The Orwell Walk, Run and Cycle ride is an annual event organised by the Ipswich East Rotary Club. With three main routes and regular checkpoints participants can set their own challege, choosing between 12, 19 0r 25 miles.
Thankfully I’m blessed with a friend who has an equally ridiculous sense of fun and without much thought our annual challenge walk was set.
Being a summer event my biggest concern was that it would be too hot. Given I’m half ginger I dont cope terribly well with heat and previous long walks in the sun have had a tendancy to turn into a bit of a whingefest. A pact was made however that if blazing sunshine was on the cards, we’d hide in a beer garden instead. *Fingers crossed*
Turns out I realy didn’t need to worry. Waking to a gloomy, overcast day it was with some surprise that I realised we really were actually doing this…too bad we hadn’t trained. Oh heck.
Having signed up for the whole route it was an early start, and unlike my previous marathon challenge this time I even managed to get properly dressed. Winning!
Arriving early we quickly got through registration and were given our event cards to get signed at multiple check points along the route, we never managed to find a starting point but carrying on wandering in the vague direction of markers seemed to work, so we rolled with it.
The path soon led us down to the river Orwell, to the very foot of the imposing Orwell bridge. We soon found ourselves on the actual banks of the river itself, being a tidal river this was rather a damp affair. Squelching along the river bed and navigating the weed covered riverbed as we watched several walkers around us taking a tumble, surprisingly, for once I actually managed to remain upright at all times but with plenty of my usual squeaking as we slid our way along.
Certainly not your average marathon experience but at least a picturesque environment, it did however mean that my shoes quickly became saturated. I’m sure that any long distance walker will tell you that the trick to remaining blister free and therefore on the move, is to keep your feet dry.
One mile in and I felt pretty screwed.
With the miles along the riverbank covered the course changed and dry land beckoned. Well, muddy land but land nonetheless. Then as we made our way to the nearest checkpoint it began to rain. Oh joy!
Thankfully we reached the checkpoint at the same time as the heavens really opened. Reaching into my backpack for my event card and finding nothing.
Bugger. *Pats self down.*
Crap. *Tips out Backpack.*
Nope. It’s gone.
The expectant faces of the marshals looking at me.
*Shrugs* ‘Err it would seem that I’ve lost it.’
Honestly it was as if Gandalf was suddenly summoned to deepest Ipswich.
It would seem I shall not pass.
Not even a cheeky flutter of my eyelashes was getting me out of this one. Drat.
The marshals weren’t budging. If I wanted my
crappy plastic shiny medal I would have to follow the rules.
I quickly run through the options in my head:
Option one; Swear (much) and storm off home. It’s a strong contender. I’m wet, cold, my trainers are full of the Orwell and my humour is failing fast.
Option two; Suck it up and begrudgingly carry on with the walk, just not officially.
Option three;..Hang on a minute there’s a lady shouting behind me…
It would seem option three is a good one. I’m thrilled to see the lady broadcasting that she’s found a race card. Even better it is indeed mine. I wonder if she’s ever tried geocaching…
The rain however can now only be described as absolutely pissing it down, the sensible conclusion is to wait it out under the flimsy gazebo.
Many walkers soldier on but with my humour having drowned in the murky, slimy depths of the Orwell I refuse to budge.
The occasional look in my direction to see if we will brave the deluge.
Nope. Not happening. Not a flipping chance.
Finally the rain starts to ease and now begins the task of overtaking the many walkers who went by as
I was sulking we took shelter. A stint along the estuary providing some interesting scenery and the opprtunity for our feet to dry off a little.
Just as my feet are starting to recover, I’ve got to walk through a flipping bog. *Sigh*
Then the approach to the docks at Felixstowe and one of those moments when you stop and realise quite how far you’ve walked, quickly followed by the realisation that you now have to walk back. Oh heck.
The upcoming checkpoint seems the sensible place to refuel and try to save our feet with some dry socks.
Our normal marathon tactic to charge ahead and get the job done, eat on the move, no stops and bladders of steel but given we’ve already wasted a whole load of time
tantruming sheltering we decide to treat ourselves to a lunchbreak. Sadly finding a pub goes as well as finding my race card, so a squashed ham sandwich as we air our wrinkly feet it is.
However we do need to get back to Ipswich so it’s soon time to crack back on.
Having attempted to research the route beforehand, I’d found details a little vague. Leaving me with no opportunity to suss out the area for possible geocache finds enroute. Yep, I’m really that predicatable.
At this point however I could start looking at my map to identify our potential routes and hopefully squeeze in a cheeky little cache.
Eventually returning to a more urban area it seems the ideal time to see if I was anywhere near a cache, luckily we were fast approaching one.
With just the smallest of detours we disappear into the bushes, into a small woodland.
A rather humbing cache, bringing us to the site of the burial ground for the Nacton Workhouse.
A moment to consider the struggles of these poor, nameless souls.
The cache itself just a regular bison, quickly located on the fence but the poignant location staying with me for much longer.
We wind our way back to Ipswich and approach one of the final checkpoints, as our cards are signed the marshal checks we know where we are going. Given that the majority of the time I have very little idea where I’m going, I tell her ‘Not really.’ She kindly ushers me off in the direction of Felixstowe.
Thankfully I’m not completely clueless and with no desire to repeat the last 20 odd miles I can only wail ‘But I’ve done that bit!’
Obviously we look so youthful and full of energy 😉 that she has mistaken us for walkers just starting out. Apologising profusely she sends us back off in the right direction.
The final leg of our journey taking us back along the banks of the Orwell, although thankfully not in it this time. The sun winning its battle against the cloud and our trainers steaming. Finally we can appreciate the views along the estuary.
The inevitable blisters however begin to appear, making the last mile or so feel much longer but eventually we return to a warm welcome and rather satisfyingly clock in at exactly seven hours.
Despite the weather a great little event, well organised with lots of friendly marshals cheering you along – Not you Gandalf.
The frequent checkpoints make it a great challenge to break down into achievable chunks and with entry being as cheap as chips a great event for anyone fancying a challenge.
Awarded with our medalsfor completion, but for me the greatest reward after such a trek is always the bit where you get to take your shoes off. Bliss.