3rd Annual Bury To Clare Challenge - 17th May 2015

Mary Tweed
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On Sunday 17th May, Nordic Walking East Anglia instructors, Mary and Katharine joined other Nordic Walking enthusiasts in Nowton Park for the 3rd Bury to Clare annual challenge in aid of St Nicholas Hospice in Bury. The course covered 18.5 miles through some of Suffolk’s prettiest footpaths, skirting around the villages of Hawstead, Whepstead, Brockley, Somerton, Hawkedon, Stansfield and Poslingfield before ending up at the foot of the ruined castle in Clare Castle Country Park. St Nicholas Hospice Care is a local charity supporting people and their families in West Suffolk and Thetford who are living with a life-shortening illness. All of their services are provided completely free of charge so money raised from the challenge helps the hospice to provide vital care to people in our local area.

The night before, it suddenly struck me that I would never consider undertaking a run of a similar distance without weeks of planning. I would have downloaded a training plan and followed it religiously; and read up about diet plans and ensured that I had been eating the right fuel. However, apart from running my weekly classes, I hadn’t completed any training. Luckily for me nor had Katharine and so we were both at a similar fitness level, although her long legs do give her a natural advantage!

After a briefing in Nowton Park, we set off on our route, which had been well marked with yellow arrows to avoid any wrong turnings. The leaders of the pack set an impressive pace, with which Katharine and I did our best to keep up. It was the most glorious day sandwiched in-between two horrendous days of intermittent downpours. The previous day’s rain made the countryside smell fresh and grassy and as we marched along footpaths festooned with cow-parsley and bright, new-unfurled leaves, the stunning views of landscape and flora meant that we barely noticed as we notched up the miles. Within sight of the spire of Brockley Church, we came across the first checkpoint in a farmyard. A table had been laid out with drinks and plenty of homemade cakes, which was an extremely welcome sight. At this point, the pack leaders, who were trying to beat their personal best times, continued while we paused to apply plasters and enjoy the food. Refreshed, we set off again and were pleasantly surprised in Somerton to be joined by husbands, children and dogs, who accompanied us as far as Hawkedon, at which point they turned right to The Queen’s Head and we turned (somewhat reluctantly) left towards Stansfield and the next checkpoint. We picked up our pace again. Thanks to my TomTom watch, I had been able to monitor our speed and our pace remained fairly steady throughout the walk at just over 15 minutes a mile. Going at this rate, we finally crossed the finishing line in 4 hours and 53 minutes with huge smiles on our faces and a great sense of achievement.

Thank you to all the organisers of this fantastic event. Thank you to our families, who supported and provided encouragement. And thank you to Katharine, who made the miles seem like about 5 minutes.

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