A thing happened on Sunday; a very surreal thing. I don’t really know where to start because I’m still trying to get my head around it all, but I’ll begin at the beginning and end at the bit when I limped over the finishing line. For those of you who’ve heard most of this before, stick with it; it’s a decent tale.
In the New Year, I made the decision that 2019 had to mean something more than any other year. I wasn’t quite sure how or why, but I set myself twelve goals; everything from experiences, to challenges, to general life choices I hoped would enhance my life and the lives of others. As with most things I do, I put the fate of my year into the hands of my wonderfully crazy friends. The idea started out as a simple stroll around my local park in order to get some well overdue walking practice, with a blog at the end to say I could ‘walk the walk’. However, it quickly snowballed into a much bigger and far more meaningful mission. It was no longer just about me. Thus, Written Wheel Walks came into fruition.
As I’ve said previously, Lincoln Drill Hall and the Samaritans aren’t obviously matched to be joint beneficiaries of fundraisers, never mind for someone with cerebral palsy who stereotypically should be raising money for their ‘own kind’. The point is, I wanted to practice what I preach so fundraising for charities which promote integration and authenticity were the way forward.
The Drill Hall Art Centre does this perfectly because they’re inclusive beyond belief. If you’re an actor in need of somewhere for your talent to be nurtured and showcased, this is the place to be. If you’re a member of the public looking for somewhere to kick back and relax, be safe in the knowledge that there’ll always be a show or production for you. Above all though, what makes the Drill Hall so special is regardless of who you are or where you come from, you’re welcome, even if it’s just for a coffee and a chat.
The latter links in well with the Samaritans who are there to lend an ear to those in need at any time of the day or night. Sometimes having someone you don’t know on the end of the phone can be more helpful and healing than ‘burdening’ your problems onto friends and family. As well as providing practical support, the Samaritans raise awareness of mental health within various communities, teaching people it’s okay not to be okay and that it’s okay to be themselves.
So, these were the foundations; a sponsored walk in aid of two amazing charities. The question was, how on Earth was I going to complete it. Luckily, I had already started training with Lee Johnston at Elite Fit, Skegness. I initially brought the subject of the walk up just to see what he thought, but before I knew it, we had a masterplan as to how we’d achieve our goal to walk a mile and a half in an hour and a half. In turn, a stream of firsts began: I walked half a mile along the beach, I trekked up (and skidded down) hills, I acquired blisters on top of blisters, I walked for five minutes consistently on a treadmill having never set foot on one before, I walked up and down the carpark more times than I can count. And after all of that, I was capable of walking a full mile along the beach and consistently walking for ten minutes on the treadmill. Four months in, and I was as ready as I’d ever be, or so we thought.
This is the bit that I’m not sure I can put into words, so bear with me...
In all my twenty-five years, I don’t think I’ve fully appreciated what cerebral palsy truly entails or what it means for me. Sure, I’ve never let it stop me from doing anything, hence why I was on this crazy expedition to begin with, but I hadn’t ever entirely considered what its limitations are. With that in mind, I don’t think I comprehended the extent to which the challenge was a challenge.
So, off I went, at the speed I knew I was capable of, to conquer a mission I knew was achievable. The weather was perfect – not too hot, not too cold. My gorgeous gang had turned up in their fabulous style to support me and Lee was there to pick me up if I face-planted the floor. What could go wrong!
From what I can remember - it’s all a bit of a blur, we smashed the first quarter of a mile. In my head this meant we were on target to finish within three and a half hours. But then things started to get a little tricky. The sun was beaming, it was getting tougher to pull the walker over the terrain and I was missing the sea breeze of Skegness more than ever. We hadn’t even reached the half a mile mark.
After I’d hauled myself half a mile with a lot encouragement and support, everything went drastically downhill. I ditched the walker and the splints for a while and walked arm in arm with a couple of friends in order to take the weight off my legs. At one point, I thought I was going to pass out, but then I remembered there was four nurses who’d come to join the fun, so I figured I was in safe hands.
It was whilst I was sitting on one of the very rare benches we’d managed to find, I turned to Lee in the hope that he would have a grand plan. With a look of concern and slight fear, he said; “We didn’t plan for this, but you can’t plan for everything”. I’ll be honest, I debated giving up. I didn’t know how I was going to manage to get to the next marker, let alone how I was going to walk the full course. It didn’t seem possible. But the more I thought about it, the clearer it became. It wasn’t about me; too many people had come to support me, too many people had sponsored me, and I’d made a promise to the Drill Hall and the Samaritans that I’d fundraise for them. Come hell or highwater, we were going to do this.
I’ve joked for months that my friends would have to drag me to the end, and this really was the case, both physically and metaphorically. For an entire mile we laughed, we cried, and we became hysterical. We sang, we strolled, and we sunbathed. We created plasters from nappies, we dealt with crazy dogs and we deep breathed.
I’m still in a state of disbelief as how we crossed the finishing line in a mere five hours; the sheer agony and simultaneous exhilaration is something I’ve never experienced. Hand on heart, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I think I’ve been through every emotion since. But, my gorgeous gang, we nailed it. This is as much your victory as it is mine.
Thank you so much. I love you all.