It’s been four months and twenty nine days since Jill and myself agreed to enter for the Pure Challenge Six Dales hike: 6 dales, 27 miles, 1000m ascent and 14hrs to complete it.  We’re raising funds for two charities: Doctors of the World and Swansea City Mission – Nicholaston House, which runs Eating Disorder courses for people with any faith and no faith.

Doctors of the World

They are currently running 400 projects in 80 countries with 3000 volunteers! Whether it’s providing urgent medical care in Ukraine, giving mental healthcare to refugees in Calais, or strengthening health systems in west Africa, they meet the health needs of vulnerable people globally.  Below are just three areas in which DOTW are working.

Calais & Dunkirk: In Oct 2016 the French government dismantled the main Calais camp and sent people to asylum reception centres across France.  Many however opted to stay in informal camps around Calais instead.

Sierra Leone: In 2014 West Africa saw the biggest outbreak of Ebola. Due to the diversion of resources, this has led to the country’s hospitals being under-resourced.

Nepal: Since the earthquake hit in April 2015, despite Nepalese Government promising support to help with rebuilding destroyed structures, many health posts and hospitals are still operating in tents or temporary buildings.

Nicholaston House – Eating Disorder courses

The first OED (Overcoming Eating Disorders) course was established by Helena Wilkinson, assisted by Nikki Cole, nearly 20 years ago whilst they were running Kainos Trust, a charity for eating disorder sufferers and their carers. In 2004 Kainos Trust merged with Swansea City Mission and Educational Trust and the OED courses were developed. This year (2017) sees a change in the structure to the courses, in addition to an equine-based course.

They often receive feedback that attending an OED course has brought about significant change in people’s lives not found elsewhere.  They believe there are a number of influencing factors:

…spending time in an accepting and safe environment, away from home and work pressures;

…a dedicated team with decades of experience in eating disorders and related conditions;

…a homely, non-clinical setting, in an area of natural beauty;

…an ethos throughout the whole House of authentic care and compassion;

…insightful teaching which addresses the underlying issues, not just the symptoms;

…a strong belief, and testimonies to prove, that full recovery is possible;

…the opportunity to address the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects; 

…a work underpinned by prayer.


With only six days to go now, we look back and summarise what we’ve learnt.

Training – It’s been very useful for both of us to go on training hikes as ‘trial runs’ for the main event next Saturday.  We’ve been working on strength, flexibility, cardiovascular and endurance elements of fitness.  With walking, you could be forgiven for thinking that you need to focus solely on leg strength.  However, it’s also important to develop strength in your core (stomach and back) as well as upper body in order to cope with the rigours of the challenge. Flexibility is also important to keep muscles in good working condition – taking time out to stretch during the long hike will be essential to stop aches and pains building up and causing unnecessary problems.

Mental – as with any challenge, mental attitude is as important, if not more important, than physical ability.  A challenge is just that because in one realm or another it will be hard from a mental perspective.  The body will tire, aches and pains will occur, unexpected events will happen… the key is to be as prepared as possible and to then cope when the situations arise.  Training helps with the mental aspects – giving us the opportunity to try out different strategies to cope with varying occurrences.

Distraction is one excellent way to draw your mind away from the ‘plod, plod, plod’ of an 27-mile hike.  Jill is fascinated with wildlife, and will be keeping count of butterfly species in particular.  I’m really fascinated by different types of tree bark, so will be photographing these en-route.  I also enjoy numbers, so maybe doing some mental arithmetic too based on things around me.

On the subject of goal setting, Jill states the following: “Be reasonable about the targets you set – but once you’ve chosen your target, believe that you can do it and do not entertain any doubts… stubbornness can be a positive trait!”.

Kit – our training has allowed us to try out and test walking boots, waterproofs, shorts, trousers, socks, rucksacks, blister treatments, t-shirts, layering, sun cream, and water & food supplies.  We’ve also had the chance to brush up on our map and compass reading skills.  Although the route is way-marked and there will be marshals, knowing where you are is essential for personal safety.

I drink a fair amount of water each day, but have been surprised at the amount of water I get through when hiking up and down hills in hot and humid weather.  I also sweat loads, so will be taking my tried and trusted mix of water and orange juice with a pinch of salt added to help with loss of electrolytes.

Neither myself or Jill are very good at eating while walking, preferring to stand still to refuel.  Discovering which foods & snacks work best, both as fuel and as motivation to keep going, has been invaluable.  Seeing how they settle on the stomach (and bladder) have also been useful.

Clothing and underwear has been tested too.  I’ve not been used to changing walking socks during a walk (mainly ‘cos until this challenge I’ve not walked far enough for that to be needed!) but have found the improvement in comfort to be lovely, and helps with blister prevention.  Also taking a change of t-shirt for the halfway point is very refreshing… if it’s good enough for Wimbledon players…!!

Motivation – when the going gets tough, the tough get motivated.  For me, music with a good bass beat and inspiring lyrics help to keep me putting one foot in front of the other.  I will have pictures of the people who have sponsored us, as well as details of the two charities we’re raising funds for: thinking about the people who have financially given, and also for the people who will benefit from that giving is a great motivator to push on through when all is crying out STOP!!

So… it’s not too late to sponsor us: Doctors of the World / Eating Disorders

During the event next Sat 24th June, from the start at 8am to the finish at 10pm (latest), we intend to keep updating Twitter (@BigPictureLivin) with our progress – so keep your eyes out. Please also feel free to send us messages of support and encouragement to help us on our way during the day.

Thanks for your support. See you on the other side!!