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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Beyond Sight Loss Fundraising Event Success

Just wanted to share with you what a great time I had when I attended a fundraising event.  The event was hosted by and in aid of Beyond Sight Loss which is a peer led support group for visually impaired people living in Tower Hamlets.

It was an excellent evening.  There was music being played in the background and lots of raffle prizes were won by the members, which included high street vouchers, teddy bears and exhibition tickets.  Beyond Sight Loss are very grateful to the individuals and organisations who donated their prizes to the group.  Moreover, prizes were handed out to members who were able to give correct answers to ‘Guess the Weight of the Cake’ and “How Many Sweets in a Jar”.

Members also enjoyed their three-course meal.  It included samosas for starters, Undhiu (a variety of unusual vegetables, prepared slowly with small mildly spiced dumplings), served with naan and raitha for the main course, and mango sorbet for desert.  The food tasted fresh and was very delicious to eat!

Towards the end of the evening, everyone was in a great mood.  The members were dancing on the dance floor and having a fantastic time.  What can I say?  The fundraising event was a success and I’m already looking forward to next year!

Well done Beyond Sight Loss for putting on such a great event and to chairwoman Ashrafia Chouldhury for making it all possible.  Congratulations!

Written by Christine Edmead, ELVis Administration and Information Officer

‘The Who’s Tommy’ Musical Experience

Hello lovely people,

Just wanted to say what a great time I had when I was guiding a member of the Beyond Sight Loss social group to the theatre.

The group went to see a rock musical called ‘The Who’s Tommy’ at the Theatre Royal in Stratford, east London.

Before the show began the group were given a touch tour where they met some of the performers, feel the props and see the stage up close. A lot of the members said having the touch tour was a fantastic idea and helped them visualise the story better when listening to the audio description of the show.

When the show started the fun began. I saw some of the people in the audience get up from their seats to dance, and others began singing along with the songs. Some of The Who songs featured in the show included ‘Tommy Can You Hear Me’, ‘I’m Free’, ‘See Me’, ‘Feel Me’, and ‘Pinball Wizard’ – all of which were my favourite songs to listen to when I was growing up.

Overall, the show was a memorable experience for all the members of Beyond Sight Loss. Everyone mentioned how energetic the ‘Tommy’ cast were, and that they would be recommending the show to family and friends. I must say that if you’re a fan of the music by The Who this musical is worth watching!

Finally, I would like to thank Ashrafia Choudhury, Chair of Beyond Sight Loss, for making this trip happen and for all the support and guidance that she does for the group.

For more information about ‘The Who’s Tommy’ please visit the following website link: http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/tommy

Written by Christine Edmead

A Newbie’s Account of Ridderrennet and the Limited Snow Filled Week

I signed myself up to the 2017 Ridderrennet week in November 2016, not knowing what I’d really gotten myself into having never cross-country skied before.

Ridderrennet is an annual international disabled cross-country ski competition held in Beitostølen supported by student volunteers from Sports Science degree courses and the King’s guards from the army. With cross-country skiing there are two tracks in the snow that skis fit into, which aid vision impaired people to follow the tracks whilst skiing.

After having a rocky start with Ryanair on Sunday 26 March and their limited desire of wanting to accommodate 8 blind and partially sighted passengers we safely landed in sunny Oslo. On Monday morning I was paired up with my guide for the week. We ventured out and hit the snow, or what may be better referred to as slush and rather difficult cross-country skiing conditions.

By the end of day 2 I wasn’t sure whether skiing was for me, but when old hands like Mike Brace say “I’ve never known snow conditions to be this bad in all my years of coming and for beginners it isn’t the best conditions to be learning to cross-country ski”, I stopped giving myself a hard time for not grasping it as well as I’d have liked. As the week progressed so did my skiing abilities and the slight onset of sore muscles informed me that I was working hard!

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Photo of Masuma standing in the snow with her skis on.

Thursday arrived with snow falling and the challenge of tackling the hills as part of my first race. Not sure who at this stage was more nervous me or my guide! I was counted down at the start line and before I knew it we were off and tackling our first downhill of the 4K race. I made it to the finish line with some rather splendid uphill and downhill falls along the way, but in 54 minutes and one exhausted piece! The rest of that day entailed rest and sleep!!

Saturday morning the atmosphere was buzzing over breakfast with everyone excited about the race, with plenty of discussions about start times and competing to beat each other, as well as own personal race times. Whilst the skiers and guides readied themselves for the race at the World Cup Arena the military band came out and played. My personal goal was to try to beat my time from Thursday, although not knowing what the tracks would be like it was virtually impossible to say how it would plan out.

For the second time that week I queued and edged my way to the start line and waited to be counted down with my guide beside me who was telling me I had to give it my all as it was the last day of skiing and I could rest tomorrow. I encountered just as many interesting falls as the previous race, but with more confidence and the focus of beating my time in the forefront of my mind I got up and kept going. I crossed the finish line with a few marvellous falls with my legs having turned to jelly and given way from exhaustion of smashing my previous time and coming in at 35 minutes!

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Photo of Masuma and her guide with the medals they won in the race.

Despite the lack of snow and awful conditions as a newcomer it was a great week, I got to meet some awesome people, push myself physically and try something new and challenging at the same time, as well as discover muscles I didn’t know existed, or had forgotten they did. To say I was sore by the end of the week was an understatement! As one of a few newbies on the trip we didn’t have the same expectations as previous attendees, so did the best we could, but equally giving us something better to look forward to hopefully next time.

The whole week was extremely well organized from transport to guides, to volunteer support at breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you were unfortunate enough to be lost, or misguided by another vision impaired person (a frequent occurrence!) a helping hand was never too far away to offer a guiding arm.

If you have never cross-country skied and are looking for something challenging to do as well as socialise then I’d say to keep an eye out for next year’s Ridderrennet week and start working on the leg and arm muscles.

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Photo of Masuma and other participants proudly showing their medals.

Written by Masuma Ali