A couple of days before this challenge I was having serious doubts that I should do it, not because I didn’t think I was ready. I was ready as I would ever be, but because I had managed to trip and fall – again! About 10 days before the trek I tripped outside Weybridge station on the way to work and landed heavily on my knees. It was quite a shock; with no padding they were very sore. I managed the last of my taper walks over the bank holiday weekend but my pace was a lot slower and even up until the Friday before the trek they were still quite sore, so you can understand my doubts. Someone at work suggested I buy some Voltarol gel for my knees, so I made sure I got some with my weekly shop. The Global Challenge at work also finished on Friday and I’m pleased to say that I now have 16 virtual trophies including the Centurion for completing the 100 day challenge with zero missed step entries and the Gold for successfully completing the 100 day journey. Shame I couldn’t include the steps from the Trek!
I decided to stay with my brother & sister-in-law who was doing it with me, the night before. They live in Warminster, about 30min closer to Salisbury than Farnborough, so I didn’t have to get up quite so early. Even so we were still up by 5.30am and it was still dark! After breakfast and smothering my knees with Voltarol we set off in the chill of an early morning by about 6am for the Park and Ride, just outside Salisbury watching the sun rise on the way. The event started from Hudson’s Field, near Old Sarum, an Iron Age hillfort. After enjoying a bacon buttie, some chat from the organisers and the customary warm up routine, about 400 walkers set off at 7.45am across the field towards Salisbury. The route took us past The Maltings where those awful Novichok poisonings it place; it was sad to see the area still cordoned off. Then through the city centre towards the magnificent cathedral, through the Cathedral Close and through Harnham to the south of Salisbury. Here we enjoyed one of our first ascents, up some quite steep steps through the Harnham woods on the way to Salisbury Racecourse and the first checkpoint at 6 miles. After topping up our drinks bottles and stocking up on munchies, we were well provided for, we continued on our way up yet more hills and down again. I found coming down a lot harder than going up, some of the tracks were quite coarse chalky gravel and made walking somewhat treacherous, especially since I had given up on my walking shoes, too uncomfortable, and was wearing my running trainers. Before we knew it we had reached the 10 mile point with the first mile marker saying there were 16 miles to go! I’m glad to say my knees were feeling fine and we had set a very good pace even with the hill climbs.
The route then took us through Groveley Wood, home to The Four Handsel Sisters, accused of witchcraft and bludgeoned to death in the woods and buried apart from each other. Apparently there are four gnarled beech trees associated with them. I’m certainly glad I didn’t know this when we walked through those woods! After the woods it was downhill towards the village of Great Wishford at the half way point and where we would stop for lunch. As we crossed the stream on the way to the village hall I was surprised to see a number of spectators looking out for friends and loved ones. By this time I was feeling the beginnings of a blister on the ball of my left foot, the first one in all that training, and took the opportunity to change my socks. It was to turn out to be a wise choice!
After lunch it was another uphill slog, then gradually downhill with a few uphill sections past the 16 and 18 mile markers (or 10 miles to go and 8 miles to go depending on how you look at it!) until we were in sight of Stonehenge at approx 18-19 miles.