Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Jolly Jaunt

It's Summer again and time to don the old walking boots! On Saturday just gone, myself, my brother and my eldest son set out for a 46 mile walk around 4 of the wartime (WWII that is) Pathfinder airfields in Cambridgeshire. This is an annual endurance walk organised by the RAF to commemorate the Pathfinder Squadrons who had to circle over the targets in Germany, dropping flairs to illuminate the target for the main bomber force. These airmen are absolute heroes. For the last decade or so I have met some of the survivors at their annual reunion. They risked so much in such terrifying circumstances, the mind doesn't even begin to comprehend. Many thousands of these brave men lost their lives in order to secure victory over the Nazis. It is right and fitting that their memory should be commemorated by this walk. The walk is a painful and punishing affair. It is designed to test a person's resolve and will power. I have completed this walk on 3 separate occasions and can speak from my own experience of just what a challenge it is, and if you are the sort of person who likes to be tested in this way, then I recommend it.

We set out at 4.35 am on what promised to be a really pleasant morning as far as the weather was concerned. Then, black clouds started to appear on the horizon. As they drew nearer , streamers of falling rain were apparent, so we knew we were in for a soaking. I put on my waterproof top. My brother wore his for some of the time, but after a spell of sunshine without it on, he got soaked from head to foot in a sudden downpour. Thunder rumbled around us. Our feet got very wet. This meant our socks lost their springiness, and this probably had a lot to do with the blisters my son developed. What started out as a happy, jaunty walk, gradually deteriorated into a painful slog across boggy countryside from one heavy shower to the next. The weather forecast I checked "on line" the day before said "Light rain" - yeah, right!! Even so, undeterred we plodded on, only stopping in one pub for a coffee and the chance to dry a little. At around 17 miles into it we were pleased that we were feeling pretty good, as this augured well for our forthcoming attack on the West Highland Way next month. However, after about 20 miles, we really started to feel the strain. At around this point, you have used up most of your blood sugars and you start to burn into your body's energy reserves - fat. We struggled on for a total of 33 miles until we reached the fifth checkpoint at Bluntisham, where we were apologetically told by one of the organisers that we were not being allowed to continue and were to be taken back in the comfort of the minibus. The reason for this terrible blow was because it was now getting late in the day and the amount of time and weather conditions made it an unwise option to continue. For that reason the option was denied us. What a tragedy. My son really wanted to hobble on despite the excruciating pain of his expanding blisters. Myself and my brother were also gutted at not being able to continue despite feeling utterly exhausted and near to collapsing. What a shame!!! Next year maybe - maybe not!

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