Sophie, our Marketing and Communications Assistant, and her friend Ola took part in the South Coast Challenge series in aid of United Response. They walked 54km in 13.5 hours and raised an incredible £1,250 including gift aid – more than double their target! We caught up with them after their challenge to find out how it all went.

Why did you take on this challenge for United Response?

Ola: The work you do is incredible, and to be able to contribute to a charity that makes such a difference was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Sophie: I work for United Response and wanted to do something extra. I thought about how some of the people we support once lived in institutions further than 54km away from any family or friends, before we supported them. That really inspired me to sign up and keep putting one foot in front of the other to raise money.

How did you find training?Sophie and Ola on their first training walk

Ola: Training was great! I’m not especially outdoorsy so it was a case of learning how I cope with certain situations. It was great to get out of the city and see parts of the country I wouldn’t normally visit. I always found myself looking forward to my next training session.

Training was hard work! We signed up 5 weeks in advance and only fit in 3 long training hikes (only 1 with hills)… others trained regularly for up to a year. I also started walking the 4 miles home from work, and stepped up my general cardio routine - it’s really helped me to feel fit and healthy.

It was lovely doing the challenge with a friend – we spurred each other on, brought each other porridge and peanut M&Ms, moaned to each other and laughed together.

How did you raise so much money?

Ola: Constant updates on social media (and in real life!) about training, equipment, and how I was feeling about the walk. I found that a lot of people genuinely wanted to donate, but didn’t always get around to it straight away, so the constant reminders helped.

Sophie: Fundraising turned out to be the easy part! Before we signed up we were both concerned if we’d be able to raise £250 each. We hit our target a week before the walk, and we’ve now raised over £1000 – I’m seriously so proud of this!

What were the best bits of the whole experience?

Ola: Honestly, the experience itself. Walking for over 13 hours straight is many different things at once. Beautiful, difficult, therapeutic, enriching, exhilarating, draining, immensely satisfying, and more. Such a peculiar combination is new to me, and has made me realise how much I love walking.

My highlights were the random bursts of cheer that sneak up on, the beautiful scenery, having a valid excuse to eat half a pack of M&Ms, the camaraderie and the buffet at the finish line.

Sophie: Walking on my own in training – clearing my head, feeling healthy, happy and proud of myself; walking with my good friend in some beautiful places and meeting so many friendly people along the way, and of course crossing the finish line! Smashing our target meant every single ache, pain and blister was worth it.
Collage of photos from Sophie and Ola

Were there any low points?

Ola: I wasn’t so keen on the next-day soreness. Not ever being able to eat until you’re satisfied during the walk (as that’s too much food in one go). Going uphill. Going downhill.

Sophie: We got lost somewhere in training outside of Windsor at around 9pm without phone battery or a map. We had to cross a field of cows that were definitely staring at me with an evil look in their eyes (I was terrified), and ended up in a random village without a train station nearby. Luckily a kind pub landlord called us a cab and saved me the embarrassment of tears. Lesson learned to prepare for every eventuality!

How did it feel to cross the finish line?Sophie and Ola at the finish line

Ola: I felt relieved, proud, and very tired.

Sophie: It felt fantastic! My friends and family came out to support us and did the last part with me – I was practically running at this point! The thought of crossing the line suddenly becomes the most excellent, exciting prospect.

Do you have any tips for potential United Response fundraising champs?

Ola: First tip – do it! Whatever the activity is, you’re doing it for a great cause. Also, you’re probably doing something slightly out of the ordinary, and that’s what life is about. Beyond that, make sure you do enough training, buy the right equipment, and learn how to fuel your body properly. And take lots of pictures.

Sophie: Just. Keep. Walking! Share how hard you’re working on your social media and with your colleagues – they won’t find you annoying, they’ll just be impressed! Treat yourself after every milestone – you deserve it! Be proud of yourself and keep thinking about the huge difference your fundraising will make.

Watch their Snapchat journey below

How you can help

If you’d like to donate to Team Sophla’s target please visit their fundraising page.

Thinking about taking on your own challenge?

Contact the fundraising team