When the South West Coast Path Association called for help to raise £250,000 towards improvement projects along the trail, it was with a resounding ‘yes’ that Contours Walking Holidays agreed to help. Before the day was out, they had agreed to sponsor a day of the Great South West Walk as well as pledging to raise £4000 for the replacement of 30 granite steps along the trail.
As tends to be the case with these sorts of commitments, the prospect of finding a fitting challenge to initiate fundraising was a daunting one, but Contours are no strangers to undertaking challenges for charity and they were sure that this challenge would have to be as spectacular as the trail itself. It was time to step up the pace – step up the challenge and step ahead!
Cue the South West Run.
At 630 miles long, walkers rarely undertake the South West Coast Path as a whole, choosing instead to complete the trail in shorter sections, but for Managing Director, Mark Townsend, this presented an irresistible challenge. As a keen endurance runner, there was only one option in mind… to run it!
Taking on such a challenge alone would be a solitary affair, so Mark enlisted the help of his fellow runner, Julie Gardener, an outdoor consultant who inspects trails for the company and on 27 April 2013, they clambered into the back of the Contours campervan, accompanied by their dedicated support crew, an outrageous supply of food and several pairs of trainers on stand-by, as they made their way to the start of the trail at Minehead.
630 miles on foot is difficult to put into perspective, but 630 miles along the South West Coast Path is a different matter again. With nearly, 920 stiles, 300 bridges, 7,000 steps, river crossings, ferry encounters and almost 115,000ft of elevation, completing the whole trail in one go is like climbing Mount Everest… four times!
With a carefully planned itinerary, the team aimed to complete the trail in 16 days, breaking Ultrarunner, Malcolm Law’s record of 16 days, 9 hours and 57 minutes. It takes tremendous determination and stamina to battle through the pain of such a run and as the support crew will testify, a lot of supplies!
630 miles later, after 115,000ft of ascent, 26 diversions, 50 baked potatoes, 5 pairs of running shoes, 60 litres of water, 150 cups of tea and coffee, one lost rucksack and a campervan crisis, Mark and Julie reached the end of the South West Coast Path at South Haven Point. They touched the marker after exactly 14 days, 14 hours and 44 minutes, smashing both their own expectations and Malcolm Law’s outstanding record!
Whether you walk or run the South West Coast Path, it is without doubt, one of the most breath taking trails in the UK, featuring diverse landscapes and memorable experiences that are too numerous to describe.
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