I battled 268 miles in 8 days to help fight lung disease
Paul’s friend and colleague Fiona passed away from an ILD in April 2018. Since then, he’s taken on several endurance challenges raising money to fund research and save lives.
It all started back in December 2017. I got a nasty chest infection, and at a similar time so did my colleague Fiona. Over time (and some trips to the doctor), mine got better. Sadly, Fiona’s never did. She went into hospital and never came out, passing away from an interstitial lung disease (ILD) in April 2018.
I wanted raise awareness in Fiona’s memory
We were all thinking the same thing. How could this have happened? Fiona was only 42 and had never smoked. At her funeral, donations were being made to the British Lung Foundation. I went home and researched the charity and ILDs. I saw that funding and research was desperately needed and thought I must be able to do something to help.
I decided to take on the Coast to Coast challenge. I walked 192 miles from St. Bees Head to Robin Hood’s Bay in 7 days, raising just over £4,500. When I presented the cheque to Fiona’s parents, I promised them that I would do another challenge in 2019.
My next challenge was going to be bigger than the last
January 2019 came around and I got a phone call from Fiona’s stepdad, wondering what I had planned for that year. I decided to give the Pennine Way Challenge a go. It’s the oldest (and toughest) national walk, measuring 268 miles along the mountain tops in the north of England. Most people do it in a month. I wanted to do it in 9 days.
I trained every day from January to May, enduring the blistering cold and snow that February had to offer! But I needed to get my legs used to the miles and my lungs used to all the walking. I live by the coast, so I had to go into the hills to train.
The support I received from the local community was fantastic. Cotswolds Outdoors in particular were amazing, giving me all my kit for free. These sorts of challenges can add up in price, so this was a great help. They also arranged events to help with my fundraising, including staff nights out and raffles.
I was determined to see it through to the end
The Coast to Coast challenge felt like a day on the beach compared to the Pennine Way! But I was determined to see it through to the end. My biggest challenge was on day 3. I was aiming to do 35 miles each day, but that day I only managed 17 because my blisters were so bad. I made the decision to stop and sort them out, otherwise I knew I would never be able to finish. I played catch up the next few days to reach my target.
On most days, I didn’t see a single soul. It’s not the sort of place you’d take your dog for a walk, as it’s quite desolate surroundings, but in a way that made it all the more beautiful. It’s the equivalent of climbing Ben Nevis every day for 9 days and it was completely unsupported – I had to carry everything with me on my way.
I’d arranged for a colleague to meet me 5 miles before the end. When I saw them, that was the moment that I knew I’d complete it. They had 2 jobs: to remind me to put my BLF t-shirt on before the end, and to kick me if I cried too much!
I completed the Pennine Way Challenge in 8 ½ days on 27 May 2019. Fiona’s parents and her husband were there to meet me at the finish line. It was incredibly emotional seeing them there.
It was tough but worth it, and I’m already looking to the future
I’ve got my eye on 1 more challenge, and then I’ll stop! One of the few people I saw during the Pennine Way was a man doing John O’Groats to Lands’ End. It’s still very much in the planning stages, and I might just do a portion of the walk, but I want to give it a go.
As it stands, I’ve raised around £4,000 from this challenge. Knowing that every step was helping fight lung disease kept me motivated and determined to keep going.