On Saturday morning a lady that I had never met before joined me on a not so lonely hill on the southern tip of Dartmoor. She handed me a piece of paper (and two sweets 🙂 ) and said “here are some inspirational words for later.” On that paper was written the following:
Charles Dickens wrote: “They kept on, with unabated perseverance and the hill has not yet lifted its face to heaven that perseverance will not gain the summit of at last.” Perseverance is not a fast option, but it will get you there in the end.
It was one of many touching moments that occurred during my Ivybridge Everest attempt, all of which humbled me, and inspired me onwards. After that piece of writing I am afraid that the rest of this article will seem somewhat inelegant as I will eventually descend into a rather blunt analogy. You’ll soon see what I mean.
Just before 6am on Saturday 2nd January 2016 I got out of my car in David’s Lane just as a Dartmoor Search and Rescue vehicle from the Plymouth team pulled up. I greeted the occupants hit the button on my watch and started walking up the hill. Just over halfway up I bumped into a member of the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team (DSRT) carrying a bunch of large orange flags. He then followed me to the top planting flags as he went so that I could easily find my way up and down in the dark. They continuously tweaked the flag positioning through the day to ensure that when night fell again I would not get lost with my fatigued mind and exhausted body.
Throughout the day I would be returning to the top of the hill, Western Beacon, until I had climbed it 28 times. This is the equivalent, in elevation, of climbing and descending Denali, Alaska, the highest point in the United States of America. I climbed and descended a combined elevation of 12488m in a little over 18 hours including some brief stops. Horizontally this meant I had covered 54 miles.
During the day I only summited the hill twice without company, other than that I always had folk around me, on one occasion summiting with 7 people. Those people kept me moving, they were amazing company in the wet and the mud. They gave me perspective and they gave me stories. They made me laugh and they raised my spirits. They had come from a variety of clubs. Plymouth Triathlon Club. The Erme Valley Harriers. The South Dartmoor Trail Runners. There were families. There were people I had never met before. They had all come out to help me and keep me moving forward. Some came in the morning, then came back in the afternoon or evening. Some were world class athletes like Sarah Pearson, Fin Saunders and Travis Bramley. Some were epic ultra endurance athletes like Ian, whose surname I did not get, who is off to do the Spine Race next weekend and name drops 100 mile races like that is a normal thing to do.
You were all awesome, inspirational, fun and above all selfless in your support. Thank you so much.
On one lap when nobody else was there to run up with me two of the DSRT popped their running togs on and came up for a couple of laps.
When darkness fell DSRT put a land rover at halfway and two chaps on the top. They then checked me and my supporters in up and down the hill to ensure we were safe. They were professional, friendly, amazing people.
I very much feel that I was just the dumbass going up and down the hill. The day was made by the supporters, the donations and the epic weather conditions. At one point it rained for pretty much 6 hours straight. As soon as the rain stopped it got dark, the temperature plummeted and the wind chill started to be felt.
At the end of lap 28, sometime after midnight, I got to the bottom of the hill and turned to start lap 29. I leant onto my walking poles and tried to take a step. I had nothing left. It felt like I had no muscles in my legs. They were heavy and I could barely lift my feet off the floor. I staggered the few metres up to where my car was parked, sat on the lip of the boot, looked at Ian (not the one mentioned earlier), looked at my Mum, and said “I’m done. I can’t go on.” A few moments later John, who had been the one organising DSRT for me, put his arm around my shoulder and said “You’ve done your Dad proud. Well Done.” I squeaked a reply. I couldn’t talk without becoming a blubbering mess.
Dad would have been proud. He would have thought me a total muppet for doing it and then he would have spent the next few weeks telling everyone all about it. What I had done and what I had gone through. You see my Dad was an amazing person, he helped a lot of people often only asking for some respect in return, no more than that. He was there for me absolutely any time I asked for him, literally travelling the length of the country if I needed him to. When he passed away from a brain tumour on January 10th 2015 he left a massive hole in all our lives. At the end of this article you can find a list of just some of the amazing things that Dad did for me as well as some of the amazing feats of endurance that he accomplished himself.
Why was I doing this daft challenge? I was doing it for two reasons. Firstly to remember Dad and to distract from the memories of the pain that we were going through this time last year. Secondly to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice where he spent his final days. They were so compassionate and looked after us and him so very well. If you haven’t donated yet then the page will be open for a little while longer at www.justgiving.com/ivybridgeeverest
Now we get onto the awkward point. The problem with this tale. It isn’t finished. The challenge wasn’t called my Ivybridge Denali, no it was called my Ivybridge Everest. The Ivybridge Everest has not yet been climbed. Climbing the equivalent of Denali felt epic, and it pushed me to my limits, but my work is not yet done. Western Beacon has become the Appollo Creed to my somewhat emaciated Rocky Balboa. I need to run up and down some steps, and get my shit together. I need to come back and I need to run up and down Western Beacon 41 times, cover 77 miles and defeat the Ivybridge Everest. I cannot ask nor expect the same level of support. I doubt that the BBC will chase me up the mountain (they really did) a second time. But even if I am alone I will return. I will park my car, walk to the crossroads, turn, hit the button on my watch and start walking up the hill. Dad wouldn’t give up, and neither will I.
A final thanks to my Mum who was there for almost the entire thing keeping me fuelled, hydrated and moving. And also thanks to my amazing wife and children who did not waver for a second in their support of this silly endeavour.
Below you can find my poorly edited Youtube video (all my own work!) which shows footage of some of the amazing people who joined me, as well as the video we took while I was doing the BBC Radio Devon interview between laps three and four.
I didn’t take too many photos during the event, but here are a few for you.
Oh, and ignore the story put out by Plymouth Herald as they seemed to forget the bit where I said that I made Denali and not Everest. They did correct it on their website, but the paper had already gone out!
Some of my memories of Dad:
- Dad ran his first marathon at 40 to prove a point
- Dad cycled Paris-Brest-Paris
- Dad once got the ferry to Santander and cycled back in just 5 days
- Dad once rebuilt a motorbike I had crashed and practically destroyed, so I could ride it again.
- Dad once drove to Scotland to spend a weekend fixing another of my motorbikes that shredded it’s main engine bearing just as I was trying to sell it.
- Dad once told me I couldn’t do a certain hard trail half marathon in under 2 hours. I did it in 1hr 55 minutes, the canny bastard.
- Dad rode his mobility scooter from Ivybridge to Plymouth to buy Mum a car just a few days before being admitted to St Luke’s. He had to push it up some of the hills!
- Dad once rode La Marmot, a mammoth bike ride covering several major alpine climbs including Col de la Croix de Fer, Telegraphe, Galibier, and Alpe d’Huez. Sam joined him on her mountain bike for that final climb and he supported her through two hours of relentless climbing, getting her to the top. He had been in the saddle since dawn and by the time they finished it was getting dark. It was mid-summer.
- My first car was a Vauxhall Chevette that Dad bought for £50 in 1993. He then got it roadworthy (he was a mechanic by trade). I helped him and as part of it we replaced the wings and welded patches over the rust holes in the floor amongst other things. Three weeks after passing my driving test I crashed it into a pole, crumpling one of the new wings and smashing a headlight. Dad didn’t kill me…..
- A little while later Dad found a newer engine and went to a lot of effort to get it into my beloved Chevette. About a week later the radiator sprung a leak and instead of doing the sensible thing and stopping, I carried on driving it for a good few miles. The engine overheated and was never the same again. Dad didn’t kill me……
- Dad was in the pits at Mallory Park when I was racing and in an accident that was so bad marshals grabbed their red flags and actually ran onto the circuit to get riders off and back into the pits. I can’t imagine what he went through in those agonising few moments wondering what had happened and then realising that I was one of the few riders not to have come back in.
- When running trail races Dad used to come along with his camera. I could never tell when he would pop out of the hedge, take a few pics, give me a shout and then vanish only to pop out again somewhere else a few miles later.
- Dad was absolutely always there. I can’t recall ever asking him for help and not getting it.
- When I was doing DIY (or just about anything really) Dad would judge how hard the task was by the number of times I would call him for advice while doing it.
Some memories from Mum that she gave me to share:
- He was a member of Mensa
- He worked tirelessly for the TRF to keep threatened lanes open
- When we first met he told me that he had a glass eye!
- When we were courting he would walk 7 miles there and back to see me
- We shared a tandem, riding from home to France for 5 days, I couldn’t do my share of the work so worked for both of us
- He had his pelvis broken in an accident, they said 6 weeks on crutches, he was walking without crutches 2 weeks later
- He was the first person to ride the northern route in Mongolia on a motorbike and sidecar
- He found out about his Uncle Mickie who was killed during WW1, he organised a trip to France with his cousins to visit his grave and place a commemorative plaque
- Trip to Paris to celebrate 30 years of marriage and the poem he wrote.
- Took me on holiday on the Honda Valkyrie to Barcelona
- Gave me a ring to celebrate 40 years of knowing each other
- Our song ‘Young Girl’ by Union Gap
- Holding my hand following an op that had gone wrong
- Always being there