In the summer I had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman by the name of Sean Conway. He had come to deliver a speech at my previous school that would inspire the children. Sean is an adventurer who has undertaken a number of amazing feats such as swimming the length of Britain and last year completed the longest triathlon in history – 4200 miles in eighty-four days.
As he was delivering his speech, I was sat on the staging thinking of what I could do that would be unique. I had often considered doing something slightly out of the ordinary but not really settled on anything with enough conviction to make it happen. However, Sean was inspirational and his message was quite simple “Just do it!” Eight months earlier my sister-in-law had been diagnosed with lung cancer. It is an illness that remains one of the most prevalent forms of the disease with 44,500 people being diagnosed every year. Debra is one of the 15% who has never smoked and with both her and Sean in mind, I decided that the time was right to do something to raise money for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.
I settled on completing the Lôn Las Cymru. It is a famous cycling trail that stretches form Holyhead in the North of Anglesey, through Snowdonia, mid-Wales and then down through Brecon, finally finishing in Cardiff Bay. I have cycled part of the trail before for a Cerebral Palsy charity called Bobath but I didn’t want to simply repeat this journey, or do something that had been done before. Therefore, my decision was to complete the trail, but to do it on stilts. Yes, stilts.
I had never set foot on stilts let alone walked any sort of distance and especially not something like 253 miles through often mountainous terrain. Within a few hours I decided that I was going to complete this challenge on stilts in ten days if it was at all possible. At an average of almost a marathon a day it is going to be a unique, difficult and quite possibly stupid thing to attempt.
Since early August I have been training in preparation for the challenge next July and I will begin two days after the close of term. My progress has been good so far. At first I couldn’t stand, then I was like Bambi and a month or so later I am now walking about 6km. My plan is to complete a half marathon by Christmas and a full marathon by Easter. From that point onwards it is purely down to mental strength and determination. It does remain a technical challenge as stilts do not flex like our knees and ankles and they come with little friction. There have been some spectacular falls!
While I have had a Facebook page up for a little while, I announced the challenge in assembly on Monday. Staff and students met my stilt-walking with a raised eye-brow. No-one has mentioned it since so I don’t know what they thought! However, I hope that as the challenge nears, and when I complete it successfully, the children will take some inspiration from it. Anything is possible if we believe it to be so.
If you feel that you can help in any way I would be delighted to hear from you. If you would like to donate there is a Just Giving page set up. The Facebook page where you can follow my progress can be found by searching for The Great Welsh Stilt Challenge. Please search, follow, share and donate! It promises to be a lot of fun.