Sunday, 15 September 2013

Day 7 - Putney to Thames Barrier (19 miles, 7.5 hours)

I awoke at 05:30am again in order to get myself all sorted as packing was taking an age by now. Breakfast came in the shape of another gigantic bacon sandwich which was suitably amazing, and Sarah had also made several baguettes which would come in very handy later in the afternoon.

Trying as hard as I can to push down the fence
I was met in Wandsworth Park by a small group of people including my friends Lucy Brooks, John Richards along with his newborn son and my sister Rachael and her husband Tim. Sharpey and Sarah also came along for the first part and despite the showers coming and going most of the guys stuck it out for the first hour or so.

By Pimlico it was just myself and Lucy but we enjoyed crossing Westminster Bridge, as I always do, and moving down the South Bank, even if I did start getting back into London mode and experiencing a bit of tourist rage.  

Houses of Parliament
I had decided I wouldn’t break for lunch as I just wanted to get the day finished as quickly as possible, and I was having a snack and stretch just before Tower Bridge when I was met by Emily and Jay, along with young Charlie Chops (who spent most of the time dozing in his pram). We were about nine miles down by then and nearly halfway.
Reaching Tower Bridge was one of many mini-targets I had in mind
The team grew from there. My sister Helen joined and Rachael and Tim were back by the time we reached North Greenwich. I also had Matty Sharp join on his bike for a little while, Milly Baker bringing me more mango, Jonathan Hill come all the way from Bristol for the afternoon and Richard Kirtley for the last half a mile with his dog Spider.

We went through what was by far and away the least attractive part of the entire week shortly after Greenwich and the Cutty Sark before the Thames Barrier finally came into view. It still looked a way off though and the last four miles did seem to take an age.

A particularly attractive area around Deptford
I couldn’t speed up or slow down. I knew if I stopped it’d be really hard to get going. Even stretching was too painful now, as it added pressure to my feet – or if I sat then it gave a chance for the blood to come back for them only to be freshly bruised once I began walking again. I had plasters on every toe on my right foot, plus three other big ones, while my left foot was holding up slightly better with just two toes plastered and two others on the ball of my foot.

Looking back past the Isle of Dogs - felt like the widest bit of the river
Eventually, the barriers drew up alongside me. I’d love to say I had a huge feeling of euphoria, or an epic sense of achievement, but I really didn’t feel anything at all. Not even relief. Obviously I was glad it was over, and I was pleased I’d made it, but I was very aware that the achievement itself hadn’t sunk in yet, and might not for a while.

You can pass underneath one of the barriers and there is a map of the entire river. I really enjoyed talking a few of the guys through my journey and being able to bring it to life again. I remembered some slightly random stories as place names jogged my memory and it made the whole thing seem a bit more real.

At the finish line
We went up to the cafĂ© and park nearby for a couple of soft drinks (it was unlicensed) before eventually deciding that a train was probably faster than a taxi, and so we walked another mile to Charlton station nefore taking a train to London Bridge, changing for Waterloo East, walking across to Waterloo and then moving across to Clapham Junction. It was just myself and Hillsy now, but after I’d had a shower Lucy and Milly joined for drinks and food on the terrace along with my friends Alex, Shaun and Mike.

Sitting up there, talking through the week and just being surrounded by good friends was brilliant. I didn’t have much to say unfortunately, but my overriding emotion was how lucky I am to have such a fantastic group of friends and family. The sponsorship total had leapt up to nearly £1700 by the time I finished, and I received so many texts during the week, so many comments on Facebook and twitter and several answer-phone messages all giving encouragement and just saying really nice things that I felt quite humbled. And I think I will for some time.

Facebook Status: “I've been walking for 83 hours and 186 miles. I'm kinda tired. I think I'm gonna go home now.”

My brilliant supporters with me at the end

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