Wendy and Damian take on 100km at the Thames Path Challenge for Walk the Walk!

If we could just bottle the feeling we experienced completing our 100km and market it, we’d be very rich indeed!

Wendy describes how she and partner Damian completed an incredible 100km on the Thames Path. Wendy was distinctively dressed as a walking fairy, complete with tutu, tiara, wand and fairy wings!

“We did it! We’re so proud to be Thames Path Challenge finishers! It was genuinely the toughest challenge we’ve ever done in our entire life. I personally had to really dig deep – particularly in the last 8km. Having started early on the Saturday morning, Damian finished in the early hours of Sunday. He then came back to join me, enjoy the atmosphere at the end which was amazing and bring me home later on Sunday, which was truly appreciated!

Why tackle the 100k Thames Path Challenge? 

Because it’s hard. It’s most definitely the most difficult challenge we’ve attempted to date. For those of you who have walked quite a few challenges – for example multiple marathons in cities or cross-country 50k’s - this gives you something very stretching to work towards. It’s a true endurance challenge, involving strong mental resolve and strength as well as the physical fitness elements. I worked out that I was awake for 32 hours during the challenge before I was able to sleep on Sunday afternoon!

The event is extremely well-run and I’m continually impressed by the attention to detail by the crew from Action Challenge, who organise the Thames Path event. The food is delicious and there are hot food choices at some of the larger rest stops. I really enjoyed a cheese and pickle roll around tea time on Saturday afternoon, which I hadn’t had for ages and it kept me going until halfway!

And of course it’s fantastic to be able to support Walk the Walk, who do incredible work.

Why were we so thrilled to complete the Thames Path Challenge?

Firstly, the obvious. This was our Biggest Challenge Ever. For the first time in ages, Damian and I were genuinely not sure whether we could complete it or not. We were both somewhat nervous the night before and on the day itself – understandably. I remember driving into London with our favourite cabbie thinking, what have I done? And my other thought was that I was probably still going to be walking at the same time the following day!

I knew we would be delighted if we finished it, but we didn’t realise quite how delighted we would be. That feeling stayed with us for weeks afterwards.

My walking fairy outfit  – the wings didn’t make it!

The tutu, wand and tiara survived but the fairy wings didn’t. There are only so many gates you can go through and narrow lanes you walk down without having an impact on your fairy wings!

Amazing atmosphere and vibe

As with all events like these, you’ll meet some lovely, like-minded people to walk with on the day itself. I walked with some really friendly groups from other charities and I met briefly with some of the Walk the Walk participants along the way, which was great. I then walked overnight with a super group who stuck together and supported each other for the whole of the second 50km. Damian ran part of the course and speed walked the rest, so was ahead of me for all of the challenge.

There is always such a great vibe amongst all the participants and the support crews with everyone supporting each other. There was particularly outstanding support from both Action Challenge and the wonderful crew at Walk the Walk who were in regular contact with us during the event, at all times of the day and night via our phones. Due to various Covid-19 protocols still being in place, it wasn’t possible to have cheer squads at all the major rest points for the Thames Path Challenge in 2021.

One of the Action Challenge volunteers even made sure that I had a pink glow stick for my rucksack, so I was on-brand for the night time stretch of the challenge – I didn’t even have to ask! A lady at the half way point also charged my phone, as my lightning cable wasn’t working (see top tips below).

Because I was in a fairy costume, I was stopped by members of the public during the Saturday daytime part of the walk. This was great, as I was able to share information about Walk the Walk with those who asked. Most people were truly horrified about the distance we were taking on! Many walkers, cyclists and runners were so encouraging along the way and we even saw a group partying on a boat – they were talking to everyone going past and knew all about the challenge by late afternoon! It was also really uplifting to receive encouragement from a group of runners leaving Henley as we arrived at the finish.

Issues experienced!

On the whole we were lucky not to experience any major issues which meant we had to withdraw from the challenge.  Damian ran the first 25km, until a knee injury forced him to stagger 3km into the next rest station. He was lucky to be able to walk for the rest of the challenge as his knee slowly began to flex a little where was supposed to! Damian was really cold at one of the last stops (he wasn’t expecting to be out for so long, as he was originally planning to run the whole distance) - so one of the medics gave him a hot water bottle, hot drink and a blanket, which he was able to take for the rest of the walk. That really helped him to get through the last bit.

Damian still completed the full 100K, so he was understandably thrilled, as was I! Medically I did really well with the exception of a skin on skin blister between two of my toes which got worse in the last 5K, so it was great to be able to put my fitflops on at the end. I struggled a bit to eat at the 50k half way point, but made myself eat something slowly. Otherwise I can’t say I experienced any major issues at all.

Down at the riverside the temperature at night can be significantly lower than the weatherman is predicting! On the day we expected a minimum temperature of some 14C in the wee hours, however the actual temperature at the riverside felt more like 6C overnight. This can be quite a shock to the system and Damian was seriously concerned that he wouldn’t be able to complete the last 12km. He ended up wearing the (generously donated) blanket throughout the entire last section and felt that without it, he would have been medically retired, whether he wanted to or not!

Top tips – beforehand

Train with your rucksack so you are really used to it. In addition, go out for a night walk with a friend/family member, to get used to wearing a headtorch. This is mandatory for everyone doing the 100K – you are not allowed to walk overnight without a headtorch. 

Follow the training plan and try and do some other sports and activities as well as the walking training. Even dancing helps! The one thing I wished I’d done was to start Pilates during the training programme, but it’s something I’ll pick up for future challenges. 

As with all walking challenges you need to be prepared for weather of any type and in early September you can experience quite warm weather too, which is what we had. A dry and sunny day on the Saturday was followed by an even warmer Sunday morning, as the sun came up and we gradually made our way to the finish in Henley. A small tub of sunscreen is a must for your rucksack.

Top tips – on the day

Take a change of socks which you can swop over every 25K – even if it’s not wet, it’s worth doing this. I also added a barrier substance to my feet before starting and then took a small plastic tub with me on the day to reapply. Follow all the advice from Walk the Walk about your trainers and socks and particularly about being used to them before the day, without them being too worn.

I took a long sleeved t-shirt that I put underneath my main t-shirt to add layers and warmth. I also had a familiar zip up top, which really helped too overnight.

Take a small, lightweight portable phone power pack and lightning cable. You are going to be out for a long time, so you’ll need this to keep your phone charged for taking photos, staying in touch with people and obtaining help if you or other walkers need it. 

Have a small bag packed for the end that contains additional warm clothing and some flipflops/sandals to change into. You can leave your bag with the organisers and/or ask friends and family collecting you at the end to bring it.

Mid-week medium length training walks

The great thing about the timing of the Thames Path Challenge is that you have the light in the evenings for your mid-week walk – the training programme runs over the spring and summer. I stuck to the same day of the week pretty much (a Wednesday) and I found a route where I could regularly do 7-8 miles every week with the dog - who loved it obviously! Damian went out during the day and regularly did a 10-mile route around where we live.  

Fundraising – mix it up a bit

As with all of the Unique challenges, it’s definitely worthwhile looking at doing one or more fundraising events and activities on top of just asking friends, family and neighbours to sponsor you. I organised a couple of fundraising, fashion and fizz parties at a local dress agency in the July. We’re doing the Camino next year, so are already thinking about some fun fundraising events to undertake. 

Checkout your friends on Facebook, as you might also get inspired with other fundraising ideas - and think about some of the events you’ve enjoyed in the past. Is there an activity you think would particularly suit your skills? Many Walk the Walk friends are very creative and often sell various items they have made, with the profits going to the charity.

Walk the Walk provide plenty of ideas for different fundraising activities to undertake – many of which are great fun and provide an excuse for friends and family to get together.

To read about Wendy's Fashion and Fundraising, click here.

Try out different distances – build up to a 100km

If you’re not sure about tackling the 100km straight off, then consider building the distance up gradually. There are 25km, 50km and 100km options on the Thames Path Challenge. We did the 50km in 2019 and then returned to do the 100km in 2021. 

If we could just bottle the feeling we experienced completing our 100km and market it, we’d be very rich indeed! It’s really worth the training and you get to enjoy some fabulous views along the Thames.

- Wendy

Thank you Wendy and Damian for sharing your story. Join the Walk the Walk team for the Thames Path Challenge 2022! Don't miss out... sign up now!



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