Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory. – William Barclay
Back to work on a Monday and I never thought I would feel as good as I feel. After the experience I put myself and seven others through on Saturday, I thought I would be feeling a lot worse than I currently am.
So what sort of experience was it?
Outside of work, I am involved in the world of scouting. The opportunity to help develop young people with skills for life is something that I have always been passionate about. I remember many of the skills I was shown when I was young and they have helped me during my life. We are not just talking about how to tie knots or make a campfire, we’re talking about developing teamwork, leadership, and resilience – skills that have helped Scouts become everything from teachers and social workers to astronauts and Olympians.
Just to give you a few statistics that you might find amazing, compared to those not in the scouting, Scouts are:
- 17% more likely to demonstrate leadership skills
- 11% more likely to be better problem solvers
- 19% more likely to show emotional intelligence
- 17% more likely to be able to work well in teams.
So what has endurance (from the title) got to do with this?
Every year the Buckinghamshire scouting groups have participated in an endurance weekend. “Endurance 80, 60, 40 and 10”. That is hiking 80km, 60km, 40km or 10km across tracks, lanes, paths of the Chilterns countryside, starting and finishing at Great Missenden.
The 80km hike is a 24-hour event for Explorer Scouts (aged 14 ½ to 18) to compete on their own without adult support. The 60km hike is for Explorer Scouts with adult leaders. The 40km hike is for Scouts (aged 10 ½ to 14 ½ ) and finally, the 10km hike is for Cubs (7 ½ to 10 ½ ).
This weekend our scout group participated and send in three Cub teams (18 children and adults) and a Scout team (6 children and 2 adults – one of them, me!).
The preparation and planning for the event took a number of weeks, and for the Scout team, we had had a practice hike the weekend before. We had also asked the children to go out walking for at least a couple of hours as often as possible, to help develop stamina.
However, come Saturday 3rd, when we met up at the starting point, it became apparent that we had not prepared enough. Many of the teams had walked the route a number of times before. A number had walked parts of the route in the dark (more later). We had all of the safety equipment and had briefed the children on the route, plus what food and drinks to bring.
The event is very well managed and organised, with regular manned checkpoints (with hot and cold drinks, cakes and snacks), electronic tags that are carried and registered to each participant and support vehicles ready to pick up those that drop out.
We started out and got into our stride. Through checkpoint 1, 2, 3 and 4. By this point, we had completed 17km or 10.5miles. Onwards to checkpoint 5. A steep climb, a trek through some woods and we made it to checkpoint 5. We were warmly greeted and given lots of encouragement. There was an Explorer Scout sitting by the side, who had dropped out. Chatting to her, she said that “It was all in the mind and I did not have the right mindset to complete it”, even though she had successfully completed the 80km hike the previous two years.
We trekked on to checkpoint 6 (28km or 17.4miles). The turning around point to come home to base via checkpoint seven and eight. The children were tired and my legs were killing me. The other adult with us was also feeling it in his legs. We stopped for a while, refueled and agreed to carry on to checkpoint seven. By this stage, we were focusing on one checkpoint at a time.
5:00pm and it was getting dark. We were walking a track in a dark pine forest we had never walked, using just a map and compass to guide us. The scouts were feeling nervous. I was feeling nervous. The thought in my head was “We might be lost here?”. I could not say anything to the children as they were looking worried and there was no way I was going to ask them to walk back up a track. I paused, did a quick mindfulness breathing exercise to calm me down and I checked the map.
There was a bridle path to our left. I thought it could lead us out of the forest and back onto our path home. I made the decision for us as a group to follow the bridle path up the hill. At the top, it joined a wider track that led to a gate. Through the gate and there was a tarmacked road and a house to our left. Checking the map, I knew where we were. Not on the route, but I could see a way we could get to checkpoint seven. My map reading skills of 30 years had not let us down.
Those final two checkpoints were the toughest. The scouts were hurting. The adults were hurting. We got to checkpoint seven, following the road as it was pitch dark. We agreed that it was only 10km to home and to carry on for one more checkpoint which was halfway there.
We got to checkpoint eight where there were a couple of scouts that had given up and were waiting to be picked up. We fuelled up, asked each other if any wanted to stop – none did – and agreed to do the last 5km home. We decided to walk the road rather than try another route across country in the dark.
That last 5km is something I will never forget. The humor, the tears and the focus by everyone to get home were amazing. We chatted about what we were going to eat at the end; how sore our feet were; but even more so, how proud the scout parents would be.
We made it!
We were greeted at the end by the parents with some of the biggest smiles you can imagine. Congratulations all around. We collapsed on the floor and waited for our achievement certificates and badges. After collecting them, we said our goodbyes to each other and the children left for home. I gingerly walked to my car and drove home, not even bothering to take off the walking boots till I got into my house. Sunday, was a day of rest, stretching and reading the wonderful comments and feedback from the parents who contacted me.
Just some statistics for you:
- Started at 9:05am, finished around 8:25. Official time of 11 hours and 19 minutes
- Steps walked 58,074, which translates into…..
- 46km or 29 miles, which included our wrong turning in the woods and walking back along the road rather than cross country.
As that Explorer Scout said at checkpoint 5, “It’s the mind that lets you down, not the body.” I truly believe having experienced it myself at the weekend, if you really believe you can do something, that you have mental resilience, then you can succeed.
I leave you with the following quote.
I think what endurance sports teach you is to stay dedicated, stay focused, and also to understand you’re going to have ups and downs, but you need to keep running right through them. Kyrsten Sinema
Photo by Khamkhor on Unsplash