I stopped along the way to speak to Caledonian Challenge veteran Sandy
‘Eyecandy’ Borland. Sandy has completed the Challenge twice, took part as a
marshal last year, and this year, he’s been supporting team Dunn
He said: ‘I’ve seen it all… checkpoint four is
where people are starting to unravel because they’re so tired. There are
blisters and few toenails dropping off, it’s not pretty. The best part of
the walk though is seeing the look on people’s faces as they cross the
finish line. It’s magic.’
As team support, Sandy
makes sure his walkers have everything they need to complete the walk. That
varies from dry clothes, to plasters, and of course food. They also monitor
how there walkers are, if someone feels confused or cold, it could be a
sign of something more serious, so the health of the walkers is of
paramount importance to the support teams.
one of Sandy’s walkers, when I spoke to her, she’d walked the first two
sections of the walk. She said: ‘This is the fourth time I’ve done the
Caledonian Challenge. You have to dig deep to complete it, but it gives you
a great sense of achievement.
‘The best bit is the
checkpoints, it’s the only time I get waited on hand and foot. The only
thing is, Sandy makes me walk 12 miles first!’
Four is an RBS team. RBS are the title sponsor of the event, and nearly a
third of the teams that take part, are made up off RBS employees. Paula
Wightman has been involved with the Challenge, through RBS, for four years.
She helped to spread the word about RBS’ involvement with the walk to
employees. She said: ‘There were so many people who wanted to take part in
the Challenge from RBS in London, but it can be expensive for whole teams
to travel up, so the bank started to offer sponsorship to allow people to
‘We are inundated with requests for
teams,’ she continued. ‘Now we also recruit staff to volunteer at the
One such volunteer is Melanie Simons who
travelled up from London to take part. She said: ‘This is my first time as
a volunteer, and my first time in the Highlands. Even when you’re driving
on the main road in a 4x4, the surrounding look hard and rugged. It’s an
Okay, I’m off to the final
stop to greet the walkers as they come over the finish line… Crack open the
Posted by Nadine on 15/06/08 08:36
All I can say is wow… This is the first time I’ve seen the Caledonian
Challenge in action, and it’s awesome. Congratulations to the walkers for
their unwavering enthusiasm; well done support teams for keeping your
groups going; and congratulations to the event organisers, volunteers,
marshals, sponsors, the Armed Forces (namely the Army and Marines), the
ambulance crews, the physios, and the catering staff for creating a truly
The event is planned to coincide
with the height of Scottish summer. For those who’ve never been to Scotland
before, summer here means you get to wear your waterproofs and thermal
undies slightly less often than usual! However, even the Scottish walkers
have been tickled to see snow in June on the highest mountain peaks as they
make their way south to the banks of Loch Lomond.
route of the walk meanders down the West Highland Way, and to punctuate the
journey, there are four checkpoints between the start and finish line.
Walkers can see the flags marking the rest stops fluttering from afar,
willing them to keep going with the promise of refreshments, massage, and
(most importantly) a seat!
This is where the support
teams can make sure the walkers have everything they need to keep going.
Using a text messaging service, support teams are given updates on the
progress of their team (who are all wearing electronic tracking chips), so
when they know their walkers are an hour away, it can only mean one thing…
get the BBQ on.
Over the course of 54 miles, the
average walker burns 10,000 calories (that’s four times more than in an
average day for a man, and five times more for a woman), so the checkpoints
give them a chance to refuel. At checkpoint two, I was amazed to see rather
fancy fare being prepared. Veggie kebabs and prime meat burgers were
sizzling away nicely on disposable barbeques, and there were pots of
chilli, bags of pasta, and lots of sweet treats.
10.30pm on Saturday night, and the light is beginning to fade. It’s getting
on for the most gruelling part of the walk, where everyone is tired and
aching, but there’s still quite a distance to go. This is a tough
challenge, but all the money the money raised by walkers will help
communities all over Scotland. Thank you if you’ve sponsored a team or
walker, you’ve made every step they take worth it, and your support is much
appreciated by the Scottish Community Foundation and the not-for-profit
groups they support.
PS - Some people have finished
already! Believe it or not, some participants run the 54 miles instead of
walk. Hats off to you and well done, you crazy crazy people!
Posted by Nadine on 14/06/08 10:53
I had one of those stressful sleeps, where I kept dreaming I’d slept in. In
my dream I woke up at midday and had missed the start of the Challenge.
After an hour of tossing and turning, I gave up on sleep and decided to
take an early morning walk around Fort William.
over town were groups of walkers and support teams preparing themselves for
the next 24 hours. Standing by their people carriers and vans, they were
checking their equipment and chatting in excited and nervous tones.
It was a perfectly still morning, with the sun making
occasional bright bursts through the clouds. As I made my way back to my
guest house, I saw a couple of walkers wearing their yellow participant
numbers, and ‘see you Jimmy’ hats.
Next stop was the
starting point for the walk in Glen Nevis. Hundreds of walkers had
assembled for the 9am start. The first group I met were Group Security and
Fraud 1 from RBS. I asked where their team name had come from, and they
conceded it was just the name of their team at work… Hmmm, could do better,
it wasn’t a patch on team name You take the high road and I’ll take the
As we chatted, I found out team mates Kyle,
Scott and Kevin had taken part in the Challenge at least three times
before, whereas it was a first for team member Andy. Out of this
conversation, a new team name was born… Three Veterans and a Virgin! They
were hoping to both walk and run the route and raise £3,000.
I think a new world record was set this morning… The largest
ever midge gathering! There were 1000s of the wee blood suckers feeding on
us as we counted down to the start. Everyone was well prepared with their
bug repellent sprays and nifty Cal Chall hats with integrated midge
Apart from the buzz of midges, there was a hum
of excitement from the walkers as they limbered up for the walk. They
laughed and joked, and took lots of photos. Amongst the chatter were lots
of international accents: American, Spanish, French, Swiss, and of course,
the RBS team who had flown in from India to take part for the second
The Caledonian Challenge is a brilliant
teambuilding event. Lots of corporate teams take part and benefit from
their businesses matching their sponsorship to help raise even more money
for the Scottish Community Foundation.
raise £3,000, a team from Headland Archaeology, made up of
archaeologists from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Wolverhampton, decided to take
part on the recommendation from team-mate Lillian Owiti who completed the
Challenge last year. In preparation, Susie Blake walked seven and a half
miles home from work three days a week, and they did longer walks on
weekends including the Southern Uplands and the Union Canal. They even
overcame adversity, when one of the team members tripped during a practice
walk and fractured her wrist. Sticking together as a team, they got home
safely, and were ready to tackle the walk today.
Right, time for me to head south and find out how the
walkers are doing after the first section of the walk… after I’ve tended to
my itchy blotchy midge bitten face that is!
Posted by Nadine on 14/06/08 12:44
Good evening readers, my name’s Nadine and I’m the 2008 RBS Caledonian
Challenge blogger. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to follow the
progress of the walkers as they tackle the awesome challenge of walking 54
miles along the West Highland Way in just 24 hours!
The journey begins for each team at the Nevis Centre in Fort
William. With 1,000 carb rich dinners and 500 litres of water on order,
each walker checked in to get their unique walker number and a special chip
to track their progress over the walk.
In the massive
Nevis Centre gym hall, the atmosphere was buzzing as people talked about
the journey ahead of them. Teams (walkers and supporters) made up of family
members, colleagues, friends and even some Vikings, listened intently to
the safety briefing, while enjoying lashings of pasta, bread and potatoes…
slow release energy foods which will give them a kick start for the walk
I’m about to turn in for the night because
there’s a long day ahead tomorrow, before I go though, I’ll leave you with
some inspirational words from the different people I’ve met today.
Who I’ve met so far…
The Middlewich Marauders
All the way from
Manchester, this RBS team came dressed for the occasion as rampaging
Vikings. Everything from horned helmets to swords (novelty ones of course),
the Marauders put a smile on the faces of their fellow walkers’
The team will be walking in sensible clothes
for the majority of the walk, but they’re hoping to cross the finish line
in their Nordic get up.
Steve the Viking said: ‘We’re
really looking forward to taking part. There are five of us in the team,
three of us are walking and two guys are our support for the walk.
‘The most important thing to us is to finish the walk, even
if we’re the slowest. We want to finish it together, and we definitely
don’t want to be a DNF [did not finish].’
Vikings. Hope to interview you (horns and all) again at the finish
To make the event
happen, the event relies on over 500 volunteers for it to run like
clockwork. Taking part for the second year is Billy Mitchell, chief
He said: ‘This is the second year I’ve taken
part. It blew my mind last year being a volunteer, so I had to take part
again this year.
‘It’s so inspiring to see so many
people pushing themselves to the limit to raise money for charity. It’s
actually pretty emotional watching people cross the finish line because you
can feel their sense of achievement for completing such an awesome
Watch Us Grow
The aim of the
Caledonian Challenge is to raise money for the Scottish Community
Foundation. Last year, an impressive £1M was raised by the event, and
of course we hope to top that this year.
Community Foundation is the fourth largest grantmaker in Scotland. Each
year, the Foundation awards approximately 700 awards to smaller charities
and community groups totalling around £3.5M.
One of the community groups to receive a grant from the
money raised by Caledonian Challenge walkers is Watch Us Grow. Watch Us
Grow enables people with learning difficulties and mental health issues to
develop and learn at their own pace, encouraging the routines expected in
employment. When they feel ready, students and volunteers are encouraged to
move into supported employment.
To thank the walkers
for all the support they’ve received, Watch Us Grow staff and clients made
their way north from Cumbernauld to help at resigistration.
Anne, one of the support workers at Watch Us Grow said:
‘We’re so grateful for the support we’ve had from the Scottish Community
Foundation with money raised by the Challenge, we thought we would make the
giving go full circle by volunteering to help out at the event. We’re
leaving Cumbernauld at 3.30am on Sunday to help out on the final day. We’re
really happy to be giving something back.’
Posted by Nadine on 14/06/08 12:19