Four friends, now in our 60's, met at school in our
oversized blazers when we were 11 in 1972. We are now 50 years older, and have
maintained our friendship, impeccable musical taste, sense of sartorial
elegance and by some miracle, some semblance of fitness. Here we are below in
1979 and 2022!
To celebrate our friendship, we and some good friends decided to create memories for the rest of our lives by walking, running and cycling our way, clockwise from Inverness back to Inverness, around the North Coast 500 (five hundred miles) in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland over nine days in September 2022. Naming the project Ride & Stride, we also decided to raise money for three amazing charities: MIND, Cancer Research UK and Parkinson's UK. These are all causes close to our hearts, as the conditions have impacted us or family members and close friends directly. Little did we know how closely. Two members of the team received cancer diagnoses in the months leading up to the event, causing us on several occasions to consider cancellation, but mercifully, both responded well to treatment and joined the team for the challenge.
So, I love to run. For my wellbeing, love of the outdoors, and the (almost) free pass to eat and drink nice things! However, this multi-day event was a new challenge. Our different disciplines demanded several months of intense physical training alongside some intense logistical planning (and worrying!). For myself, what ensued was an epic 16- week running and strength-based programme to ensure I was in the best possible shape to tackle the 10+ miles a day running schedule over 9 consecutive days. By the way, the 'Highlands' are so named for a reason! No training, especially around Watford, can prepare you for the hill climbs that came our way! Many a time we wondered how our bodies and minds would hold up to the challenges we had set ourselves, but our mutual connection and support, the purpose of our trip and the growing confidence we attained as we progressed slowly round the route kept us going.
The photos best demonstrate the incredible, life-changing experience which we completed within the timeframe with no injuries - testament to the acquired fitness and sheer will of those involved, including our wonderful support team who had the thankless task of driving, encouraging and listening to our moaning every day. The whole team completed 576 miles across all the disciplines and here are some of the facts and figures:
Together with all our wonderful supporters, Ride & Stride finished by raising £12,782 for our three charities.
Friendship, challenge and resilience led us to do more collectively than we ever thought we could do alone; a wonderful experience - and now to decide on the next adventure!