I moved in to my current house just over eight months ago.  It’s a lovely two-bed house, in a quiet cul-de-sac overlooking fields.  The neighbours are great, and it’s close to work too.  The one ‘glitch’ is that it has a HUGE garden – and I have NO green fingers whatsoever!!  Thankfully there are very few plants to look after (I struggle to keep cacti alive)… just one giant undulating lawn to keep under control.

Lately it’s been a struggle to match time off work with dry weather, and hence my lawn resembled more of a jungle when I returned from my recent holiday!! Last Tuesday I started tackling it with my trusty strimmer.  On Wednesday my friend Ana joined me – she weeded the patio while I strimmed and mowed (multi-talented I know!!). Finally today I’ve finished mowing the lawn and it looks great – and I’ve also hit my 10.000 steps for today already (1pm).

As I contemplated mowing the final quarter of lawn, I was tired.  The dark grey clouds were looming large in the sky.  All of me wanted to give up and call it a day.  I let my mind wander to other things: starting back at work tomorrow; my next long training hikes next weekend; the training I’ve done in the previous couple of weeks… and of course the great Six Dales Challenge itself – now less than 3 weeks away.

And all that thinking then lead me to ponder about the characteristic of endurance.

I don’t consider myself to be a person with the quality of endurance. I seem to give up fairly easily when push comes to shove. However, I do personally know several people who have this quality: Sheffield-based ultra triathlete Brian Mundy; ’75 marathons in 75 days, aged 75′ man Ray Matthews to name just a couple.  They inspire me, and I think of them with awe.  But how do they do it??!!

My training hikes over the past few weeks have been tough, and not without incident.

The 12-mile Ipswich Neon Night Hike (Sat 20th May) which I did with my cousin Jill and her daughter Rose ended abruptly at 7.5 miles.  All was going fine when suddenly I had a sharp shooting pain through the top of my left foot.  I was baffled.  I hadn’t twisted my ankle.  I hadn’t tripped.  It came out of nowhere.  But I couldn’t put my foot to the ground or weight bear.  The race marshals decided I should go to A&E.  The doctor concluded that all tendons were fine and in place; I hadn’t got a stress fracture; the probable outcome was that my shoe laces had been too tight and I’d trapped a nerve!  Lesson learnt.

The following Tuesday, having rested and done my physio for a couple of days, the foot was feeling much better.  I headed off down to Surrey to continue with another two planned training hikes in the beautiful North Downs.

Tuesday’s 6-mile hike was a circular route from Silent Pool to Newlands Corner via St Martha’s Hill and church.  Stunning scenery and some challenging hill climbs., all in quite sunny, humid conditions.  I stopped at the 4-mile point for some coffee and cake and to assess how my foot was holding up.  All seemed good and I completed the hike with a visit to the famous Silent Pool gin distillery.

Wednesday’s hike was to be a demanding 12.5 mile hilly climb.  After a great breakfast of eggs, smoked haddock, spinach and crumpets (wonderfully cooked by my brother) and washed down with some great coffee, we headed off.  It was hot and very humid – and I was soaked through with sweat after only 45 mins.  We climbed and descended three hills (Pitch, Holmsbury, Leith) over the next 3.5 hours.  We also crossed meadows, woodland and walked along some idyllic country lanes.

However, I’d only managed to cover 5 miles in the last four and a half hours.  The heat, humidity and terrain had really got to me and I was exhausted.  I found some shade, sat down and sobbed quietly.  I felt totally overwhelmed.  How on earth was I going to complete this hike… let alone the 27 miles of the Six Dales??

Ian consulted his OS maps and devised a short-cut.  Still another challenging 4 miles, but it needed doing.  Buoyed up by a few Oreo biscuits, some water, and a good stretch, we carried on.  These last few miles were less hilly, and mainly through beautiful woodland.  The temperature was notably cooler under the shade of the trees, and Ian commented how my mood had lifted and my speed had picked up.  I was enjoying myself.

We made it back to the new end-point (a very welcome pub!), and I fell asleep mid Cider!

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared witless at the thought of doing the Six Dales Challenge.  It seems a huge and very daunting event.  I often find myself thinking that I’ve taken on way too much with this particular challenge.  But if you never attempt something, how do you ever know what your body is capable of?

I think back to the variety of previous Physical Challenges which I’ve done – at the time, each one scared the life out of me.  Yet I kept going, persevered, and conquered.  So maybe I DO have a spirit of endurance inside me that refuses to give up after all…  You can be assured I will give this latest challenge my best efforts.

I’m encouraged by the support Jill and myself have so far had for our two charities we’re raising money for.

Firstly, Doctors of the World  who provide healthcare and support to the marginalised and desperate, both in the UK and across the world – our current fundraising total stands at over £200.  If you feel inspired, please do consider sponsoring us here.

Secondly, Swansea City Mission – the great work which Helena Wilkinson and her Eating Disorders team do at Nicholaston House on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales.  I’ve been on a couple of ED courses in the past as I’ve learnt to deal with and overcome my compulsive eating.  I’ve also stayed there as a holiday – the surrounding scenery is stunning.  Our fundraising total stands at just under £100 at the moment.  If you feel inspired, please do consider sponsoring us here.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Bible verses which I oft repeat as I endeavour to keep putting one foot in front of the other:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus”.  Philippians 3:13-14