There’s nothing quite like a long, muddy hike to get you in the mood for February half-term. Last Saturday several WWESU teams took part in the Southern 50 challenge, which takes place in the Chiltern Hills: to walk either 30km, 50km, or 50 miles in 24 hours.
The weekend started late on Friday night, as we drove up to the Chilterns in various minibuses. The Southern 50 is always based at a school, and this year we headed to Icknield College to join hundreds of other Explorers, Networkers, and Leaders. All the Explorers camped out in the Sports Hall, and as you might expect, no one slept very much.
We were all woken up very early, when someone decided to turn the lights on at 5am. Breakfast, however, had started at 4am, so we quickly headed there before having our kit checked. Once through kit check, the 30km teams were driven to their start, and the 50km teams started out from the school. (The 50 mile teams had left a long, long time ago).
Although the walk seemed to have unnecessarily steep hills, and the ankle deep mud made for very slow walking, we were kept going by the food and drink provided at regular checkpoints.
When we arrived back at the school, we spent the evening comparing blisters and eating cake, and most of the Unit ended up staying awake until 3am on Sunday to wait for the return of a 50 mile team which included one of our members.
Having had four hours of sleep, we woke on Sunday morning and had a quick breakfast of pastries and then the presentations started. All our teams had done very well, with one coming third in the 30km, and another winning the Fastest Girls Team trophy. After the presentations and the event video, we helped clear up and then got on the minibuses to drive back to Scout Park.
Here are some groups’ accounts of their hikes: (As you will see, there are varied opinions of the event)
Max, Cameron, Simpson and Lawrence (30km):
“My group arrived in Watlington filled with confidence and determination, ready to win a trophy for the Unit.
Unfortunately we discovered that we were one of the last teams to leave, as we registered late. We knew it would be a mad dash across 30k to win anything. And we did! We just kept running for the first 2 checkpoints. No breaks at the checkpoints, No stopping, Nothin’.
However, it did pay off. We did manage to run ahead of most teams by Checkpoint 17, including Dearbhla’s team! Unfortunately, and much to our annoyance, there was a team always just ahead of us. So when they stopped at checkpoint 20 that was our chance. It was a mad dash initially, and an even madder dash when we saw them running behind us.
When we finished, we discovered that we were one of the first teams to finish, but we weren’t quite sure of our position. The next day we discovered our team “Are we there yet?” took third place at the 30k.”
“We walked much longer than 30km.
It was traumatising.
Don’t do it.”
Dearbhla, Carina and Lily (30km):
“30km: how to say? You know that sound pugs make? That asthmatic, Darth Vader sounding noise. That sound accompanied our team for the vast majority of our triumphant journey. This extraordinary noise was emitted by a much smaller creature than you would otherwise suppose (ie. Lily). Despite having not suffered severely from asthma for several years, she was now unable to breathe without wheezing.
However, we did manage not to get lost, and Lily’s asthma gave us a reason to go round most of the hills, instead of over them. Our team’s journey ended at Checkpoint 15, as Carina and I did not want to have to perform First Aid on an unconscious Lily, somewhere on a random footpath. Having said goodbye to Lily, we proceeded to wait at the checkpoint for over two hours. Our fingers started to freeze, our toes slowly turned to ice, and we began to realise that we shouldn’t have let Lily take all the food. We sat and waited – and counted our losses. So far, this included: a single glove (Carina’s), a cracked mug (also Carina’s) and a person (Lily). Sitting like lost puppies we stared hopefully through the windows, waiting for a team we could join up with. Eventually a WWESU 50km team arrived, who allowed us to join them, so long as we walked very,VERY fast.”