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28 May 2019

Epilepsy Society trustee completes the London 2 Brighton challenge

A huge congratulations to our trustee Andrew George, who completed the London 2 Brighton challenge on 25-26 May during National Epilepsy Week. He took on the challenge to raise money to fund a bioinformatician for a month to carry out vital epilepsy research.

Andrew tells us how he got on below.

Well, I have done it. It was brutal at times, but I am feeling a sense of achievement through the stiff muscles! I do not think I have done anything that has been as physically challenging.

Andrew setting off 

Setting off

Katie saw me off at 8.15 from Richmond. After a motivational warm up exercise (!), a wave of us streamed down the Thames towards Kingston, colliding with the Saturday Park Run coming in the other direction. The first 50 km was much as expected, a nice walk though the outskirts of London and then very pretty countryside. It was hotter than most people expected, and there were quite a few drop outs in the afternoon section.

Then it started to get hard. We reached the ‘half way point’ (actually 56 km). Who could have believed that 6 km could have made such a difference! The light was falling fast and it was pretty dark when I crawled in. It was slow going over the last bit because it was narrow and rough path and we went at the pace of the slowest. A good meal and a massage on my legs revived me, and I set off on the first part of the night sections. It was rather surreal seeing a patch of light in-front from the head torch. The route was lit up with glow sticks and I was seeing the people ahead of me as groups of green glow sticks swinging back and forward in the darkness. It was odd having no real clue of where one was walking more than 20 metres ahead.

When the going gets tough

I found the second night stage the toughest. As it happened, I was largely walking on my own on this stage, and in the darkness. I did not have the companionship of others. I was also slowing up, partly due to being tired and partly because the route was rougher, through woods. The dawn chorus at about 4am was lovely, and seeing the dawn was good.  

I set off at a better pace. I was finding that after a rest and some food, I could set off at my normal speed, but that I ran out of energy more quickly. It was a nice walk to the base of the South Downs, and then a stiff climb up to some magnificent views coming into Brighton. The pull up was not as bad as advertised. The killer was the last 3-4 km. I knew that I would get there, but the racecourse seemed always be just around the corner! But I finally came up the winning straight (literally!), trying to remember how to put one foot in front of the other. My daughter Philippa ran out to greet me, Katie took some photos. I am not sure that at that stage I felt any great achievement, just relief and a slight sense of disorientation (probably as much from lack of sleep!). It was good to be with Katie and Philippa, and it took a hot bath and a short sleep to become more human and to realise that I had made it.

Crossing the finishing line

It was fantastic to have some supportive walking companions, including someone else who was fundraising for the Epilepsy Society. There was a lot of companionship at the rest stations, where it was totally normal to watch each other doing running repairs on feet while taking in the calories. 

Being thankful

Thank you for everyone who has supported me. I have nearly made my target to support a bioinformatician for a month to carry out epilepsy research. It has been fantastic that people have been willing to give so generously, thank you. I have also found that the process has meant that I have had several conversations with people about epilepsy and the work of the society, including people who have been affected by the condition. It is a privilege to be part of an organisation that helps on not just the research but also care, policy and support to patients and their families.

Thank you also to my supporters. I have to give a shout out to Chris Blue, a trustee at Epilepsy Society. Not only did we do a short film earlier in the spring for Purple Day (when he took the step of changing his name to Chris Purple for the day), but he drove down to support me at 3am in the morning – but unfortunately missed me in the dark. My biggest thanks must go to Katie for supporting me not only over the weekend but in the training that I have done, and to Christopher and Philippa for their love and tolerance when I have been out walking.

Andrew after completing the challenge

Statistics

For those that are interested in the statistics (for me it was about survival and completion rather than times!) there were 1112 starters. I came 614/820 finishers – with a time of 28 hrs, 48 min. The fastest was 9 hr, 11 in (the people that run the course are just in a different league to us lesser mortals). The slowest completer deserves equal praise to the fastest – at 36 hr 15 min that must have represented so much determination and agony, I could not have managed to carry on that long.

Andrew's timings

So it is over, and it will probably take a couple of days before I can move normally again, and a bit longer to process all of this. But doing this has felt like an achievement, and it is great that I have been able to support epilepsy research as well.

More information

To watch Andrew and Chris' video for Purple Day, please click here.