As many of you know I founded Ginger Stone after the experiences of loved ones struggling to find luxurious skin care products when going through treatment for cancer. But in this case the C doesn’t stand for Cancer it stand for Challenge, Climbing and Creaking knees.
A couple of weeks ago I had the real pleasure of undertaking the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike to raise money for Macmillan Cancer. A 23.5 mile hike climbing over 4000ft. It has taken me a bit of time to write this as I have been thinking about the experience, the challenge and what the day meant.
When I first heard of the opportunity it was from hearing about it from a friend who did the same challenge the year before. What fun I thought, a walk along the beautiful Jurassic coast. Looking back I realise now I was a little unprepared for what was to come.
The Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike is a 23.5mile walk along the coast in Dorset, past some beautiful and iconic landmarks. The walk sets off in Weymouth and ends near Corfe Castle, along the way passing Durdle Door and its iconic natural limestone arch, Lulworth Bay , Kidderidge and the welcoming view of Corfe Castle, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th Century .
I was soon to discover this was no weekend stroll across a coastal path. We arrived at the starting point and it is fair to say the nerves had kicked in, it was 730am and we were booked for an 8am start, and it was hot already, with no hint of breeze! It was a strange feeling of excitement and an unnerving sense of anticipation of what was to come. A quick bit of warm up stretches, group Zumba and we were off. The first five miles passed in a beautiful sense of being part of a big challenge family, we walked out of Weymouth in a pack of green t-shirts, old and young, men and women. We headed along the beach road, and then headed into some beautiful, lush green countryside, walking through beautiful wooded areas and open grassland. We chatted, we debated and we laughed. I was lucky to be walking with two amazing ladies, both of whom had their own reasons for doing the walk and who were friends but now will be friends for life after sharing this experience. But it was obvious from listening to people, we all had our own stories for doing this. Some wanted the challenge that came with the hike but many had friends and family in their minds that had or were facing their own challenge in overcoming cancer, the green army was walking to stand up to our collective enemy.
The first rest stop at 5 miles was a welcome site and by golly did Macmillan know how to put on a ‘good spread’ (as my mother would say!). I think we all were a bit taken aback by the field of fruit and pastries that welcomed us with open arms, but that fresh pineapple was much needed boost to our sugar levels and the pastries were a much rejoiced guilty pleasure, there are no calories in food when walking 23.5 miles!We marched on, congratulating ourselves on our pace, at this rate we will finish in 7.5hours we told ourselves. But then things began to change, the landscape got a bit more rugged, the hills a bit steeper and we realised the stroll in the country was over and this was going to get tough. The first clue to this was walking up a hill towards Lulworth Cove, we suddenly saw people sitting down, what was going on? What are we walking towards? What the heck? We had, for a short while been walking with a group where someone had a radio and Take That was spurring us on but suddenly the music ahead stopped, a sense of foreboding had definitely hit. We slowed pace a bit and got to the edge and there before us was a downhill slope that set the scene for the rest of the walk. IT WAS STEEP! People were dropping to go down on their bottoms, but the ground was a made of limestone and was loose rock and earth, there had been no rain so it was dusty and loose, the bottom was not an option, thank heavens for my lifesaving Leki poles. We got down in one piece, I am sure this may have been the first time we laughed about ‘one down so must be nearer the end of the hard bit’. Between us we knew the route a bit so we were certain it wouldn’t be like that all day.
We walked on, the sun was blazing and that sea breeze we promised ourselves had yet to turn up. More steep climbs, I was fine going up but down hill was becoming a challenge – the creaky knees I referred to were beginning to raise a whimper. The green army marched on, we walked past tourists dressed in beach wear heading to the sea. I must be honest there was a hint of green for envy as I saw paddleboarders and swimmers in the crystal blue sea. I am truth be told a girl that prefers being in and under the water rather than walking past it!
Then it was there the marquee of destiny, LUNCH! If it is true an army marches on its stomach we were not disappointed, but although I love my food the stop for a rest, a change of socks and a breather was possibly even more welcome. However we didn’t stop for long with fear of muscles seizing we set off on the final 13.5 miles, Telling ourselves the hottest part of the day was over and the biggest hills defeated we set of with almost a spring in our step!
A quick stroll along the sea front and we were soon to learn the hardest hill was still to come. It has to be said the afternoon was hard, the sun was unrelenting as were the hills. The hardest section being an almost vertical climb from sea level to 430ft. Seeing the line of people crawling like ants ahead of us as we walked down to sea level to struggle back up again certainly made you think.
I have to admit the downhills were getting harder on my knees so when we came to a grassy downhill there was nothing for it but some bottom sledging, it was such good fun slipping down the hill on your bottom laughing like children as we went.
It has to be said despite the heat, the fact the sea breeze never did arrive and it didn’t get cooler after lunch but hotter, the last few miles were easier; although I don’t think it felt like that at the time. It was definitely flatter, but I was tired and ready for a bath and a sit down, and then it was there the first glimpse of Corfe Castle, nearly there!
With what must have been my 100th effort of the day pace picked up , a bit! The welcome to the finish line came 10 and a half hors after the start and as always the welcome across the line was phenomenal! Medals and a glass of prosseco in hand I could have wept I did it I took on the challenge and beat it, with a little bit of help from my friends and the green army.Since the walk I have really reflected on how my journey that day, with the climbs, the joy, the fear of what was to come, the true moments of joy and elation at beating the hills and smashing the challenge. This a little like the conversations I had with Bec and my mum from the day of diagnosis, through treatment to hearing the news that they had beaten the Big C.They had their moments of ‘this is a breeze what is all the fuss about’ to those moments especially during chemo when the fear set in and they felt there was no end, and the amazing feeling when there were told treatment was done, cancer had gone, given their medal and glass of fizz.
Sadly for Bec, a second battle with cancer was too much and we lost our gorgeous friend to the cruel beast and it was devastating when we learnt that there would be no medal the second time, but there were plenty of glasses of fizz to be drunk before it finally won.
My 23.5 miles is nowhere near their battle, but it really makes you think of the importance of that green army , and all the other green armies of walkers, runners, cyclists, and the wealth of other fundraisers, all raising hundreds of thousands of pounds to aid the research, the nursing, the volunteers, the support that Macmillian offers everyday, 365 days a year. Those smiles we saw, those words of encouragement greet people everyday in situations that I can only imagine; they are invaluable. 10.5 hours and soar knees for a couple of days is the absolute least I can do to thank them for all they did for our family, and continue to do for hundreds of people everyday.