The lamb tilted its head, staring inquisitively toward me. It’s tightly coiled fur shining brightly in what had become a blisteringly hot day. A pesky blue bottle fly settled on the lamb’s nose, scurrying across the young creature’s delicate face before flying away, unfazed, the lamb carried on staring. Its gentle features acting as some comfort to the situation I was in.
I sat across from the lamb, slumped against a tree, twisted and deformed by the elements. This was the only shelter I had seen for miles. The exposed nature of land around me had been an element in my downfall and rapid decline. Sitting slumped against this wizened old tree I decided my time was up. It was incredible to think I was only 90 minutes from home and a brisk 60 minute walk from a town, perhaps it was a lesson learnt never to underestimate nature.
The past 5 days, 202 miles, 70 hours, 325 087 steps, 3 counties, 24,000 calories and 8 pounds of weight loss has been exhausting. I felt nothing, for the first time in 6 days I had no emotion, I had pushed and pushed until there was simply nothing left to give, physically, mentally or emotionally. On day 1 I averaged 4.5 mph resting every 7 hours, today I was managing 1.5 mph stopping to sit and rest almost every 30 minutes. I was exhausted and running on nothing.
After the first day I think it would have been acceptable to head home, the relentless storm battering not only the Sussex coastline but also my weary body for 11 hours was horrendous. A painfully slow 11 hours and 28 miles, soaked and tired. I was ready to quit. But physically I was fine and this was my motivation. I was physically in the best shape of my life, I knew I could walk 30 miles a day with ease, carrying 18kg made it a little tricky but still I managed
I like a challenge, an adventure, to do something that somebody has never done. But I was undertaking this challenge as soul food, to find myself and to raise money for Cancer Research UK; to help change somebodies life. Cancer patients experience months if not years of hurt, pain, exhaustion and illness. If I couldn’t take 1 day of it, what kind of man was I? So I carried on, mile after mile, hill after hill, storm after storm, rapidly eating in to the Sussex border. Walk, eat, sleep, walk, eat, sleep. I felt indestructible and powerful, but mentally I was flagging. However I always had a reason to carry on, my Mother was proud, she was the reasoning behind The One Expedition, so I kept walking. Giving in was not an option. Having said this, within those 5 days I plunged to some deep, dark areas of my mind, walking for over 26 hours in two days in the pouring rain, maples; due to a huge gust of wind and unexpected downpour, soaked to the core and freezing cold is something you can only understand if you have experienced it; however the thrill of not knowing where the next day is taking you, where you will sleep, who you will meet or what you will do is something quite magical; magical, a good word to describe those days.
I didn’t give in, I didn’t fail, I was beaten, beaten by the trail, the heat, the unforgiving landscape and the challenge ahead. I had reached a point of exhaustion. They say when your mind says it is time to give up you are only 40 % done. I had reached this point on day 3 and pushed and pushed until there was nothing left, each step was agonising and draining and for those of you that know me, you will understand the lengths I went to to make sure I could carry on and it was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly. If the challenge was easy, It would have been done years ago, I still had achieved something no man had ever done before. Who cares about a record, it’s a piece of paper, I knew my achievement and I knew the importance of it to those around me. This wasn’t my job, but I wanted it to be, it combined everything I loved and I was happy. Why jeopardize your future when you have already achieved so much.
I had learnt more about myself in those 70 hours than I had in 20 years, nothing in life was impossible any more, I had made the impossible possible. It was pointless to head for a record, glory and an extra 50 miles just to bring worry to my family, damage to my health and suffering. That wasn’t the aim, the aim was to achieve, inspire and raise awareness and that is exactly what I did.
So, slumped below the tree, I cried. I cried not in sadness or disappointment but because the experience was over. I had seen the land we lived in from a different perspective. I had seen things other wouldn’t and met people whose stories and personalities would stay with me forever. I had learnt to truly understand the value of family and how insignificant and tiny we all are, most of all I had raised a huge sum of money for a charity close to my heart. That was The One Expeditions aim, One Year, One Charity, One Aim. It wasn’t to set records; it wasn’t to allow myself to brag to my friends. I made the right decision, cutting the trek short was sensible, jeopardising the entire project would have been foolish, reckless and needless. The main lesson I learnt was that you should make the most of every opportunity, find an idea, put your heart and soul in to it and then you will live a rich and fulfilling life.
Louis Bedwell is a student, nutritionist and founder of The One Expedition- www.theoneexpedition.co.uk . The One Expedition is a yearlong series of micro adventures all with the aim of raising £10,000 for Cancer Research UK. The project was founded after Louis’ mother developed Cancer. Since that day Louis has been working tirelessly to develop, plan and complete his next challenges. Read his thoughts behind ending his border trek challenge early here.