changed. I couldn’t and wouldn’t work full time so money wasn’t as free flowing as it used to be. Plus, whilst pregnant I didn’t keep up the kayaking and mountain biking, just the eating and slothing. I was also still quite a selfish person only doing things for my family and I. I had only time for my family and me. We were a unit and I closed my mind to everything else.
During my first pregnancy I was signed off work early with preclampsia. I had to stay calm and inactive, well that was my understanding of the doctor’s advice. I took it quite literally for the next seven years though!
On my 39th birthday I thought “Oh my! I am going to be fat and forty on my next birthday”! So with that, I gave up smoking and slothing and got active! In that year I lost nearly seven stone through sensible eating and walking. That was a vanity deed. I didn’t want to look fat and forty! At least I had the choice to change something.
With the new fit body came a confidence that I could actually do something to benefit others with a challenge and fund raising event. Goodness! How selfless of me! I signed up for the breast cancer walk, the MoonWalk. I now had the pressure of continuing with my walking for fitness and weight loss to raise money for a good cause. Ok, so there was an ulterior motive to do something good for others, as it meant I had to keep up the hard work of training and lifestyle or I would look stupid amongst friends and family if I couldn’t take part in the event.
In May 2007 I did my first Moonwalk “marathon, as it was 26.2 miles, in my decorated bra, at midnight around London in just over eight hours. Hmm.. I had been training hard for a much faster time. So I signed up again for the following year! In 2008 I did it in just under seven hours! But I knew I could do it faster! So, in 2009 I did it in five hours! Still a selfish attitude to have, to want to do the same event to get better at it, not just raise more money or awareness.
And so I began my love-hate relationship with myself to find harder challenges to train for, plus raise money and awareness for a different charity. When I took stock of what I had just realised and understand that my fund raising was going to have an impact on others then I knew how lucky I was to be healthy and to have the choice to continue to stay fit and healthy. I had a “gift” or “tool” that could be used for others! My mindset and attitude could help those less fortunate. The mindset and focus would help my body train to get fitter, so I could continue helping others. I don’t have the brain to help in eloquent speeches or being in the medical profession, just the brawn, the body power and legs to do the work and shout the message.
I am not a natural born athlete. I have to constantly train and watch what I eat. I had a sloth year from the middle of 2009. I had continued with my love of walking and pursued my favourite past time of wild-camping, backpacking and endurance walks, all for pure selfish pleasure. I got large again, as I didn’t have to worry about my food, as I wasn’t in training for an event! But to be honest, I hadn’t been inspired for anything. I was a bit bored of just walking, and I certainly didn’t want to do running! Oh no, that would kill my knees and humour! Also, I wanted to help so many charities; how do you choose one and be driven with passion for the cause! I hadn’t really been affected by anything, despite losing a Grandmother to cancer, have a sister suffer with Crohns, a Mother who had angina.. how selfish of me! I wasn’t affected by anything, but they were! Why couldn’t I get passionate about what had affected their lives?
In January 2010 I went to a talk about the Polar Challenge with a friend. We were both smitten by the very idea of taking part in an extreme event that was pitched as being quite achievable, with training, by ordinary people, like us. We chose our charities based on what had been a significant impact on our lives – Help for Heroes, Fibroduck for Fibromyalgia, Marie Curie for cancer and Brookfields Special Needs school (my work connection).
My life suddenly took on a new meaning in so many ways. I had to really launch myself into my training. With Darren at revive, the gym that was prepared to invest time and membership in my training, I had to push myself mentally and physically. I was driven by the need to be fit for the challenge but also to promote the charities. The focus and inspiration was the motivation and drive.
Sadly there were a few changes to the team and my life in October and I lost my drive and motivation. The challenge also became unachievable, as I couldn’t raise my entry fee of £25,000. Therefore part of my drive to train became lost. But, the faith in me by others, helped me rebuild my resolve, take a new course of direction and focus and so The Rambling Duck was born.
I am just an ordinary Mum, who has to clean, cook, and shop for the family. I have a very demanding job working with special needs children, plus I work some additional hours for free helping friends with their Stage College business. I still find the time and energy to train for a variety of events, as well as promoting the charities I am raising the profile and funds for, as well as encourage other people to take on board a challenge. I am passionate that everywhere should spare some time to help a good cause; dedicate time and energy to something where there is no financial reward just payment in kind for the heart and soul for helping others. I am not financially wealthy but I am extremely rich in good friends, good will and soul which makes me smile, a lot.
I learned a lot about Fibromyalgia last year when I started doing events as Fibroduck. It is my mission to continue fundraising for all those that suffer with Fibromyalgia; for more research and awareness. I can only slightly tap into their daily pain and tiredness by pushing myself through challenging events. But as I get fit and stronger, then I am not in as much discomfort. For a Fibromyalgia sufferer, that pain and tiredness is constant, until the medical world finds a cure or positive relief. Each sufferer is slightly different and should be treated as such, not just as a blanket concern, and fobbed off with symptomatic medication. Treat each person individually and holistically for his or her own pains and experience. Therefore I have chosen to suppot some Fibromyalgia support groups and Fibroduck
So for 2011 I did a few long distance walks, Quackathons, and from October I will start doing some marathons. My ultimate challenge is the Forces March
in May 2012, which is to run 5 marathons in 5 days. I am also hoping to do the Iconic London Marathon. Not bad for someone professes to hate running! That’s what getting passionate about a good cause does to you. When you learn to see the world through the eyes of a person who wants to do good for others, not just yourself. Have a peek at the events
page to see all my challenges; and all dressed as Fibroduck!
This is why I am The Rambling Duck. Added bonus is I do get to have fun in my Fibroduck suit and meet all of you.
You can read more about me at www.theramblingduck.com I blog weekly as the Duck’s Ramblings, and I love to quack a lot on twitter and facebook
As a few of you will know I have been searching for THE CHALLENGE to supersede the Polar Challenge. It had to have a low cost entrance fee, a reasonable and achievable fundraising amount, good event support, and ooze appeal for others to want to do it with me as well as have the “Oh My God”! factor to blow your socks off.
I think I have just had my socks blown off. Five Quackathons in Five days?
Last year Dean Grimshawe of Team Warriors
asked me if I would like to be a part of his team doing the Forces March
for 2011. I declined, as I needed all my fundraising and training effort to be totally focused on the 2012 Polar Challenge. That particular challenge has now very much been drop kicked out of orbit. I can not raise the £25,000 entrance fee, let alone raise anything extra for the charities. I don’t have a network of friends and family who can dedicate their time; effort and enthusiasm to fund raising to allow me to just get on with the training.
Dean and Team Warrior completed the Forces March at the end of May. He quickly put out a twitter request asking if any one would like to be a part of a team for 2012. Wow, he must have really enjoyed the pain he endured for the challenge! Why? So I had to ring him and ask a whole lot of questions. My curiosity had been piqued! And you all know what that this Duck is like with her nosy beak! I had followed the twitters during their challenge and often saw the words “hurt”, Achilles heel gone”, “blisters”, “knackered”, “tent with no pegs”… what has made him want to go back for more?
The Forces March is billed as one of the UK’s top challenge events. Participants complete five stages in five days. 132.5 miles from Ilfracombe to Bulford. Each stage is at least 26 miles in length – 5 marathons in 5 days! The undulating all-road route begins in Ilfracombe, North Devon and passes through Exmoor, the Quantock Hills, rural Somerset and much of Salisbury Plain before finishing just outside of Bulford Camp, the UK’s biggest Army Garrison. “The Forces March is not a race. It is not a competition. It is a journey, an adventure, a life-changing experience.” Oh, that’s my clincher! Part of the entry requirement is to raise a minimum of £1000 (per team member) for The Veterans Charity. ALL funds raised as a result of participation in The Forces March must be for The Veterans CharityThe Veterans Charity
, and was founded in 2008 to provide support for the Veterans of the UK armed forces. Their focus is to support ALL Veterans and to ensure that their needs are met as quickly as possible.
The Forces March is based on a legendary march taken by men of the newly formed 6th Airborne Division during early training for D-Day in the summer of 1942. Following weeks of intensive PT the men were told they could stand down and head back to Bulford Camp where they were based at the time. However, one last task was assigned; to WALK back to Bulford. A distance of approximately 130 miles! The men not only walked back to Bulford but they completed the arduous route in 5 days dressed in FULL KIT each carrying up to 80lbs in weight!
The phone call to Dean only whetted my appetite. He assured me that everyone mingled running with walking. The Die-hards who tried to run it at speed for the first two legs did themselves a mischief. There was nothing he didn’t say, even when he honestly spoke about some of the painful moments, that I thought “Eek, no!” I want something to push me beyond my boundary and out of my comfort zone.
I am not Super Duck, just one with a passion to achieve more out of life for me and others. There was also a fantastic support crew who made life comfortable and went beyond the call of duty with motivation and enthusiastic support, keeping up morale and humour.
I whizzed down to my gym, Revive
, to see Darren (Manager and best-ever instructor) to let him know what mischief this Duck is up to… he smiled and after a cautionary word or two, has declared “Game On”!
All emotional baggage dumped at the door and the focus is back on to spend the next year getting me strong for the Great South Run, the Reading half marathon, the London Marathon (I hope) and Five marathons in Five Days! Oh, did I mention I don’t run? YET!!!!
Oh and of course I will be doing this dressed as Fibroduck still raising awareness for FibromyalgiaDean wrote a blog for Veterans Charity in lieu of doing the Forces March 2011 - have a read