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The Three Land Challenge 2012 – what was it like?

Why did I enter? Well, having done the Moonwalk London for 3 years I found that I was getting a little too lazy…. knowing I could complete a Marathon on not as much training as I should do had made me a little too blasé and I decided I needed a bigger challenge to give me a kick up the proverbial and make me walk!!

Fran’s Three Land Challenge

The Three Land Challenge 2012 Team

I was trying to find how to start, so I thought let’s go back to the beginning.
[Editors Note: My sincere thanks to Fran for this post. It is a long one but then so is 76 miles!]

(Find out more about the 3 Land Challenge)

Why did I enter?

Well, having done the Moonwalk London for 3 years I found that I was getting a little too lazy….

knowing I could complete a Marathon on not as much training as I should do had made me a little too blasé and I decided I needed a bigger challenge to give me a kick up the proverbial and make me walk!! It’s not that I don’t enjoy the walking, far from it, but it does take time and that’s something in very short supply for me! In addition, my last London in 2011 I had done on my own after unexpectedly losing my walking partners, but talking to all those around me (proving the “You’re never alone on a Moonwalk” theory) and learning my solo motivation meant I wasn’t scared of taking on a bigger/different challenge on my own. I figured that Edinbra would be too similar to London and so I decided to go for the 3 and really push myself.

My training I sort of logged in another thread, suffice to say it wasn’t as good as it should have been, although I was happy that I would get around. I got worried about the Iceland one with there not being so many people there – figured that would be harder and I would be one of if not the slowest, but although that was true I was reassured by others that it didn’t matter.

MoonWalk London

I met the other lovely Three Land Challenge folk who had all been emailing each other to say hello, and it was nice to put names to emails! I know there was a very popular and thriving Facebook group too, although I’m not on FB so didn’t join, but did talk to folk on the forums and got to know a few so it was great when we met up. I was stupidly, hugely nervous for London, which was strange as I knew it so well and knew how to sort myself out for it!

Three Land Challenge at London

An invitation onto the stage with all the other Three Land Challenger’s was an incredible experience, seeing the crowds from the other side… totally awe inspiring to think there were 15000 of us all there for the same reason. I started the walk with another Three Land Challenge lady called Amanda who set us off at a good pace and did until 13 miles with her, at which point I told her to go on ahead as I was never going to keep that up! At mile 10 we had met another Three Land Challenge lady called Anne, and we all walked from that point together until 13 miles, at which point Amada pushed on and Anne and I stayed together until the end. My knowledge of the route of London helped us both I think, especially as this was Anne’s first Marathon. We finished London in 7hrs 45 and there were calls from everyone of “See you in Edinbra!” The Steve Hugs at mile 13 were amazing though and much needed. At mile 23 I could feel some blisters starting to develop but at mile 24 I crossed Zoe coming the other way starting her second marathon passing mile 5 ish and just pushed on to the end through gritted teeth!

(I was right about the blisters though – they were bad, for the next 4 days I could only wear sandals!) London took me 7 hours 45, which I was really pleased with.

My London bra was fairly boring – I had a net skirt with twinkly bits, notes, guitars and world flags on it and on the bra itself was a map of the world. I’m no good with sequins and stuff so am always impressed by those who do such amazing decorations on their outfits! Mine tend to be easy stuff as I never seem to have time to do it until the last minute – with London I was still sewing on the train up!!!

MoonWalk Edinburgh

This was my first time walking in this lovely city, but surprisingly after my London nerviness, I wasn’t in the slightest nervous here. I was a little apprehensive about the hills and thought my time would be worse but apart from that thought it would be fine. And after all, I had my Camels to help me out! And although I knew I would struggle on hills it didn’t matter because I knew there would be lots of support to get me over them and even if I came in at the end I would still finish no matter what.

Three Land Challenge at Edinburgh

I was lucky enough to get on site early and in the pink tent before the heavens opened – and boy did they! For about 3 hours there was no let up, and Moonwalk city became a mudbath. At 11 pm I headed out to the toilets and got totally soaked feet…. My blisters from London had been a real pain and I had had to get them sorted at the chiropodist so they were nearly gone but not quite – I tried new socks and an extra layer on my foot to protect it. The tent was lovely; with less people than London it felt more intimate and more enjoyable. Up we went on to the stage again, felt so proud, especially when we were mentioned on the message from Prince Charles! Had Steve and his lovely wife and Babs hugs in the tent, and were promised them again for mile 17. Had lots of hugs for Three Land Challenge people too – a real boost to see everyone again and so nice to feel part of a team.

At the end of London Anne and I had said we would walk together again so we met in the tent, although in Edinbra Anne’s two daughters were also walking but we said we would set off and walk together. Most of the Three Land Challenge lot went off in the first start, but Anne and I waited with her daughters who were Orange starts. I was nearly stopped as I tried to get to the start line, one of the lovely volunteers said “orange only – no pinks yet!” tried to explain my 3LC but he was adamant that I couldn’t get through – until one of his other colleagues explained and he said “on ye go” in his lovely Scottish accent!

The rain had stopped for the start but soon started again. We set off at a reasonable pace and we were doing well. I loved that Edinburgh closed roads for us or even half roads; it meant that the walking got going so much easier as people had the space to spread out. We had all been apprehensive about the hills and had heard so much about them but I was surprised to find that Arthur’s seat wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, in fact I was almost disappointed!! It was raining again by then and I was glad of the light on my cap, thanks to the folk I met in London with them who inspired me to get internetting and buy one! Very handy. At the end of Arthur’s seat we looked at each other and said “is that it?” but I think no-one had really mentioned that whilst the hills aren’t as bad as they make out (and I HATE hills, ask anyone!) there are more of them than just the one at the beginning! On we went, making good progress. I love how much Edinburgh gets into the spirit of Edinbra and the lit up buildings are especially nice. At mile 11 Anne and her daughters wanted to stop for the toilets, but the queues were long and it was getting cold so I persuaded them to carry on to the next ones – big mistake as the next ones were at mile 13, just as we got to the coast where the wind got colder and stronger!

The queue didn’t look too bad but that toilet stop took us 40 minutes – but we were too uncomfortable to walk any further. At least we had the disco bus and the wonderful volunteer who was giving out Jelly babies! We had done the first half in 3.5 hours, a really good pace, but then I struggled. I got very cold waiting for us to set off again and very stiff, starting to walk again was very hard, but no way was I giving up. I’d done half a marathon, and half the 3LC, and I’m no quitter. Each time I do a moonwalk I learn something, a tactic, a way of coping, something about where I am. New to Edinbra and only having time to fly up and back in 48 hours meant I only brought minimal luggage with me, so one set of dry warm clothes for the end which included my hoodie, so I was walking without any extra layers. I had been plenty warm enough till then, so just shows how easy it is to get cold when you stop – remember this for the future. I had already had my space blanket out draped down from my bum bag, but tied it up round my neck and at the bottom round my knees and under my plastic poncho so I could keep the wind out and try to get warm I struggled badly for the next two miles but was determined not to let Anne down and no way was I giving up. Things I have learnt from other moonwalks came into play – I set myself little targets, the next mile marker, the end of the road, a time, I kept eating and drinking and kept putting one foot in front of the other. My new one for Edinbra was to make the policemen say hello!

By mile 15 I was beginning to recover a little though it was still hard, but focussed on mile 17. Steve and Babs you have no idea just how much I needed to see your smiling faces and warm hugs. I trudged on and on and suddenly there you were. What a bright light in the dullness, and the joy of seeing you, hearing you call my name. The warmth and encouragement in those hugs were amazing and knowing I had less than 10 to go my stubbornness kicked in big time. One of Anne’s daughters began to struggle a little then with the lack of sleep and the tiredness of the timing but we tried hard to keep her spirits up. By mile 21 the weather and I had warmed up a little and I managed to get rid of both the plastic poncho and the space blanket. The hot chocolate was a little piece of heaven whilst the other ladies went to the loo. Turning back away from the coast was nice and back in towards town.

At mile 23 Anne’s other daughter really began to struggle with pain in a leg, I think they finally realised just what a challenge their Mum had taken on and that it perhaps wasn’t quite as easy as they imagined! Seeing the lovely lady with her dog at mile 25 with the sign saying “thank you for helping people like me” just wrenched my insides and I became a bit of a gibbering wreck, so close to the finish. I had heard about her from the forums, what an amazing thing to do, real real encouragement when you are low. The finish. The lovely guy on the megaphone thingy. The big hug from the volunteer and from Anne when we were done. 2 down, 1 to go. We got our passports stamped and I bought a paper to see that I was famous! I cried buckets on the way back to my hotel, crashed into bed for a few hours and flew home later that evening.

Edinbra is a fabulous experience, and despite the weather which was hard to cope with I liked it more than London. The people are amazing, they really get behind you. The city makes you feel special, like you are doing something really worthwhile. I know we know we are, but it’s nice for it to be acknowledged too! In London sometimes I almost feel we are a nuisance to the city, but Edinburgh I salute you – you are so friendly and supportive. I am determined I shall do Edinbra again sometime.

As usual the volunteers are incredible and do an amazing job. If walking the rain was hard, standing there in it, smiling, encouraging must have been a huge struggle and yet they did…. I always try to say good morning and thank you to every volunteer I pass, but know that you make it so much better and easier to complete these challenges that we set ourselves. I completed Edinbra in 8 hours 35 mins but in my head I take off the 40 min toilet queue time and make it 8 hours!!!!

My Edinbra bra will not be easily forgotten by many! The camels (will try to post pics of all 3 bra’s later) were variously called “hump2 and hump3” (geddit??), “pinky and perky”, “bill and ben”, “lefty and righty” and other names that I’ve forgotten now. They survived all the way round and I didn’t take them off (couldn’t they were attached!!!!) and the poncho kept them nicely dry – think they would have gotten heavy if they had got wet which would have made it harder. They made people smile right until the end, which was one of the main ideas. The reaction I got when I first walked in to the park and moonwalk city was tremendous, and that buzz every time someone mentioned them really kept me going. People are the key to everything with me, and when they smile, I smile.

A busy week followed! My mum had been staying to help out with the kids whilst I was away in Edinburgh so we had to take her to Gatwick to get back home (ironically she lives in Scotland!!!), I had to pack, sort stuff out for the kids and husband for whilst I was away and oh, minor thing, make a bra for Iceland!!!

MoonWalk Iceland

Very very hard to encompass this amazing experience in words. As last minute as ever I packed my sewing kit so I could finish off my bra!!! We had been warned the weather was unpredictable so I took various sets of clothing, mainly in layers. I wasn’t nervous for the marathon, though I was plenty nervous for the trip, feeling sure I had forgotten something! I had heard so much from others that I was so excited to be going on the trip, a real once in a lifetime thing for me. After an email exchange with Nina I also packed the camels!!! They came to dinner on the Friday to say hello to everyone

The MoonWalk Iceland – on the way to the Finish Line

This trip is busy, but it is lovely for lots of reasons. One is that you get to see so much more of the Walk the Walk team and meet and talk more with them – they are so lovely. You find out more about behind the scenes and how much work has to go on to make things happen – and that’s just with 80 ish people, imagine how much more that must be for London etc when there are so many!!! The team from WTW are miracle workers I’m sure, and it was genuinely lovely to be able to see them and talk to them.

We arrived at Heathrow on Thursday morning and took over terminal 1! We got some strange looks but explained our t shirts and what we were off to do. It was great to meet up with everyone again. We strode through the terminal with Sally getting us to chant about WTW! So funny! The stewardesses looks of horror when people didn’t sit in their assigned seats because they wanted to sit with friends was something to behold!!!

We landed in Iceland and went to the Blue Lagoon – a wonderful spa. Outdoor lagoon naturally heated by the warm springs. Stunning, so relaxing after the flight and the walk the previous week. A lovely snack provided we headed off for the internal flight to Akureyri and the North. Stunning views over the mountains as we flew – Iceland is a country of many parts and I would like to see more of it. On arrival we boarded coaches which took us up to Myvatn and our hotels. A late dinner with lots of information and welcome before crashing into bed.

Nina had organised for us to go in smaller groups for our sightseeing trips and I thought this was a brilliant thing. Firstly it meant that you got a really intimate experience of the island and the things you saw. Secondly it meant you got to know some people more which was great and really good for encouraging the supportive environment that we were in and all needed. The first trip of the day was whale watching – WTW had an entire boat and in was breathtaking. We were lucky enough to see lots of wildlife, Minky whales, humpback whales, seabirds, dolphins. We came out to a sumptuous lunch in a local restaurant and a little look at the local village before heading off to see a volcano! We climbed the slope up to the top (I really, REALLY HATE hills!!!) but what an amazing thing to see. Then up another slope higher up the crater edge to the downslope – definitely a challenge! We were all remembering how we had been told to rest between the last two marathons and we weren’t quite sure how this fitted in to that category; however I found muscles I didn’t know I had and Nina is certainly helping us get fit!!!

More too see, rock formations, sulphur pools and their hot steaming holes, the local country. Back to the hotel for dinner, with a seat for me and a seat for my camels. Guy arrived with our lovely Jo (so nice to see you!) and he and Nina’s little girl. I know you guys were worried about having to bring her, and that you thought it wasn’t quite right but believe me absolutely everyone understood, no-one was worried, and it was delightful to see your (beautiful, well behaved) little girl and the joy she brought to you. A real honour to have the whole Aubertin family with us. Dinner was great, but I was tired and went off to bed quickly as did many others. We knew sat would be busy.

Saturday dawned beautiful, and then there was a short hailstorm! Our lovely guide had told us that there is no such thing as the weather in Iceland – they have samples of weather! That is so true, in 5 minutes it can change so totally and you have extremes frequently, but on the whole we were pretty lucky. We went to see the fabulous Detifoss waterfalls. Stunning sight and really shows you the power of nature – reminds you how small and insignificant we are… We saw more of the local country and the local midges (thanks for the net hat – really needed that on sat am!) before being bussed back to the hotel for a rest before the big night… (Except I spent half an hour finishing my bra first!!!)

7.30 tactics and practicalities talk followed by fabulous pasta. I think we were all a bit tired and apprehensive by then but most people seemed to be ok. I went off to change and pop back for photos before we set off for the nature baths and our start line.

Nina’s warm up is something to behold!!!! The wonderful accordion player who took our minds off the challenge ahead and made us all smile and dance! We were anxious for the off though…. at that point where we just wanted to get started. We conga’d our way down to the car park for a proper warm up (new words to the hokey cokey to get us stretching!!!!!) and then walked to the start. Anne and I vowed we would start together and finish together come what may. After all, we’d done 2 marathons already and the second of those in all the bad weather in Edinbra, how hard could it be?

No mile markers in Iceland but thankfully the team had sprayed the kms on the ground so you had a clue where you were. Kilometres were great to begin with as they go so much quicker than miles and you seem to be getting over them and the figure grows faster. We set off at a good pace, nearly the back as we expected but steadily making our way down the course. The support busses with all the staff on waving and cheering for us! The field spread out very quickly as I had expected but we tried to keep those in front in sight to help us. The first 10 miles (16 km) were great and pretty quick – I was amazed at how well we were doing. We saw the sun dip (I won’t say set, as it didn’t really!) and rise again over the mountains – breathtakingly beautiful. I took a picture (one of the only ones I took on the walk) but I don’t think it will do it justice. We were incredibly lucky with the weather on the whole, it was clear and sunny, no rain. It was cold though, and I put more clothes on to try to keep warm. A quick loo stop at 18 km and all was still good. We headed for halfway in good spirits. Then we turned the corner at about halfway.

Hard as it is to describe the highs of this trip and convey how good it felt, it’s also hard to write about the lows. But if you want to know about this and you are deciding about if you might in the future then you must have an honest warts and all account. I find it hard to write this now but it will be good for me.

We turned around one of the only bends in the course to take us around the lake and we met the wind. Straight head on to us, in our faces, round and through our poncho’s (not that I’m saying they’re not good, they did keep most of the wind out and I know it would have been worse without mine) but oh how hard. Suddenly all the Edinbra aches were there and my body was hurting everywhere, battling the wind was so so hard. I was getting worried about Anne who was seeming to get so cold and wouldn’t put any other clothes on and for the first time ever since I started doing moonwalks I thought I might not make it. I cried from km 23 to km 27, all the time trying to stop myself crying and not let myself collapse. I felt so tired and dejected, but I kept looking round and there Anne was, putting one foot in front of the other and I was not about to let her down. Or myself for that matter. I cried to myself that I would not let this beat me. I would conquer. Before we had come to Iceland I had said to lots of people that there was no way that once I done 2 marathons that I wasn’t going to finish the 3rd, and I kept thinking about how bad it would be if I had to tell them I hadn’t made it. I kept hoping for a let up in the wind but there was none. I had to dig deeper into my soul and my very being than I have ever dug in my life. I think, psychologically too, that passing the number 26 without it being nearer the end than it was in this case (as it was only 26km not 26 miles) was a difficult moment. I prayed that I could make it. The support buses, whilst amazing, were less frequent now as being at the back, more people were closer to the finish than us and also as people got tired and colder they needed more, so I’m sure the buses were stopping longer to help people. That is not a criticism, merely an observation and supposition. This meant that for a good portion of time you were really on your own (or with the people you were walking with). Actually though, I am quite glad that we didn’t see anyone at that time, firstly as I would have been embarrassed for them to see me so low, and secondly because if there had been a bus there was a distinct possibility I might have tried to get on it!!!!

Somewhere around there I also lost my space blanket which blew off across the moor – I felt so bad about the litter but there was no way I was going to catch it – there’s probably a sheep somewhere setting a new trend in clothing!!!!

I got through that time because of Anne next to me, keeping me going, and because of some lovely friends and family texting me, including the fantastic Sharon (Wychwood). It helped so much because she understood. Would I have got through it alone? I will never know, but do not underestimate the inner strength you need to finish this.

We passed the 30 km marker and that was a big relief, but still such a distance to go. The walking was harder in the wind and the tiredness and aching was difficult to deal with but I grit my teeth and carried on. When we saw the next bus I could smile and say I was ok. We were slowing, I could feel it and it was heartbreaking in a way because the longer you took the longer it hurt and the harder that made it, but we kept going. Anne was truly amazing, whenever I asked if she was ok she said yes, and we just talked it out when I was struggling.

By km 32 we declared we were now bored of the wind and it could stop. (It didn’t)
By km 35 I declared I was now no longer bored of the wind I was ****ing ******* off with it and it really could stop now. (It still didn’t).

I started to compose my “I’ve finished!” text in my head – determined now that I would finish it and send that text. At one point Sharon in one of the buses asked if we needed anything. I asked for a new pair of feet a new pair of legs and a new brain that wouldn’t let me sign up for something so stupid again!!!

Km 38 – the other ‘real’ toilets and the lovely, lovely Sally. The night before at dinner we had been singing along to the music in the restaurant and we sang ‘Pretty Woman’ the Roy Orbison song. I had told Sally that I expected her to sing that to me at mile 24 like she meant it, like I really was pretty even though I would no doubt look like crap!!! Bless her she remembered, and we sang together, arm in arm as she set us off on our way home.

KM 39 and 40 seemed long, up the hill to the nature baths but suddenly Anne had found a spurt of energy and was moving faster – I was trying to keep up! She said that she knew she was near the end. We passed the 41 km marker and observed that we must have walked over a km to the start line so sneaky Nina made us walk 43 km that night!!!! As we got towards the entry to the nature baths we could see the flags and the team waiting to greet us. I began getting my usually emotional wreck state then Anne suddenly said “Who’s walking faster now then!” and we laughed, and hugged, and walked towards the lovely Nina and our finish line. I knew there were only 3 people behind us, but I didn’t care about where I finished. I was astounded too to look at my watch and realise that we had done it in 8 hours, I thought it would have been longer.

Oh the hugs at the end. Nina, Guy, Shabana. Nina said how well we had done and I said then as I say now, that I would not have got over that finish line but for Anne. The silent support, the promises made, the companionship, the honour of walking with someone who has been through what she has, I only hope I have that strength and fitness at 60, she really is an amazing lady. Inside and breakfast and hugs from all the 3 Landers, and then I went outside to see Rebekah finish, another truly incredible amazing lady, to have the strength to complete that alone, much much respect is due.

I sent my text and basked in the feel good of the replies, thanks to Ali (Squirel) for telling the folk on facebook too and passing on their good wishes, it was so lovely to hear.

So I completed my medal collection for 2012. Well, almost – more of that in a second. Although I had a massage booked and had been looking forward to the nature baths I decided that sleep was all I wanted, and knowing I had to travel later that day I just went straight back to the hotel. I’m sorry that I didn’t take full advantage of what was on offer there that morning as I’m sure it was amazing.

I slept 0930 until 2.30 and when I awoke felt almost human. I had to pack – I was leaving early, but thankfully I was still able to go to the lovely celebration afternoon tea. I was so proud to see everyone there having completed their challenges, looking amazing (if a little tired!). It feels almost unreal even now, but I will store the memories for ever. Then Nina gave us our Three Land Challenge medals and we all clapped and hugged and cheered and celebrated, and now my medal collection really is complete.

I left that afternoon to come home earlier than everyone else as Monday was my little boy’s 5th birthday and I wanted to be home to see him, but I’m sure the dinner that evening was amazing and I know the trip back would have been good too.

My memories of the trip are very special, the scenery, the people I met(far too many to name!), the things I saw, the amazing team from WTW, the hardest marathon I have ever completed and the unreal sense of achievement and pride at what I and others have achieved for this wonderful and so important cause. We all have different reasons for doing what we do, and they are all special, some I know, some not, but I am so proud to be associated with WTW and all the people who do what we do.

My Iceland Bra had a silhouetted whale in the sea on one side and a volcano on the other, with a net skirt that had midnight suns and Iceland and UK flags on it.

I want to say a huge thank you to all the team at Walk the Walk, we really felt so special and looked after, the trip was fantastic and your support to allow us to walk is second to none. Words can’t thank Anne enough for getting me to the end of that, you’ll always have a part of me. To all the wonderful 3LC and Iceland Moonwalkers thank you for a memorable trip and a great end to a difficult but astounding challenge. To all my friends and family and especially my forum friends for all their support and encouragement

Would I do it again? Not sure; not sure if anything would make it so special again, and don’t want to spoil the memory. My vow is to volunteer next year and see that side of things, but not sure if I’ll be able to stop myself signing up for at least one walk. Would I recommend you do this trip? 110% yes. The highs and the lows and the experience are one I will never forget and I’m certain that goes for everyone. If you go for it then train well and understand the mental and physical stamina you will need, but be certain that it will all be worth it. I smile every time I think of it and will never stop supporting WTW one way or another. Volunteer year next year, then something different in 2014 for my 40th birthday.

This has turned into a 5000 word essay so I’ll shut up now, but you did say you wanted to know!

Love to all,
Fran

Links:

Visit the main Three Land Challenge page


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