Oxfam Trailwalker 2015

Oxfam Trailwalker originated in Hong Kong in 1981 as a military training exercise for Nepalese soldiers serving in the Queen’s Ghurkha Signals Regiment. These soldiers were known for being fierce, brave and extremely fit (and for carrying very large knives).

Today, the Oxfam Trailwalker is one of the world’s largest fundraising endurance challenges, driving teams of four people to walk, run (or crawl) a 100km course, over rough and uneven terrain, irrespective of weather conditions, in under 30 hours.

This year over 1,600 people participated in the UK version, which covered a large part of the South Downs walkway. It started just north of Portsmouth, snaked across the Downs and finished in Brighton.Two of the participating teams were from RAF Benson and were made up of both Benson and High Wycombe personnel. The runners were expertly assisted by the support crew from 606 Sqn with funding support from Inzpire and CAE. Team 1 (Inzpire sponsored) included Wg Cdr Marty Lock, Sqn Ldr Jez Allinson, Sqn Ldr Gareth Fretwell and Mr Antony Jones. Team 2 (CAE sponsored) included Wg Cdr Holland, Sqn Ldr Wez Lewis, Sqn Ldr Liam Taylor and Flt Lt Splash Ashton.

The support teams were excellent and they raised our spirits every time we saw them; smiling, encouraging and supplying endless amounts of Haribo. A good support crew is essential and the runners would like to thank each and every one of them. They included Sgt Dave Coombe, Cpl Mark Barlow, JT Darren Addison and SAC Mark Jenkinson.

Out of the 417 teams that started, both teams were delighted to be among the 260 that managed to complete it with a full compliment of team members. Balancing team dynamics and not trying to rush other team mates were  crucial and the standard ‘get over it’ and ‘man up wet pants’ was massively over used.

Most people’s idea of completing the South Downs probably includes a few nice pubs with a boutique B&B thrown in. However, watching the sun stretch over the hills was one of the most amazing and most energizing things I  think I’ve ever experienced. The various injuries, aches, pains and abundance of blisters hardly dented the team spirit; the humour and banter continued to the very end.

The last part of the walk…was amazingly difficult. I am astounded at people’s strength of character to keep going when obviously in a lot of pain. There was blood, sweat and tears aplenty as we finally crossed the finish line and the feelings of incredible pride (and relief) were clear to see.

The Inzpire team finished in a time of 16hrs 45 mins and the CAE team finished in 18 hrs 29 mins putting them in 47th and 70th place (from the 402 teams that finished) respectively. Both times were well ahead of what we were expecting so the training had clearly paid off.

The aim of the event was to raise money for Oxfam, who fight poverty by responding to emergencies like the earthquake in Nepal earlier this year which killed over 8,000 people and left 2.8 million people without homes. Thanks to various street collections and the generosity of customers of Sainsbury’s Oxford and Tesco’s Didcot the teams raised over £5500.

Now it’s complete, we can look back and be proud of what we’ve achieved. I found myself reflecting on what it was I loved about the event and it came to me pretty quickly. I loved the training, I loved the challenge and I loved  raising money for an organisation that does an incredible job and one that I have a huge amount of respect for. There was an amazing camaraderie among participants, support crews and volunteers and a wonderful buzz on the trail throughout the whole weekend. In summary, was it tough…… definitely, was it worth it……absolutely, will we do it again next year……probably!!

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