When Paul Astley, partner Charlotte, brother Daniel and family friend Bianca took on a 100km challenge in memory of his niece Scarlett Marie Straughton, there was no hesitation in choosing who their fundraising efforts would go to. Scarlett had been cared for by the wonderful team at Alder Hey Children's Hospital. This is his story.
"Bianca came up with the idea to complete a 100 km challenge and originally wanted to complete the Trailwalker 100km. This challenge was above our skill level and run by The Queens Gherka Signals and had a time limit of 30 hours. We continued our search and opted to go for the Thames path challenge in September 2017. We immediately contacted Alder Hey and received full support from the team - plus amazing training t-shirts, money tubs and leaflets to help us start up our fundraising.
Training began almost immediately and proved to be a challenge in itself. None of us had completed an event of this magnitude before. We fitted training around work and family life over the course of 12 months. We all conducted various training from cycling to and from work, running, walking and even swimming when lower limbs injuries occurred. Shin splints are painful - ask Bianca!
Train tickets were booked and accommodation for the night before the challenge was kindly donated by Wellington Army Barracks. This saved us commuting to London at 3.00 am to get to the start point on time.
Whilst concentrating on training and fitness we were also fund raising and trying to achieve our target of £3000. We each had a personal sponsorship form, money tubs and even a text message and QR code donation leaflet. We hit our target the very morning we were on the London underground heading to the start point, and it was Bianca's daughter and son who finally got us to our target (I'm sure they were encouraged slightly by their mother!). What a great feeling to hit the target the day we set out to start the challenge.
We met up at the start point, though weirdly Daniel was dressed like a boxer with knee length shorts and a hoodie but it did make us smile. When we were ushered into a pen for our Zumba warm-up the reality hit us and we were full of mixed emotions from the overwhelming atmosphere and apprehension of the huge challenge ahead.
Once we started the challenge we were all in very high spirits but this would soon change. Hitting the 10km point we decided to have a quick group selfie with the brilliant idea that we could do this at every checkpoint. This turned out to be not such a fun idea as by the time we reached midway on the first day we had started to feel the aches, pains and blisters beginning.
Progress was steady and with Daniel being a self-proclaimed comedian he decided to stop for a quick ice-cream a van we saw on the route. Approaching the 40 km point it was noticeable that Daniel had started to develop severe cramps in his legs, and by the next checkpoint he had developed huge blisters. Unfortunately, the next 10 km would be Daniels last, as he braved the agonising pain of cramps and blisters but had to retire at 50 km - a fantastic achievement in itself.
On setting off on the second half of the challenge there were signs of a second casualty as Bianca started to suffer the same as Daniel. We worked together as a team to encourage each other and keep Bianca's spirits high. It all proved too much as she battled the pain to get to the next checkpoint, we eventually made it but unfortunately, Bianca had to retire with her injuries. Bianca received her medical treatment and Charlotte and myself refuelled for the next leg of the journey, said our goodbyes and reluctantly left another teammate behind.
With the challenge now having claimed half of our team, it was now down to the final two to complete the challenge. The rain started the same time as the wind, we battled through all the way up to the last checkpoint at 88 km. It was now the final push and as we re-dressed our blistered feet we noticed Charlotte had injuries that even made my eyes water. Every bone in her body was telling her to stop before she did herself any real injury, but she was determined to carry on. After an emotional video call to Scarlett's Mum Lindsay, she strapped up her swollen blistered feet and said "let's finish this". We'd tackle this together one kilometer at a time.
We started to count down every single km, but by the 90 km point I started to develop cramps in my right calf and had to stop every 500 meters or so to stretch it off. The weather continued to try and beat us but seeing the 99 km marker gave us that final boost, we looked at each other and without having to say anything we could see the emotions just pouring from each others faces, knowing that we were so close to the finish, and the emotional relief of completing a challenge that has been a year in the making. On crossing over the final bridge we could see the finish line and the spokesperson with his microphone ready to receive us. We could see someone holding two glasses of champagne and our medals, We had done it! 100 km of pain, a year's worth of planning and training by all the team and over £3,200 raised by all our family and friends.
We collected all 4 medals, drank the champagne and ate a finishers meal in the knowledge that we had, as a team, succeeded in raising a huge amount for an excellent charity and in the memory of mine and Daniel's niece, Scarlett."
Running challenges are a brilliant way to fundraise and get the backing of your friends and family, as well as all the fundraising support you need from our team. The best bit about them is they are fun, even when the going gets tough, and you are raising money for a good cause whilst taking part!
Charity donations raised by people like Paul and his team support vital medical research into childhood conditions like cancer, arthritis and diabetes. If you would like more information or support speak with one of our team team on 0151 252 5742 or go here: https://www.alderheycharity.org/events/