Started in 1991 by our very own Elaine Harris’ father Bill Bradley and his mate Frank Stevens. It started as a team building exercise for the staff at Moreys it 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!”
“I’ve done it every year apart from when I’ve been pregnant with my girls, and on those years I marshalled” Elaine tells me
The event has raised a prodigious £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 cheery.
Being runners, we for some reason decide that walking some of the steepest climbs on the island all in one day is not challenge enough. Oh no, we have to ramp up the effort levels and run them instead.
With a choice of distances and levels of difficulty on offer, it is an event accessible to most. 8000 walkers (and runners!) stretched from point to point like a slithering golden snake across our beautiful diamond island. 27.5 miles of country lanes, ups, downs, hills, golf courses and cliffs. Each participant taking every step with someone’s memory held dear in their hearts, keeping them going over the ever increasing difficulty, spurring them them on to reach that finish line on the Western point of the Island.
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.
“I actually enjoy squeezing past the walkers. Most of them are so encouraging” said Sarah Holmes, completing this for the 3rd year in a row.
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.
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 again there were 2 groups starting at different times, one group setting off at 9am. The other group, waiting to act as support crew for the second group of full runners.
The first group set off to enjoy the views and the fabulous company.
The second group of full course Runners appeared at Carisbrooke to a warm reception. After a quick break to fill up their drink bottles and buoyed up by their new buddies, 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.
It was here that our favourite photographer, Peter Billington, was spotted hiding in the bushes.
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. However with Tennyson Monument looming in the background, the last 4 miles are indeed a battle of will, grit and determination.
Continuing ever forward, suddenly the sea is front, right and left. The Western point was beneath their feet. A sharp right turn at the battery, fired the runners downhill (at last) and the finishing line swung into view. 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.
But hold on they did. 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”