Not a walk in the park

As part of a unique Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge, mission partner Steve Poulson recently walked over 300 miles in 13 days to raise money for the street kids he works with in Honduras.

Hoping to raise around £10,000, Steve and his fellow walkers in fact raised around £13,500 from donors in the US and the UK. In Steve’s own words, “In terms of raising money and raising awareness, it was extremely successful… in terms of walking, it was a complete disaster.”

“Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?”

“Every day.”

The plan was to cover the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats relay-style in two teams racing against each other; Steve and Ben (Team Victory) against Duncan and Joseph (Team Love Shack).

Unfortunately, Steve’s team was a team member down before they even started: Ben was declared not well enough to walk following too many recent stomach bugs and antibiotics.

Duncan and Joseph, however, were ready as could be, possibly even too ready. They began the walk with a knee injury and foot injury respectively due to being overzealous with their pre-training.

Despite their injuries, Duncan and Joseph set off at a rate of knots and covered unprecedented distance in the first four days. Of the two teams, Team Love Shack had definitely been cast as the hare, and Team Victory was the tortoise.

The do-or-die walkers: Duncan Dyason, Steve Poulson, Ben Soden and Joseph Soden

But then the problems really started: Joseph had to go to hospital with a stress fracture in his foot and was told he couldn’t walk for six weeks.

A couple of days later, Duncan’s knee was bad enough that he had to go to hospital, too, and was told to rest for three days. But Duncan was not going to be stopped so easily. Walking was off the table, so he bought a scooter and started scooting. Unfortunately, scooting was even worse for this particular injury, putting constant rather than intermittent strain on his knee.

All in all, it sounds like Duncan and Joseph covered their distance from Kendal to John O’Groats somewhat haphazardly, but they did indeed complete their journey.

Ben and Steve then drove down to Land’s End, where Steve started his section back up to Kendal. The going was slow, and Steve wanted to give up every day, but things did get easier. Even though Ben couldn’t share the walking, his background as a professional athlete meant he was able to offer proper physio support, which made a real difference.

As the days went on, Steve got used to the level of activity and walked faster. Even he couldn’t quite escape a visit to the hospital, though. Inflammation of the patellar ligament (under the kneecap) forced him to seek medical attention but the doctor who treated him said the injury wasn’t a good enough reason to stop walking. “Which is basically ‘stop being a wuss’ in doctor-speak I think!” says Steve. “So I had a day off and then just carried on walking afterwards.”

With the bulk of their publicity going through social media, Steve and the boys felt they needed something more than just videos about how tired they were after walking every day. So, they decided to set each other different challenges to make sure their adventure was worth following.

Their challenges included buying a present for the other team (these included a stress ball, a parade baton and unflattering Scottish hats), getting a picture with the biggest animal (Duncan’s photo with a duck lost out to Steve’s shot with a Labrador) and a selfie with the most people (Duncan’s team won, with seven).

Ollie, another team member who joined the boys for a bit of walking for three days suggested a blindfold challenge. The idea was for people to donate money by texting in and voting for who shouldn’t have to walk the last kilometre blindfolded.

Sadly for him, Ollie’s great idea came back to bite him in the proverbial: he was the clear favourite for this challenge and had to walk the last kilometre in darkness, led by Steve and Ben.

Innocent Ollie probably didn’t realise his mates felt some form of payback was necessary after his risking any one of them having to do the challenge. Kind to begin with, Steve and Ben walked Ollie across the road perfectly safely. Then they made him walk into a bin, and finished by pushing him into a canal (and helping him back out!).

Team Victory, true to their name, finished first in a classic tortoise-and-the-hare turnaround, despite Ben not being able to walk.

Steve has come away from the walk not only struck by the natural beauty of England and Wales but also surprised by the generosity of people. Not just the many donors who gave money for street kids in Guatemala and Honduras, but everyone who helped them along the way by providing a bed for the night, sharing a meal or just offering a cup of tea.   

Now, they’re planning a fundraiser for next year called Walk the Wall 2020. The plan is to visit Trump’s wall on the Mexico/US border and go to interesting points along the wall, interview people who live nearby and ask them how the wall has affected their lives.

Happily for Steve and the boys, this one doesn’t involve covering quite so much ground.

Published 12 August 2019
Latin America

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