From Saturday 20th May until Friday 26th May I will attempt to run the 184 mile Thames Path from the river’s source in Gloucestershire (around 5 miles from the Steppes Travel office) to the Thames Barrier in east London.
I will be running the equivalent of seven marathons in seven days to raise money for Restless Development a youth-led development agency placing young people at the forefront of charitable development in Africa and Asia. I first heard of Restless Development when they came to the Steppes Travel office and gave us an excellent presentation. Shortly after this I visited one of their projects in India, a small IT centre giving young girls from a poor neighbourhood in Chennai basic IT tuition. It was such a moving but inspiring visit – the girls were so keen to learn, the teacher (unpaid) such an asset, and the centre so basic but so valuable.
I walked away acutely aware of how much we have in the West and realised I wanted to raise money for Restless Development to build more centres like the one I saw. As a keen runner, swimmer and cyclist in my spare time I am drawn towards long distance events so the options for raising money were always going to involve my own physical discomfort but initially I was struggling to think of a decent challenge.
Then one day I had a ‘lightbulb moment’. I grew up by the River Thames and have swum in it, fished in it, boated and kayaked on it, picnicked beside it, and spent a considerable amount of time running its banks. The idea to run the length of the river as quickly as I can came to me whilst camping with a friend in Sweden. We were sat by the fire sipping whiskey and telling stories having spent the day kayaking around the island we were staying on. I don’t really know why the idea to run the Thames came into my head but it did and the next morning it was still there.
At home I started looking into the details and when I divided 184 (the length of the official Thames Path in miles) by seven (days) I could hardly believe that the figure I got was 26.285. 26.2 miles is the length of a marathon. Seven marathons in seven days has a nice catchy feel to it. The source of the river lies in a field roughly five miles from my desk at the Steppes Travel HQ, I grew up by the river near Marlow, the Restless Development office is a stone’s throw from the Thames near the London Eye. It just seemed to make sense. Armed with a map and pencil I worked out a provisional schedule sticking as close to the marathon distance of 26 miles a day as I can. This kind of worked although I have generously (read stupidly) given myself 30 miles to run on the last day! I’ll be carrying everything I need for each day on my back – food, drinks, rain jacket, phone etc.
With my challenge in place I announced my intentions to Restless Development and to anyone else who would listen. All that was left to do was train, get as fit as I could, and raise some money for Restless Development. With five days to go I am in reasonable shape although training has been a bit up and down due to niggling injuries. Fundraising, thanks to my wonderful friends, family and colleagues is going well and I have been given some wonderful support for which I am extremely grateful. On the run I will give 110% to reach the finish and raise as much as I can for Restless Development. If you would like to read more about my challenge or indeed would like to sponsor me then please visit my justgiving page – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Joe-vs-the-ThamesPath
Wish me luck!
The below photo was taken at the end of a 45-mile ultramarathon I did as part of my training.