Looking to take on a charity challenge in 2020? Brave members of Billericay based recruitment agency, Northreach did just that last year when they took on a 50K hike in the Peak District. Team members Sam and James recall their adventure of how they raised a fantastic £1,340 for SNAP.
Why were you inspired to raise funds and awareness for SNAP?
We try and support charitable causes at least twice a year. In all honesty, before embarking on this one, we weren’t too familiar with SNAP and the work which they are doing for families with children and young people who have any special need or disability. After some research and an invitation to visit the Centre in Brentwood, it was clear to see the positive impact that the charity was having in the local community and to be honest, we felt compelled to help in any way we could.
How did you decide on what challenge to undertake?
Well.. for our previous fundraiser, we sacrificed our sleep in a 24 hour video game challenge, which felt difficult at the time, although many of us had been training for that one for most of our lives. This year, it felt like we needed to push the boundaries a little bit and step outside of our comfort zone. However, when the idea was raised to embark on a 50 kilometer hike in the Peak District, I doubt we really knew what we were letting ourselves in for when we raised our hands in agreement.
How did the team prepare for the trek?
As a team, we all take very different approaches to keeping fit and staying healthy, so naturally, the less prepared ones (myself included) found ourselves gravitating towards those who understood a little bit more about what we were getting ourselves into, leaning on them for advice. We had an abundance of healthy food, water and protein bars to get us through the lows but there was so much to think about, not only eating right and preparing physically. We would also be battling the elements so hiking boots and winter weather clothing was at the top of the agenda.
How did you all imagine the challenge would be before you started?
We do try and promote a healthy approach to working and living, however for a few of us, this was perhaps quite literally a step too far. Even though the challenge was self explanatory.. “50k hike in the Peak District”. I don’t think any of us really appreciated what we were letting ourselves in for. If i’m being honest, I think we were all hoping for the best, a chance to let the wind flow through your hair and catch sight of some of the most gorgeous views in the country. Oh how wrong we were!
How did you all find it once the trek was well underway?
We actually spent the night camping before starting the hike, so by 8am we were pretty well acclimatised to the conditions and the team building had already begun. Looking back, I think the real challenge was learning to pace yourself. As a group, we were out of the gates quickly and soon the group began to become dispersed as we began feeling the effects. Within these smaller groups, it was important to keep a positive team morale – working collaboratively and taking the weight off the shoulders of those who were struggling. We definitely all exceeded our personal expectations and everybody had to dig deep and overcome pains and aches in muscles which we didn’t even know we had!
Did the rain hinder you, or the blisters? And the local animal wildlife!
Thankfully, we were all prepared for the worst with hiking boots and coats, so the effects were limited as much as possible. It was however, a typical rainy/windy day in the peak district and an experience for all of us. It was that cliché “worst kind of rain” as well.. a constant drizzle for about 10 hours! The biggest issue with the weather was the wind which battered us. At times, walking into the wind, it felt like a hurricane as the gales swept through the valleys and across the peaks like some kind of mythical beast. With the added windchill, it felt like our own little Everest.
The local wildlife was not too much of a problem! Thankfully we weren’t dealing with any dangerous spiders or snakes in Derbyshire. We did however find ourselves in the company of herds of Sheep and Cows which provided respite from the pain and the occasional photo opportunity!
What was the best/worse bit of the challenge?
I’m sure if you asked us all individually, we would all have different experiences and opinions. On reflection, I think the best bit of the challenge is the fact that we all pushed ourselves individually and as a group to go further than we all thought we could. We spend a lot of time together as a team so we have a pretty good idea of how to work together, however I think we all learnt a lot about ourselves and each other.
At about the half-way point, I think it is fair to say that we were all feeling it in different ways. Ankles and Knees were the first to suffer as we dragged our way up steep hills, the likes of which you just don’t find in Essex. The chaffing complaints were the next to follow, It was apparent that no matter how much you prepared, nothing could really prepare you for the reality of pushing yourself to those kind of extremes.
How did you go about raising awareness for your fundraising?
We tried our best to get the message out in the weeks leading up to the trek. Obviously, we used our own personal channels including family and friends who shared the fundraiser across social media. We also have a fantastic Marketeer here at Northreach who created regular digital content across all of our social media and more traditional fliers and posters – spreading the word locally, displaying posters on BIllericay high street
We had live interviews at Gateway 97.8 and PhoenixFM and Essex Radio featured our story on their website. We have collaborated with EatNatural Bars – they supplied us with energy bars & we shared/tagged their stuff on Instagram / Facebook/Twitter, etc.
During the hike, we were streaming it live across Social Media, encouraging people to donate during the challenge. I think this was quite successful because when people saw us struggling and battling the elements in gale force winds, it became clear that this wasn’t for the faint hearted and not just a weekend stroll in the countryside
How did your celebrate your achievement?
As you can expect, before and during the trek, we were all looking forward to finding the nearest pub and celebrating the traditional way. However, by the time we all returned to the camp, and the lactic acid began to take its toll, it was even a struggle to lift the pint glass to your face. We did go out and grab a curry at a lovely local Indian Restaurant and there was definitely a sense of achievement but the real celebration started when we got home, where we caught up on much needed sleep and recuperation!
If someone else was thinking of taking on a trek what top tips would you offer them?
I think my main piece of advice would be that it’s a challenge not to be taken lightly! The old saying “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” rings truer than ever with this one. If you’ve never done anything like this before, it’s almost impossible to know what to expect, but one thing is for sure, preparing yourself physically will prove priceless in the days and possibly weeks spent recovering. The winter weather clothing and hiking boots are a MUST! We all know how dismal the weather can be in this country, but do not take it for granted – the conditions are unrelenting up there and safety is paramount! Without sounding too cheesy, I would also suggest doing it with a good group of people who you can rely on for support and vice versa, because when the going gets tough, sometimes it is the people around you which need to help you dig deep!
Would you recommend taking on a charity challenge to others?
We have already spoken about doing it again, now that we know what we are in for and understand exactly how much we need to train and prepare. I would definitely recommend it to anybody who is looking to challenge themselves or organisations/schools undergoing team building exercises. Other than the physical accomplishment, I think it’s hard to overlook the importance and health benefits of spending time outside surrounded by the beauty nature and drinking in the fresh air.