Last Saturday the 8MS team embarked on their first team charity hike – a 25 mile course across the Pentlands, a set of beautiful hills to the South of Edinburgh. Saturday marked only the second Great Pentlands Push, all in aid of St. Columba’s Hospice, who have been caring for patients in Edinburgh and the Lothians with cancer and other terminal illnesses since 1977.
Some of the team had been training to complete the 25 mile ‘Gold’ course, and others were relying on strong leg muscles to get them round. Due to an unfortunate injury just days before the event, MD Robin Richmond pulled out of the hike, but agreed to meet us at the finish to cheer us over the line.
The team met for a carb loading dinner the night before, and after an early night, it was an early 5am start to allow us to make it to the start on time.
It was a stunning morning – the sky was a encouraging shade of purple as we piled into the breakfast tent, ready to stoke our bodies, with bacon, sausage and egg acting as the perfect fuel.
As the sun began to raise over the Eastern hills, there was time for one last team photo before we lined up at the start line. Over 330 people were taking part in this year’s event, with most aiming to complete the gold course, others attempting the 18 mile silver route or the 13 mile bronze route.
After a reminder of why we were embarking on the hike and a thank to you to all the organisers and those attending, the rope was lifted, and we were piped into the Pentlands to begin the hike. The first few stages of the hike were relatively flat, and we reached the first water stop after a couple of hours. Then the hard slog began.
We turned the corner and began hiking up Hillend, above the dry ski slopes that cast their eye over the South of Edinburgh. After a steep climb, we made it to the top of the hill and had a brief stop to delayer and take in the views over Edinburgh, Leith and out to the Firth of Forth.
Time was all important, so we pressed on and before we knew it, we reached the lunch stop near Flotterstone. We were clocked in, and served some delicious lasagne whilst being serenaded by a local brass band.
With the lasagne hastily devoured, we began arguably the toughest uphill hike on the course – the 300m climb up Turnhouse Hill. We puffed and blowed lasagne breath all the way to the top and moved quickly over the top before stopping at the next water stop.
Marching over the final kips, we headed down to the next stop, which, as it turns out, was more like a first class food tent. There was an array of tasty biscuits, fruit, crisps and even a cheese board. After piling blue stilton, cheddar, and hot chocolate on top of the lasagne, we started out on the final third of the course.
After a steep decent, we clocked into the last check point, had some delicious soup and entered the home straight – a 6k hike back to the start point. With tired legs we made it to the final water stop, and after being boosted with a sugary macaroon, we dug in and ploughed through the final 3.5k.
With our legs now on auto-drive, the end point was in sight. Robin joined us just before the finish line which we crossed after around 10.5 hours hiking. We mustered up enough energy to throw a few poses in front of the big finish poster, naturally.
We were welcomed by a fabulous and animated live band and celebrated with beer, cider, burgers and yet more lasagne before gingerly making our way back to the coaches to begin the journey home.
We all agreed it was a fantastic event, and one we will all do again…if our legs ever recover!
For those interested, you can see the full route map here. It’s also not too late to sponsor us, so if you can dig deep and spare a few pennies, we’d be very grateful. You can sponsor us here – http://my.artezglobal.com/TeamPage.aspx?teamID=58584
All of the money raised will go towards creating a fantastic new St Columba’s Hospice that will provide specialist care designed to improve the lives of those living with a terminal illness.