Stripey socks at the ready, it was all bright eyes and bushy tails at the beginning of this gorgeous, inspiring, well organised event. The choice of distances and levels of difficulty on offer is fantastic. From the kids 4 mile, to a flat 8, the “halves” of 12.3 and 14.7 miles or of course the full whammy there is a distance to suit most. Some 8000 walkers (and runners!) stretch from point to point like parade of human spirit across the centre line of our beautiful diamond island. Each one of them taking every step with someone else’s memory or ongoing journey held dear in their hearts. It’s this spirit that keeps them putting one foot in front of the other on the increasingly steep climbs to reach the finish line at Alum Bay.
Started in 1991 by our very own Elaine Harris’ father Bill and his mate Frank Stevens. It began as a team building exercise for the staff at Moreys but has evolved into the largest sponsored walk of its kind not just in England, but in Europe! Mind blowing!!
“Dad was hoping for 2000 walkers in the year 2000, not knowing that he sadly wouldn’t be there to see it (he died in September 1999) But we surpassed 2000 that year and look at it now! He would be blown away!” said Lainey “I’ve walked or run it every year apart from when I’ve been pregnant with my girls, and on those years I marshalled”
The event has raised in excess of £4 million for patient care at The Earl Mountbatten Hospice since 1991. It takes a phenomenal amount of organisation to make this colossal event happen. Over 300 volunteers and marshalls on the day keep everyone on track, watered, timed and cheerful.
Being runners, we for some reason decide that walking most of the steepest climbs on the island all in one day is not challenge enough. Oh no, we have to ramp up the difficulty level and run it instead.
Starting at Britten Norton, there were 2 main groups of starters, some going at 6am to beat the crowds, the others at 8, conversely to enjoy them at a more leisurely pace. In the second group were Sarah Ward & Ivan Ward and the effervescent Dave Wilcock all taking on the marathon distance for the first ever time.
The first “half” of 12.5 miles takes in Culver Down, through to Mersley Down and onward over some of the only flat sections to Arreton Barns where there is always a lovely atmosphere with live music and lots of walkers picnicking.
Continuing on and inevitably upward onto St George’s Down, skirting along the golf course there and then back down to the infamous Nunnery Lane and finishing at Carisbrooke Castle where there is a buzzy, party vibe. Here there was a warm reception by a big crowd of fresh legged runners running the second half with the full runners.
“It’s great to come round the corner to a sea of purple t shirts” said Holmsie “I struggled in the first half due to fatigue so having them there at Carisbrooke was a huge lift…particularly seeing Nick Carter do the “Cha Cha Slide” and the “Macarena” haha”
Water bottles filled they were off as they continued up and up and up on to the Tennyson trail from Newport. Continuing on the high ground along through Brightstone Forest to Mottistone Down and on to Brook Down.
It is at this point that the challenge really goes up a gear. From this 18 mile point, the hills become sharper and one after the other. On tired legs, the runners really had to start digging deeper here.
Once they reached Freshwater Golf Course, a little bit of relief started to set in as Freshwater Bay comes into view. This is the last checkpoint before the finish. After more dancing from Nick Carter the group were in good spirits.
Dancing done, they got back to business as they set off for one last time.
With Tennyson Monument looming in the background, the last 4 miles are indeed brutal. A battle of mind over matter. Up they went, legs heavy now. Passing the monument … one more hill. Keep….moving….forward, suddenly the sea appears front, right and left. The most Westerly point beneath their feet. Turn at the battery into downhill…. (ahhhhhh downhill!) The marathon distance is surpassed along this stretch along with the realisation that they have indeed made it, all they gotta do is put one foot in front of the other and hold on.
One by one they all crossed the golden arch at the finish and collected their medals, drinking in the feel good factor, knowing not only that they had done themselves proud, but that they had contributed to this amazing event and this amazing cause.
I think it only fitting that the last quote should go to Elaine
“I have so many memories of doing this with my Dad, or seeing him pop up along the way. I really, really miss him on the day, but I am stupidly proud of Walk the Wight”