This time two months ago, my knees were taking a pounding as I scaled the Coastal Path of the Isle of Wight with my friends. The plan was to walk the whole coastal path, which was around 65 miles long, in four days to raise money for the charity Sarcoma UK.
With over £5,000 raised for Sarcoma UK, and two months after the four-day hike, I look back at that moment as one of my strongest in my life.
Here’s the story behind it. Three years ago, my best friend’s sister was diagnosed with a rare disease called rhabdomyosarcoma, which is a type of cancer in the skin and bone tissue. She fought bravely and was given the all clear in 2016, but last year the cancer returned, finally killing her at the tender age of 20 one year ago today.
Things like this just shouldn’t happen, much less to a young girl whose bright future was robbed from her by cancer. At her funeral, our group of friends suggested to Richard (her brother) that we do a sponsored walk in her memory, which he staged at the Isle of Wight, a place which held great significance in his sister’s life.
Cut to August this year, we arrived in the Isle of Wight last Sunday to attempt the walk: a 65 mile trek across the coastal path in four days. A gruelling challenge for amateur hikers.
To prepare, we had to buy proper underwear, such as exercise shirts and pants from Under Armour, break into some boots beforehand, get a good rucksack and buy the right snacks such as fruit and breakfast bars to keep us going.
Luckily for us, we didn’t have to camp every evening because we had accommodation at the Isle of Wight, so we decided using a checkpoint system to monitor our progress, using cabs to go from our accommodation to our checkpoints. A taxi company called TJ Car Services offered to sponsor us by donating a portion of our taxi money to Sarcoma UK if we booked with them, so that made the money spent on getting to our checkpoints all the more worth it.
The walk itself was challenging for me; I struggled with pains on my left knee for three days which got progressively worse over time. We all agreed to stick together, but it got clear that we all had to walk at our own pace, so I went ahead of the group to manage my knee, keeping in touch over the course of the walk.
Thankfully, the pain didn’t worsen enough for me to be taken off the walk. The doctors told me there were no real injuries, but more of a case of wear and tear. I just had to take it easy over the following days, resting my knee as much as possible until I stopped limping on it.
Was there any doubt? Of course there was. But doubt, like pain, is something you fight through to keep yourself persevering from one goal to the next. Such an experience has taught me a lot more about myself than I thought it would. I am resilient, I am strong, I can do better. I may not be the complete package yet, but that’s okay.
The pains we went through navigating the Isle of Wight were nothing compared to what she went through. Whenever things get hard for me, I look back to these four days in which we put ourselves through four days of pain, sweat and tears in memory of a bright young girl who suffered tragic circumstances.
R.I.P. Els XX