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Sussex Life: Numbers were never my thing

In 2019 I did a good thing. And a stupid thing.

In anticipation of a fundraising trek across the Sahara that I’d decided to do, I signed up my daughter and myself for St Catherine’s Hospice’s midnight walk. That was the good thing.

At the time my daughter was 13 and in a moment of enthusiasm, I chose the 20 km option. We were both reasonably fit and didn’t need to train for that distance I told myself. So far so good.

St.Catherine's Hospice
Uh oh!

Then things started to go wrong.

True to my word, neither of us trained. And as the day approached, I started to ask myself why it was called a midnight walk. Surely, if we started at 8pm, most of us would be home in bed by midnight, after all, how long can it take to walk around Horsham? I’m the first to admit, I’m not always too bright.

The night came. My daughter and I pulled on our bright orange fundraising tutus and t-shirts, waved goodbye to the rest of the family (keep dinner in the over for me please, I won’t be late) and off we set.

There was much excitement in the hall near Tesco where the starting line was. All the children were segregated off in one corner. My daughter has easily passed for 16 since she was 12, so as I realised that children had been allocated a separate, shorter walk (due to their fragile constitutions no doubt), I decided I wouldn’t mention my daughter’s tender years. She’d be fine, I thought to myself, we’re made of tough stuff.

Sussex Fundraising
T-shirts and tutu

I looked around for the appropriate queue: 5 km, 10 km but where was 20 km? There didn’t seem to be one, only that mad fool option of walking 20 miles. Oh, s**t. Surely, I hadn’t, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t have signed us up for 20 miles? Those tricky little distance indicators, how could I have mistaken “km” for “m”. And how was I going to break the news to my daughter. We were in flip-flops and shorts with no provisions in sight, no wonder everyone else was kitted out like they were rambling for England.

In the end, I decided not to mention my error until we were well under starter’s orders.  We’d been sponsored, so we couldn’t pull out and if we were already underway, my daughter couldn’t easily make a dash for freedom (and home). There’s a photo of us both at the start. Her face is full of positive determination. Mine is a grimace. She still didn’t know.

Sussex fundraising
The woman in front, infinitely better prepared

I’m proud to say we completed the walk. We came in a none too shabby 7 hrs. It nearly broke us. Physically, mentally and as a mother and daughter duo. It turns out it gets very cold in the middle of the night (I know that now) and at about 15 miles (I remember it because we were outside the Tythe barn where I do my public speaking), I got hysterical and started to sing, while my daughter swore she would never, ever speak to me again (she did). At 17 miles I think we were both crying. The route sort of zig-zags back and forth at this point which felt mind-numbingly cruel. We couldn’t stop, as the end was in sight and it hurt too much to stand still but we couldn’t carry on, because it hurt too much to keep moving.  The rest of the evening is pretty much a blur apart from a memory of being worried that I might have physically stunted my daughter’s development by putting her through such an ordeal and the fact that she wouldn’t let me stay for champagne at the end. I don’t know how I drove home!

St.Catherine's hospice
How is she still smiling?

At the time of writing, we still haven’t managed the Sahara trek as Covid put paid to that. We were quite literally packing our bags as we went into lockdown but we’re optimistic we’ll get there next year. For obvious reasons, they didn’t run the midnight walk in 2020 but my memory is a terrible thing, and now the pain has receded, I’m already wondering if I should sign up for another. Fancy a cheeky 5 km anyone?

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