It’s just walking, right? We’ll be fine. We’re fit, young-ish, and full of enthusiasm. What’s the big deal?

Well, it turns out that walking 100km (62 miles) is somewhat different to the walk in the park we’d made it out to be. Any concept of being fit, young and enthusiastic were quashed as yet another group romped past us, singing and joking, as we looked at each other, forced a wry smile, and continued to put one blistered foot in front of the other.

It’s fair to say the 26 hours we spent walking the Thames Path were character building. What started out as blissful ignorance (maybe we’ll win?) quietly manifested itself, kilometre by kilometre, into something more demanding than any of us had anticipated.

We all had our ups and downs. Chris’s new trail trainers would have been brilliant had he walked further than his local Tesco to wear them in. Blisters formed within 25km and blighted his journey throughout. Pete tweaked his groin just after half-way which led him to have to adapt his walking pattern to compensate. And Dan and I both went through a dark period just before half way. We fell behind and walked for probably an hour without saying a word to one another. The fact we were walking through Staines, and it had started to rain, probably didn’t help.

I can’t speak for Dan but, for me, it was as low as I can remember feeling during physical endurance. I knew I’d make halfway but we’d been walking for about 10 hours, my calves were in bits, I felt nauseous and I simply could not comprehend doing another 50km. Looking back, it was obviously as much a mental dip as it was a physical one, the two exacerbating each other to the point I seriously considered dropping out.

But then I remembered why we were doing this. I looked over to Pete, one of my best mates from childhood, and drew from his strength. Pete approached this challenge much like he did his diagnosis, treatment and continued recovery of cancer: literally in his stride. Never did he complain or feel sorry for himself, and his unique brand of humour kept us all in good spirits through the toughest periods. He led from the front throughout and was a true champ.

We met many fascinating people along the way. For long periods we walked with Jim, 70, who had many tales to tell. At twice our age and fit as a fiddle, he established hero status with us quickly, and was a good pace-setter too! We also met a gentlemen who knew Above & Beyond and thanked us for raising money for the charity. His son has a form of incurable but treatable leukaemia and they’ve spent many days at hospitals in Bristol. Our conversation lasted less than five minutes but I know it will stick with us for a long time.

The biggest motivator for us all was the continued support we got during the event, with over £500 of sponsorship coming in whilst we walked. Knowing that we were raising money for such a good cause made it all a little less painful. There were laughs too, and lots of them. We spent hours talking about all manner of different things among some beautiful scenery; a rarity when so much of our interaction is fleeting and/or via a screen.

The finish line provoked a number of emotions. Relief and pride were high up on the list, we’d finished the challenge and raised over 150% of our target sponsorship! But top of the list was excitement and anticipation, as we all started to think about the reality of how good our beds and some sleep, was going to feel!

Visit our events page to see what type of challenges you can take on to raise money for Bristol's hospitals or contact [email protected] for tips on getting a fundraising challenge underway.