Phoenix team Southern 50 2004

posted 6 Oct 2016, 08:05 by Dave Tomlin

On a dark Friday night an extreme walking detachment of 2nd Warwick's explorer unit left the scout hut and headed down the motorway for Herefordshire. We were heading for a town known as Tring, South east of Aylesbury. Here we would spend the night at a school before setting off on our exodus. We slept in the 6th form common room which we found to our amusement had been systematically booby trapped by the 6th formers of the hall, how funny! NOT! However having our carry mats covered in paint was no big deal, sleeping next to a broken window was.

After spending a windy night hampered continuously by the occasional BANG! We awoke to the sound of alarms going off. After a big fry up breakfast, that incidentally was 90% grease, we packed and began to wait for our time to leave.

Back in Warwick we had the choice of walking 30km, 50km or 50 miles (80km). Last year we had attempted the 50km and most of us had completed it, Joe even managed the 50 miles. So this year we decided to all walk 50km again. I was confident of completing the event since last year my team had managed our own version of the event known as the southern 60/50. We got bored of the route so walked south for 6km instead of west, we repeated this again later.

My elite team consisted of me (Dug), Joe (our uber map-reader), Chris and Scott. We were named Phoenix!!! We had all participated in the event last year and so therefore knew what to expect. It appeared to us that most of the explorers were doing the 30km and many of the organisers seemed surprised to see us attempting the longer distance.

We set off last of all the 50km teams. This was a disadvantage given to us and caused much suffering throughout the walk. Not only did we have to walk till later at night but also many footpaths had become well marked to say the least.

Despite these shortcomings though we managed to overtake several teams before the 2nd checkpoint and even gained sight of our leader team and of one of our other teams (named 'Recycled').

By checkpoint 3 we had not only covered 10km in 2 hours but also overtaken Recycled and the Leader team. Despite suffering from going up a rather steep hill we didn't stop at the checkpoint, previous experience indicated this caused much pain mainly due to locking muscles. By checkpoint 4 (which was cunningly hidden in the grounds of a stately home) we had overtaken all 3 Warwick teams along with several of the other 50km and 30km groups. We then lost A.R.S.E, (our other team consisting of Chris M, Chris D, Polly and Scott B) due to illness but soon caught up with them again. They then spontaneously vanished and we overtook them and never saw them again - EVER!

Comically we now found ourselves beating all the second Warwick teams despite them starting 20 to 30 minutes ahead of us. We were going strong all the way up to checkpoint 6(over half way) and were yet to make any navigational errors. This was due to using both of our maps - unlike other groups. Joe was our primary navigator but I followed the route on my map too to prevent mistakes.

Our time disadvantage was starting to become an issue since many of the footpaths were very boggy, I myself sunk past my thigh into a very big puddle. On the way to checkpoint 8 we made an error but fortunately this was realised via some compass work. Checkpoint 8 was actually named checkpoint 15 since the 50mile people did a big loop (walking 8,9,10,11,12,13 and 14 as well). Despite adding to our time somewhat none of the 2nd Warwick teams overtook us and we continued to make good progress.

Throughout the hike a team of about our age from London had been over taking us and every time a navigational decision had to be made were waiting for us like a confused dog. By checkpoint 15 we invited them to walk with us since they weren't slowing us down. I personally doubt they would have finished were it not for our map reading and endless supply of energy food.

By the last checkpoint I was feeling great, and considering that this was the 47km point this impressed even me! We didn't stop and after Joe and me had got our team and the group that had joined us back on their feet we hobbled bringing up the rear to prevent us losing people. We arrived at the school and were very graciously given a head start by our newfound friends from London and we finished 5 minutes ahead of them.

Overall we had finished in less than 13 hours and had beaten all of the 2nd Warwick teams by over 2 hours. So next year...well 50km wasn't much of a challenge this year so I'm going to have to either run the 30km or walk the 50 mile. Looking forward to it?