Last week was unforgettable, with some amazing highs and some very deep lows, all exaggerated by sleep deprivation.
Steve had said beforehand ‘don’t worry about coming out to support me, I’ve got a great team around me, just concentrate on looking after the family and keeping things going as normal’ so I booked some time off work, but intended to do a few half days, thought we could turn up at the odd checkpoint say a cheerful ‘hello how’s it going’ and then get on with all the other things that you have to do with 3 children aged 5, 8 and 10.
I realised things were going to be different on the first night. After having got the children to sleep at my parents’ house in Gosforth I headed out to Ennerdale, where I met a totally exhausted support crew of Jane, Alison and Elaine in a midge-infested car park. Shortly afterwards Steve arrived with his equally exhausted support runners who informed me that Steve had been violently sick and now couldn’t keep any food or water down. I got him in out of the midges and tried to feed him, but he couldn’t eat anything, looked and felt dreadful and was understandably worried about how he could keep going with no food or water inside him, and this was after only one day! He hardly slept at all that night (well that 2 hour break, not exactly a night by most people’s standards), but in the morning set off with a great bunch of runners, minus Bill who was sleeping in his car and we didn’t realise, but he caught up quick enough! Tidied up and then headed back to Gosforth, finally drifting off to sleep at 6.30am when I hear a little voice,
‘Emma, it’s morning!’
‘No it’s not Hannah, it’s still night time, Pleeease go back to sleep’
‘No, look outside, it’s sunny!’
And so another day began.
They somehow managed to get him going and by Wasdale he was feeling much better. Steve’s big sister Karen and husband Dan got him through the tricky next leg brilliantly, despite Karen having to do the West Wall Traverse for the first time. She doesn’t like heights. Enjoyed a quiet Hardknott Pass at dusk, the kids scared everyone by climbing on the rocks, had to miss the Duddon overnight as had no-one to look after the kids, cramming them into the campervan wouldn’t have helped Steve sleep, sounds like the midges were hideous.
Anyway and so it went on, I managed most of the other checkpoints. In between picking up children, taking them to see Steve, getting them to sleep, cooking food for Steve, dashing out to shops for last minute supplies of food, Compeed, Medical supplies, Torq Gels etc. I got around 2 hours sleep a day/night and didn’t get much work done (thanks to Claire for being understanding – I’ll make up all that flexitime soon!)
I think I saw him at his worst when stopped or trying to sleep, he had some very low moments and was in a lot of pain at times. He would hobble off in the morning like an old man with sticks, but once he got going his mates seemed to manage to pick him up and he would be knocking time of his schedule as if it was a walk in the park.
James, Matthew and Hannah managed remarkably well and were so sweet when we caught up with Steve (apart from at Wasdale when they had a huge argument about who opened the gate). I will never forget Matthew putting his arms around Steve as he winced in agony while Mel dressed his blisters dressed, saying ‘don’t worry, it will be worth it in the end’. He was right, that moment in Keswick at the end with all the support made it all worthwhile. We are all so proud of you Steve and pleased we were able to be a part of this epic in our own small way.
I’d like to finish by saying thank you to everyone, this really was a team effort, there are so many of you I don’t want to mention names in case I forget anyone, but you know who you are, to everyone who supported Steve or me in any way, thank you for making this happen.
I’d like to finish by quoting from the legendary Joss Naylor’s account of his Wainwrights round. While many things have changed in 27 years, some things remain the same. ‘To find words to express my gratitude to those who took part is beyond me……..It will be a very lucky man who is able to make the bonds of friendship which have been my good luck. To all my ‘team’ thank you from the bottom of my heart’.