Grit, Limestone and Determination

After many months of vigorous and intense training for the Peak District Challenge 50k walk, Saturday 22nd September arrived and with it a 4.30am start!  Everything I had worked for was about to come together in some shape or form.  What it really meant in reality was I had no idea!  But 5am while forcing myself to eat yogurt and Granola wasn’t the time for self-doubt.

With final checks of backpacks and walking boots on, we made our way downstairs.  Having struggled to get a cab the day before, we left it in the capable hands of the reception staff at the Millstone Country Inn, who assured us that there would be a cab to pick us up.  Our cab angel arrived on time much to our relief- I certainly didn’t fancy a 15 minute walk just before I was about to walk 50k!

With registration and the necessities done, I was feeling an array of emotions from nerves to excitement.  With a feeling of butterflies in my stomach, we began the biggest trekking journey of my life at around 7am.  The first 10k of the walk was easy on flat ground along the road, but we were more than aware not to fall into the trap of false security as a difficult 10k at Castleton was approaching.

Castleton was just the beginning of the difficulties that lay ahead for our remaining 40k.  No amount of training would have prepared me for the toughness of the terrain.  We had to tackle from step up and down hill climbs with loose rocks of various sizes, to trekking along narrow paths with stinging nettles on one side and a range of descents on the other.

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 The team “Look Who’s Walking” at the top of Cave Dale during their Bronze Challenge.

The moments I was able to enjoy on the walk included listening to nature and how the sounds and echoes changed in different areas like valleys with rock faces on either side.  We also walked on the sandy heathered expanse of the Peaks, where my team mates even spotted some deer in the distance.

Towards the end of the walk, we had to cross some streams.  I generally love the sound of water, but I was too tired to enjoy anything by that point because all I could think about was to just keep moving.  Every step was a step closer to the finishing point!

The last 5k was the hardest as I felt I had nothing more to give, but I couldn’t give up as I’d come too far to do that.  I’ve never known 2k to last so long that it felt like 4k!  When my teammate, Ian, said that he could see Memorial Hall, which was at the finishing point, I couldn’t believe it.  When we turned right and through the gates emotions took over and there were no words.  With the final check point scanned and our time logged, the walk was completed.  In that very moment we had made history being the first blind and sighted group to tackle and complete the Peak District Challenge.

Seeing family and friends at the end was honestly the best feeling in the world, and I am so grateful to my family for making the journey and coming along for the weekend.

I won’t be putting on my walking boots anytime soon, however I certainly don’t want to lose the level of fitness I have gained.  I will be considering running as an option, which is something I’ve haven’t done properly before, therefore it is a great outcome from the walk as it has pushed me to do something else new! 😊

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Bhavini and Masuma, both smiling, wearing their purple Peak District Challenge shirts that says ‘Grit, Limestone and Determination’. They are standing in front of a window looking into the ELVis office.

You can still sponsor the Look Who’s Walking Team at our Just Giving page to help raise funds for the Bendrigg Trust.

Thank you for reading!

Written by Masuma Ali, ELVis CEO

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My Training for the Peak District Challenge

I have given up my social life over the last 8 months training for the Peak District 50k Challenge taking place this September.  I and my Look Who’s Walking team members are hoping to be the very first blind and sighted group to undertake such an exhaustive challenge and to complete it in the allocated 12 hour time frame. The Look Who’s Walking team consists of Bhavini, Saul, Ian and myself.

I would consider myself reasonably active with a good base level of fitness due to my joy of seeking out adventurous activities, as well as regularly taking part in tennis and other sporting events.  I started the year by doing short walks of 5k three or four times a week, and over the months I have increased the distance I walk.

Most recently, I completed my longest walk of 24 miles. My fitness levels were certainly stretched!  With the final 3 miles being a struggle, the idea of jumping on the train at Cockfosters was extremely inviting.  However, I persevered and hit the 24 miles.  It isn’t every day that I’ll be able to say I’ve done 57,000 steps!

Personally, one of the biggest challenges has been finding people to guide me as part of my training during the evenings for a couple of hours and longer walks on a weekend to ensure I am well placed to complete the challenge. It highlights how an activity that is taken for granted by most people can instantly become inaccessible for blind and partially sighted people.  I am extremely grateful to my family and friends who have walked with me and supported my training efforts over the past 8 months, and are continuing to do so leading up to the event.  If it wasn’t for their support, I wouldn’t have built up the stamina to undertake such a challenge.

It has also encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and seek walking opportunities elsewhere. This has led to me attending a Meetup walking group, which for me was a huge deal to pluck up the confidence to not only be guided by someone I didn’t know, but to also walk with people I hadn’t met before. However, they were all super lovely and I’d happily walk with them again in the future even after my challenge. I believe mainstream activities such as walking should be inclusive, and I want to remove the need for vision people to only attend VI events.

Moreover, as part of my training, I’ve started making my own energy snack bars to eat during my walks. My speciality is a date-based bar.  They have become my pick-me-up when the energy levels are dipping.  After our 12 mile training day in June in the Peaks with terrain of various degrees of difficulty and the energy quickly disappearing, I can see myself chomping through several of my homemade creations on the big day.

For anyone wishing to sponsor my Peak District walk with the Look Who’s Walking Team, you can do so on our JustGiving page, or if you fancy walking with myself and Bhavini for the final few weeks, please contact us via the Look Who’s Walking website at https://www.lookwhoswalking.org/.

Hopefully my next update will be on the success of the challenge and how we all got on.  See you soon!

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The Look Who’s Walking Team high up in the Peak District during a practice run of the challenge.

Written by Masuma Ali, ELVis CEO