Long term MS Trust fundraiser Kenny Smith wanted to do something amazing in memory of his sister Kathleen.
Here is his story of The Kathleen Painter Isle Of Wight Memorial Challenge.
After losing Kathleen in September 2014, I wanted to organise something in my sister’s memory and it had to be a proper challenge.
With idea after idea bouncing around in my head I decided that I would walk around the Isle of Wight non-stop. I cycled around it a few years ago and it was tough. I set the start date of 4th July as both my sister and I on separate occasions got engaged on that date!
Within days I got my team together - people who I’d met on previous treks, my cousin Julie who was born just days before Kathleen, and some of my very good local friends. After months of preparation and long training treks with a few of the team we were ready!
The challenge begins
It was exactly 09.00 and, keeping the sea to our left, we began our adventure. Everyone was in good spirits and there were plenty of smiles and lots of laughter. My support team in the van were ready and willing to do as much as possible for the team, keeping our water topped up and keeping us updated on diversions to the path and the roads.
At Bembridge we walked along the beach, which was lovely at the sea edge. From the beach we headed back up hill along the cliffs and found our way back on the stony track stopping regularly for water and energy gels and when nature called!
On to Sandown and to Culver Down where we were blessed with some more fantastic views and glorious sunshine. Everyone was really enjoying themselves and all you could hear was laughter. Through the fields of Culver Down we re-joined the path and headed back downhill close to the cliff edge with fantastic views of the sea and the rugged coast line
Lunch at Sandown Pier
In the distance we could see the Pier at Sandown which was to be our well-earned lunch stop. After lunch we topped up our bottles, patched up our feet and headed to Shanklin which started with a nice hill climb. The route went from the sea to gravel paths and then into a long wooded area under the shade of the trees into Luccombe.
Out from the cover of the trees we made our way back along the cliffs and enjoyed some fantastic views of the coastline. We rested in Ventnor briefly, then Niton was next on the list, high along the cliffs and then into fields and remote paths long away from any roads.
We made our way to Chale and to the Wight Mouse for our evening meal, some enjoyed a well-earned pint too! Here we left some of the team who wanted to rest overnight. The sun had gone down and the night sky was above us, but the temperature was still very hot and it was muggy too.
We walked with our head torches aglow along the roads towards Alum Bay, which was a safer bet in the dark of the night, still staying as close as possible along the coast. Our next stop was in Yarmouth where we met our support crew and enjoyed a snack and a cuppa. By now it was 02.15 in the morning and we had been walking for over 17 hours!
We left after about an hour and headed in the night air towards Bouldnor, where back along the coast we began to see the sun start breaking through for the next morning. Back in fields again we made our way through Hamstead and by 04.30 it was almost light enough to lose the head torches
20 hours in
By 05.00 it was perfectly light although the sky looked as if it wanted to rain. The path found its way through fields, lanes and then back along the beach towards Cranmore, where we walked over rickety bridges. We met the van again at around 07.00 where we regrouped, nursed our blistered and aching feet and enjoyed a cuppa and some well-deserved bacon rolls.
On our way to Cowes we were faced with diversions on the path due to erosion which added almost 2.5 hrs to our walk. We arrived in East Cowes at around 14.00 and by now we were very tired and very sore. Some of the group were struggling but I wasn't planning on leaving anyone behind, so I decided I would walk at the back to help those that really were in a lot of pain with blisters and aching muscles. A few jokes cracked along the way and words of encouragement really helped and the end was almost in sight!
The final push
The whole group met at the top of Ryde High Street and we began our final few hundred yards’ walk back to the King Lud Pub, led by the lovely Sarah who was really struggling but because of her courage and strength I wanted her to lead the group home!
At 17.39, after 32 hours 39 minutes and 2 seconds, we finished our challenge!! There were tears of joy everywhere amongst the group and even from locals that cheered us home.
A very emotional experience
It was very emotional for me to see so many MS Trust T-shirts. I looked at all these fantastic people who had basically gone through hell just to support me and the MS Trust in my sister’s name.
The beer flowed and we all enjoyed sandwiches that the King Lud had laid on for us. I did a presentation for everyone and we then said our goodbyes and headed for the ferry. We caught the 20.00 ferry back to Portsmouth and that was it, all over. We had done it, and we had raised over £6,500 in the process!
I can't thank the group enough, some truly fantastic people…
Donna, Gillian, Ash, Saranjit, Perrin, Sash, Rhian, Gordon, Hannah, Sarah, Rew, Charlie, Julie, Vicki, Alison, Matt, Kari, Andy, Alan and Amy. They really did excel in this challenge they all pushed the barriers and didn't give up!
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