“It was tough, really tough, far tougher than we’d anticipated and by far the toughest thing either of us has ever done… but that just made the achievement all the more satisfying”

The Thames Path Challenge is an endurance walk following the Thames Path National Trail all the way from Putney Bridge to Henley.  United Response staff member Martyn Weeds covered the 100km in less than 24 hours to raise funds for United Response:

The closest I came to quitting was when we got up following the half-way rest stop. All was OK until I stood up to continue, and found my ankles were unbearably painful, and had swollen up quite a bit. The first 10 paces were agony, and I was very aware we still had well over a full marathon distance to go. So, I sat back down, bandaged up, took some painkillers and tried again.

The next kilometre was covered at a snail's pace, but Mat (my friend and walking partner) and I soon found the rhythm that was to see us through the next 12 hours. We really helped each other in that when my inflamed ankles were becoming unbearable, Mat would be able to talk me through getting my motivation back, and when his knees and toes were causing him to consider withdrawing, I was able to pull him through - we never reached desperation point at the same time, which in the end brought us to the finish line at 8.45am on Sunday morning – 15 minutes under our 24-hour target time.

Writing this 4 days later, my ankles are still swollen (I struggle with stairs and take twice as long to walk even relatively short distances), but it gets a little better each day and my mind is already turning towards the next challenge (watch this space!)…

Above all though, I’m just really, really pleased we did it. Partly, of course, it’s the sense of physical achievement: we took on something genuinely difficult and managed to pull through in true ‘mind over body’ fashion – but I’m also proud of the way we did it together, supporting each other through the dark times and enjoying a celebratory drink together afterwards – and of course I’m incredibly proud of the fact that we raised a little bit of money for a very great cause.

One thing that has really struck me over the last few weeks is how many of us are affected by disability and mental health needs at some point in our lives - and how little we talk about it. This was really brought home to me by the number of friends that have spoken to me or sent me messages in the last few weeks telling me of their own connections to the cause we were raising money for – whether it was through ageing relatives with dementia or personal experience of mental health needs, it stuck me that I’d never had these conversations before, even with people I purport to know well.

It really hit me how difficult it can be for a bunch of mates (and I’d suggest it’s relevant here that I’m predominantly taking about young, male friends) to talk about how disability and mental health have affected them, unless given ‘permission’ to by one of their number doing something to raise funds for just such a cause.

If there’s one thing that I hope will endure long after the tiredness has subsided and the ankles have reduced to a more normal size, it’s that these conversations will continue, and that others will be able to have them in future.

Martyn Weeds.

If you’re interested in taking on a challenge to raise much-needed funds for United Response’s work supporting people with disabilities and mental health needs to take control of their lives, you’ll find opportunities ranging from skydiving to the London Marathon, and from climbing Kilimanjaro to cycling from London to Paris – all in the events section on our website.