Monday, 23 September 2019
A GROUP of friends from Henley raised more than £3,500 for charity by walking 100km — despite one of them having to pull out along the way.
The quartet were among more than 2,000 people who took part in the annual Thames Path Challenge from London to Henley at the weekend.
Nicky Andrews, Tom Lovett Sophie Majer and Alessio Baldassarri, who called themselves Team Famous Four Point Five, started at Fulham on Saturday.
They had completed 70km when Mr Baldassarri, a hairdresser, had to quit due to an ankle injury but they were then joined by Mrs Andrews’s 14-year-old son Charlie.
The new-look foursome finally reached the finish line in Mill Meadows on Sunday after just over 20 hours on foot.
The walkers were raising money for the Riverside Counselling Service in Henley, which has been helping Mrs Andrews after she was diagnosed with clinical depression two years ago.
Mrs Andrews, 42, of Wargrave Road, said the walk was tough even though her partner Christopher Williams and younger son Hugo, 11, met them at various stages with water and clothing.
“It is a big distance to cover and there is the psychological battle to push through,” she said.
“When times got tough the others said they wanted to keep going for me, which was just so emotional and lovely at the same time. They have all seen me at my lowest mentally.
“We were not very well prepared for the cold and walking through the night was probably the hardest part. The final 25km was when we all started to struggle. Tom and Sophie had never done anything like this and were both really struggling towards the end.
“They both had to get care from the medical services team at the finish line. There were a lot of blisters!
“Most of us agreed that we would like to do another challenge next year. This was always going to be an amazing experience and it brought us closer together as friends.”
Mrs Majer, 43, who has known Mrs Andrews for 30 years and was herself diagnosed with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in 2014, said: “My feet are an absolute mess but I am so glad that I did it.
“I have never done anything with such a mental strain before. I kept telling myself to keep going and was concentrating on the team effort. I have learned so much about myself and the team. We were very sad to see Alessio get injured. Even when we finished we were upset because it really felt like something was missing. He had been such a rock and he was a big character on the rest of the journey.
“It was really great when Charlie joined in. I punched the air with joy because we really needed him and I knew he would boost us. I would say he got us through it in the end.”
Mr Lovett, 42, an electrician, said: “The hardest part was the huge temperature drop in the evening. We were all absolutely frozen.
“I was only wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a hoody. My legs were like ice blocks and my hands were turning blue.
“If it hadn’t been for the support and assistance we had from Nicky’s partner, we would have probably frozen to death. But I am not a quitter. I did this walk for the charity and for Nicky and once I set my mind to something I am determined not to give up.
“When Alessio had to leave it was a little bit heartbreaking. We were the only men in the team so we bounced off each other.”
Mrs Andrews said she was very grateful to Riverside, which provides affordable counselling to adults and young people.
She said: “Mental health is very important. I was a typical person who was brought up to just get on with life. It was not until I became really ill, having struggled for two years, that I really needed help.
“I have started on this journey with Riverside and know I'll be with them for some time yet.
“It's a roller-coaster ride but I'm trying to stay focused on the love and support my family and friends are giving me to deal with the challenges therapy brings.”
To make a donation, visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.
12 September 2019
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