On Saturday 29th August, Chris Dommett, one of our Gen2 Youth Champions based at St Mary’s Wollaston, took part in a very special challenge. He walked from Irchester to Peterborough Cathedral and back in aid of Cancer Research UK, a total of 93 km, in 24 hours.
The inspiration for Chris’ challenge was his mum, Heather, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in September last year. COVID-19 put pay to Chris’ initial plans, but as can be seen by our interview with Chris below, he was able to complete the challenge and has already raised a huge amount of money.
Could you tell us more about your challenge, Chris? I understand that you were planning to do a walk of the south coast – is that right?
Yes, the challenge was simple – walk 100km in 24 hours to raise money for Cancer Research UK. I had originally planned to take part in a larger event called the South Coast Challenge where you walk, as the name states, along the south coast of England for 100km, with a dedicated support team included at each rest point, with proper meals made, doctors, physiotherapists, massages etc. But due to covid it was cancelled so I decided to do it myself without a professional support team – just friends and family bringing me water and food bags.
Could you describe your route in detail?
So my planned route was Irchester, Rushden, Higham Ferrers, Chelveston, Hargrave, Covington, Catworth, (old) Weston, Winwick, Great Gidding, Caldecote, Stilton, Norman Cross, Peterborough Cathedral and back again to Chelveston, except instead of Stilton to go through Folksworth.
How did you discover that the walk from your house to the Cathedral and back would be nearly 100km?
So when I found out the main event was likely to be cancelled, I still wanted to honour what had been donated so far. I knew Leicester and back was the right distance by road when I was using Google to drive there, so I started to wonder what else was around an hour’s drive and I had a connection with. So I googled how many kilometres Peterborough Cathedral was from home – since I have been connected to Peterborough Diocese for nearly 20 years through my dad or myself working – and the distance was just under halfway, so I played around with the routes to avoid main roads and found one that was 93 km.
So how was it on the day when you did your walk?
On the whole, it was lovely. The weather was not bad – it was a ‘not warm enough to be in a T-shirt kind of day’ but this meant it was cooler, which made it easier to walk without getting too hot. Through the day I had visits from friends and family to help me keep a good pace, and I am thankful for that.
Was it tougher than you thought?
Definitely, yes. The first nine hours were great, but after that things started to hurt. I knew somewhere between 30 to 40 km in that I had developed (and then burst) a huge blister on my left foot, but I did what little First Aid I could and kept on walking. The next 30 km were hard but I still able to keep going walking. At the 70 km point, I ‘hit the wall’ and hit it hard. It took a lot to keep going, it was hard to get energy and at this point my hips and knees had declared war on me and each step was painful. But with friends who were walking with me through the night, I kept on going.
Did anything unusual take place?
Not overly unexpected, no (sadly). However, it was refreshing to experience the kindness of strangers. In Winwick, a lovely couple provided me with lunch and a donation as well. And later on in Stilton, Marion the churchwarden opened up the church building for me to use the facilities, have some coffee and a bit of cake, which was much appreciated. If anything unexpected did take place, it was our church youth worker and her family turning up at a random point, and having a small race with one of the young people – probably not the wisest thing to do with blisters but ah well. There was also the moment when, at around 2.00am in the pitch-black, the police drove past in the middle of the countryside, only to come back 30 minutes later asking what on earth I was doing!
I understand your inspiration for the challenge has been your mum – how is she now?
Yes, that’s right. She is better than she was but her leukaemia has returned, and she will be starting chemotherapy again in a few weeks. She has good days and bad days in how she mentally is feeling about it, but we try to support her as best we can.
What have you raised so far? What are you hoping to raise?
I originally only wanted to raise £600 as that was what was needed to take part in the original event. However, after starting training and fundraising I soon raised that, so I was given a target of £2,000 by my main contact at Cancer Research UK. When I got over that amount, Cancer Research UK threw down the gauntlet of trying to get over £3,000 and I accepted that challenge.
At the time of writing, I have currently raised (with God’s help) a total of £4,920.65 (including Gift Aid) but I know I still have more to collect. I am also hopeful that I can apply to my current employer Morrisons to match whatever I raise, and to give this to Cancer Research UK.
My fundraising page will still be open to donations until the end of September, so people are still able to donate. Once the page is closed, they can donate directly to Cancer Research UK.