Emma takes on the London 2 Brighton challenge

What an event, and what a challenge. I am so pleased I did it!

Emma (right) with fellow walker Elizabeth

I'm Emma, and I'm a MoonWalker! I did my first MoonWalk in 2010 and have now completed 14 MoonWalks. After treating myself to the 3 Land Challenge as a 50th birthday present, I've widened my horizons to take in not just MoonWalks, but also other events where I could join an official Walk the Walk Team.

I started with the Dublin Marathon in 2017. In 2018 it was the first 50K of the Thames Path Challenge and in 2019 the Thames Path Challenge 100K continuous! So what next, I wondered, after the pandemic hiatus meant virtual challenges could only be walked locally. My great walking buddy Elizabeth (who I met on the 3LC) and I decided we'd heard so much about the London 2 Brighton challenge, that we would give it a go. We decided to do it over 2 days for many reasons - not least that we felt it would be nice to be able to see all the scenery as we did it! Also, I was very adamant that I had proved I could do 100K continuously, so there was no need to do so again!

For the TPC, I followed the WTW training plan as slavishly as I could. The plan is a really reasonable plan, and builds you up gradually to long back-to-back walks over weekends. For various reasons, for the L2B I didn't do as much as I'd hoped, and I was really glad I'd agreed with Elizabeth that we'd meet up for 2 weekends of back-to-back walking. I was also relieved that I had signed up for the Walk the Walk team at the London Landmarks Half Marathon, as well as The MoonWalk London, which is ideal because it’s two weeks before L2B. By hook or by crook, I would do it!

“GET POLES!” said everyone who had done L2B before. I'd never understood the attraction, but I thought all those people couldn't be wrong - so I got some. I blooded them on a Lake District holiday and they are now my new best friends! They just balance you and spread out the strain so much, going both up and down.

So, poles inaugurated and The MoonWalk London done, I packed my bags for our L2B adventure. Elizabeth and I were so lucky in having supportive husbands who "volunteered" to pick us up after the first day and ferry us to the hotel where we were staying (no camping for us!), get us back for the second day of walking and then come to welcome us to Brighton! Apart from the marvellous poles, I took water, a variety of foot-related first aid items, my poncho and a pair of waterproof socks (just in case). It was warm and no rain was forecast. You really don't need to pack much if anything by way of food, because there's lots on offer approximately every 12-15km en route.

So off we went! Our start time was 7am on Saturday, and we set off with our long-term WTW walking buddies Kim, Kath and Claire, who were doing the 100k continuously. It was a lovely morning, sunny even then. The walk is amazing, with a range of terrains, fantastic views and just variety all the time! It starts off along the Thames Path, then after 10k or so turns off inland, heading towards the Epsom Downs. At this point, it starts to go off-road, through parks and narrow paths. We had our first "picnic" break and then headed onto the 25K lunch stop, where we aired our feet and said goodbye to the continuous walkers, who had an ambitious timetable they wanted to meet!

Then followed what was maybe the worst part - 15K to the next checkpoint, and we suffered because of the lovely weather! Quite a lot of going up, over a lovely exposed grassy common. Never have I been so glad to see the next checkpoint, and I promptly downed 3 cups of tea!

We had another 16K to go to "halfway" (which was actually 56K), and, on that stretch, we came upon two very, very welcome sights. The first was a strategically excellently placed ice cream van, and the second was an equally strategically excellently placed Walk the Walk friend, who was not participating in the event, but who had turned up on the route to give us hugs and chocolate! She probably didn't appreciate the sweaty hugs, but we sure appreciated her support! And, at 50K, another pair of WTW buddies, Sharon and Sara, caught us up on their way to their continuous 100, so it was lovely to walk a few km with them.

Tulleys Farm - the halfway point - finally came! We got there round about 8pm, so there was time for pizza, a bath and a reasonable length sleep at the hotel before we had to be back at Tulleys to start before 6.30am on day 2. Our continuous 100K buddies were, by then, nearly done - and they had said they couldn't imagine it would be possible to have actually gone to bed and then get up to start all over again. I did myself wonder this at 3am, but I knew I was always going to do it! And I kept telling myself it was "only" 44K on day 2, anyway! I'd packed spare trainers, but my Day 1 trainers had seen me through with no blisters, so I just put them on again for Day 2.

Day 2 was a more rural day, with most of what Kath tells me were the 27 stiles en route on it, and a fair few fallen trees just to add to the variety. But again, there was a mixture of a few pavements through villages, a few roads and tarmac paths, meadows and narrow, root-covered woody paths. All leading to "the hill". This is what you get to just after the 89k rest stop, and is feared by all. But, to be honest, I found it fine - maybe a combination of my Lake District training and my poles, but I didn't mind the climb, and the views from the top were amazing. A quick pit stop at 95K and then we headed straight to the finish - along the side of Brighton Racecourse. I came in at 5.45pm, not much over 24 hours total on the tracker (plus the 10 hours offsite overnight). I was thrilled, and it was also lovely that as I approached the finish a couple of the event marshals said "ooh, we see a MoonWalker coming over the line". Our fame is legendary!

What an event, and what a challenge. I am so pleased I did it! And at every rest stop, WTW called us - we gave progress updates and they gave encouragement. But of course, it's also all about raising those much needed funds. I have a Multi Challengers page for the year, and I promote it to family and friends via social media, and to my work colleagues - and also, once I had completed L2B, I put it on LinkedIn. And I'm delighted to say I have smashed my target!

So, if you want a challenging event, with a variety of surfaces, lovely views, great "picnic" stops with all food provided and to fall in love with walking poles, sign up!

Thank you for sharing your story Emma! Follow in Emma’s footsteps and register your interest in the London 2 Brighton Challenge 2023.


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