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Teamwork

Checkpoints

Day one... the start


Teamwork

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 Four.

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.

Sheila is 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!’

Dunn 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 take part.

‘We are inundated with requests for teams,’ she continued. ‘Now we also recruit staff to volunteer at the event.’

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 impressive landscape.’

Okay, I’m off to the final stop to greet the walkers as they come over the finish line… Crack open the champagne!

Posted by Nadine on 15/06/08 08:36


Checkpoints

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 impressive event.

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.

The 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.

It’s 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


Day one... the start

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.

All 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 car.

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 net.

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 year.

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.

Hoping to 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


Friday 13 June 2008 - Registration Day

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 tomorrow.

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’ faces.

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].’

Good luck Vikings. Hope to interview you (horns and all) again at the finish line.

Volunteers
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 marshal.

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 task.’

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.

The Scottish 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


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