Everyone knows the crew at Camps International are a little bit crazy and I am no exception! I love a good challenge, particularly if it’s physical and have a history of climbing big mountains, running marathons and anything else that pushes me to my limits.
Well, now I have tackled my biggest challenge yet, the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race. It pretty much does what it says on the tin in that, you have to paddle from Devizes in Wiltshire to Westminster Bridge in London (just in front of Big Ben). It’s 125 miles along the Kennet & Avon Canal and the River Thames and to make life a little more interesting there are 77 locks along the way where you have to get your kayak out of the water, run around the lock and put it back in again (called a portage). Here’s the crux, the challenge is to do this non-stop and ideally in under 24 hours!
Enda (my partner) and I had been training for the event since last autumn on most Saturday’s, Sunday’s and Wednesday evenings. He’s completed the race 4 times before but missed out last year due to a serious shoulder injury. It’s a tough race whether you’ve done it before or not, and to strengthen my resolve I decided to use the challenge to raise money for the Camps Foundation and if possible make a contribution to our amazing projects.
The day before the race I recorded an interview for Radio Solent and they were going to get live updates during the race which also helped motivate me to keep going.
We set off from Devizes at 7.45 am on Easter Saturday and enjoyed a few highs and lows along the route. The highs – seeing what I think was a mink swimming across the canal, hot tea, overtaking other boats, seeing friendly faces, getting to the finish! The lows – Enda nearly falling asleep, my hips deciding they’d had enough of sitting down, a painful lump appearing on my wrist and a speed boat creating some huge waves so that we were nearly capsized!
As it’s impossible to eat and paddle, or eat and carry your boat and paddle you cannot complete the event without support from friends on the side. We were lucky enough to have an amazing support crew (Emma, Graham, Craig, Gareth & Nigel) who tracked us throughout the race, met us at lots of the portages, fed us, provided hot food, dry clothes and most importantly lots of encouragement. They genuinely worked almost as hard as we did and in my opinion deserve a medal too!
Anyway, we did it! We survived and we made it to Westminster Bridge on Easter Sunday morning after 24 hours and 53 minutes of paddling. We had an impromptu swim at the steps where you get out of the river but the medal, the hugs and the cup of tea were worth it!
The support for my challenge has been really humbling and I have raised over £600 on my Just Giving page plus a few cash donations. I also acquired a Bournemouth FC shirt signed by all the players which was auctioned for £175. The truth is, I know first hand that a little bit goes a really long way in all of our destinations and makes a big difference to the projects we can achieve.
All that’s left to say is “Thank you” to everyone who has supported me whether it’s with donations, in person during the event, via the online tracker or in spirit. It all helps. I look forward to seeing who will be next to take on their own challenge whatever it might be!