Pat and Dave Evans have been sorely missed in recent weeks. Even as Roy Gunnett held things together admirably, folk have been asking what are our two stalwarts up to? Have they been on a Nordic cruise or have they been basking on the Costa del Sol? You must be joking. They’ve been participaing in The Civil Service Annual Challenge. And with great success.
Dave takes up the story.
Like most “competitions” the easiest part is saying “yes”and as we reached the end of May this year future plans for other activities in JUNE were put on “hold”. It is not the first time we have taken on this challenge which tasks each participant with walking or running each day for the month of JUNE
Just over 1400 civil servants registered for the challenge and each was asked to obtain some sponsorship raising money for the Civil Service Benevolent fund. All were asked to put themselves forward in teams of 2,3,4,5 or 6 and their squad could be a mixture of departments, areas and background.
Our Lynchpin was Bill Kingston, a tall long striding walker, who has supported the event since around 2016 and since then has recorded the greatest distance walked or run by any participant. Bill is now 70 but despite this is crucial to any team and a bit of an ace card.
Pat and Bill made a formidable pairing and although “competing “ against teams with three times as many team members set off on JUNE 1st ready to burn up the tarmac, trail and mountain paths. Bill walked alone around the leafy streets of Bristol and while most of us were having our breakfast he was nearing the end of his first session of the day! On day 3 Bill managed to walk into a bush which hid a rocky outcrop and was lucky not to have ended his challenge there and then. Being a former rugby player and heavy throws exponent he regained his composure and carried on. Pat had chosen to mix and match her surfaces so not surprisingly the fells, trails and country roads were her preference. I had also signed up for the challenge but stayed “solo” for competition purposes and was essentially walking with and shadowing Pat.
Living in the Lake District offers many very scenic walks but the terrain is very variable and all the hills seem to be going up. At the same time as the challenge Pat and I were endeavouring to walk the full length of Hadrians Wall so we incorporated a number of sections , some in Northumberland and some in Cumbria. Covering healthy distances each day is fine but travelling to a starting point would sometimes require parking up, getting a taxi to a chosen location and walking back to the car as long as you remembered where you left the car. One walk entailed a drive to a station , a train journey to a small village a distance away then a walk of maybe 15 miles through the countryside taking in farms, hamlets, beauty spots and tackling dual foes of animals and droppings. Very fortunately the weather was nearly always kind so few walks meant tramping through 6 inches of dung at farm gates.
To help walkers and runners to focus the national organisers website was updated by individuals on a daily basis. However, some chose to do this on a less regular basis making it virtually impossible to determine where you were overall. Individuals were allowed to use a variety of measuring devices hence fitbits, Garmin, Strava and stepcounters accounted for the majority of recorded detail. Most “competitors” did some activity regularly and the first week would have give each an insight of what they might be capable of but by the end of week two with 16 days to go the legs were beginning to feel fatigued and the enormity of the project became more apparent.
June is a fairly stable month for weather so we were blessed with good conditions most days and surprisingly met relatively few people when we walked. At the end of week 3 (day 21) Pat was still keen having kept up an average of just short of 15 miles a day but I had become decidedly grumpy. Maintaining an average of about 23 miles a day was getting to me and uneven ground and big ups and downs were making me worse.
The final 9 days were to see us increasing our daily mileage and still including routes over the local fells . Having been told by Bill Kingston that the top honours in the pairs event could go either way we had to consider pushing the envelope and the last 3 days are engraved on my heart and my head. I managed to walk into a low hanging bough on the shores of Ullswater with about 15 miles to go and almost completed my challenge early. We both walked further on days 28,29 and 30 than on any other days ending the final 24 hours with a 25 miler.Bill did all of his walking alone which is not surprising considering he left home most days at 1 00 am. When we completed our steps I calculated that Pat had walked 487 miles and myself 694. Not bad for two over 70’s! However, Bill is 70 and he managed to cover about 1175 miles almost exactly the same distance as Pat and I walked in total. We have seen more of the hills, fells, valleys, animals and flora than we normally see when out walking so the enterprise has been successful.
The final results have now been collated and with 269 teams of between 2 and 6 members our duo of Pat and Bill finished second overall less than 36 miles adrift of the top team comprising 6 members but were announced as winners of the pairs category . One member of the winning team overall ran 94 miles on one day which clearly gave his team a significant boost. Second team in the pairs walked 100 miles less than our duo leaving 266 other teams in their wake.
The days following the challenge were ones of relief and recovery. Pat’s knee problem didn’t reappear and can now be considered behind her but your truly was saddled with a sore shin for the best part of a week which was helped by liberal doses of wine ! Time is a great healer and despite saying towards the end of the 30 days that I would not want to do it again Bill is probably including us in his team of 4 for 2023 which is the only category he has yet to walk in(and win !).
Seeing the Tour de France is still ongoing, ‘CHAPEAU’ to Pat with a special mention for Dave in her shadow.