Why I WALK IT: Our long-distance 80k challenge!

29 July 2020

Fiona and Simon were gearing up for a mammoth WALK IT 2020, with plans to walk at all eight of our flagship events. Fiona tells us what the event means to her and how they overcame all obstacles to still achieve their goal, depite coronavirus and an unexpected deployment for Simon!

I’d always wanted to take part in a WALK IT event but, living in the Channel Islands, it was always difficult to get over to the mainland. When my husband Simon and I moved to the UK 3 years ago, we finally had the opportunity to participate in one and signed up to do the 10k at WALK IT Newcastle. Seeing the wave of purple sweep through the streets of Newcastle was an amazing sight and I became hooked on the event from there! I’d never been to an event which was solely to support people affected by Crohn’s and Colitis, so this was an incredible experience. We met some amazing people and it was great to listen to other peoples’ journeys.

When I was diagnosed in 2004, there were no websites like Facebook where I could connect with others and so I became reliant on the Crohn’s & Colitis UK website, or NACC as it was called then, to answer the many questions I had. This was a disease I’d never heard of before, so they became my lifeline and supported me throughout the early years of my diagnosis. I started to understand the disease and my complications that came with having Crohn’s, such as arthritis, extreme fatigue, and infertility to name a few.

As a result of this help, it became my mission to raise as much money for the charity as I could because one day, they may find me a cure

This remains my life’s mission to this day and I have completed many fundraisers for Crohn’s & Colitis UK. I have walked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru and taken part in a Guinness World Record attempt for the most people tandem skydiving in 24 hours. These are always solo challenges, which is why WALK IT means so much, because I get to do something with other warriors. Last year we took part at both the Newcastle & Edinburgh event and decided that this year we would complete every 10k walk, across the country. Since moving to the UK, my Crohn’s has gone into remission and I’ve slowly gotten stronger and stronger so doing all 8 walks would show how strong I am. We also wanted family and friends to be able to walk with us and raise as much money as we could for the charity. My husband Simon is currently serving in the RAF and said he would do the walks in his uniform & his WALK IT t-shirt, whilst carrying his 20kg Bergan on his back.

The weight Simon carried symbolises the weight that IBD warriors and their families carry on their shoulders every day

We had named our event WALK IT with Friends and planned to have family and friends join us at a location of their choice, along with other military personnel, and their families. Sadly, this year did not go to plan. Simon’s deployment to the Falkland Islands was brought forward meaning he would miss all the walks and this, along with coronavirus, really put a spanner in our challenge. We were absolutely gutted the events were cancelled but Simon convinced me that I could still do them, even if I couldn't walk with the other warriors. When my My WALK IT was launched, we simply had to.

Simon is my biggest support and I was not at all confident I could do these on my own so during lockdown we went out on a few walks and he mapped out a route that I could manage myself. We planned for him to complete the challenge down in the Falklands, whilst I did mine here. He was able to do one 10k with me before he left, and a few friends were able to join in as support in his absence. Every Sunday and Wednesday for 4 weeks I went out and completed my 10k, letting Simon know when I was home safely. Luckily, the weather was nice on each of my walks, so made them a lot more pleasurable.

Simon was not as lucky with the weather and was walking in subzero temperatures with a wind chill in the minus figures. Luckily, he had his Crohn’s & Colitis UK hoodie to keep him warm. Even in these conditions, he did the walk in his uniform and with his 20kg bag. These were not the conditions he expected to be completing this challenge in!

We were so proud to complete all 8 walks, even if it wasn’t how we’d planned them with him being on the other side of the world

We couldn’t really celebrate our achievement as we are limited to how much time we can talk whilst he is away, but we will go out and celebrate once he returns in October. Hopefully, next year we will be completing our 8 WALK IT with Friends 10k Challenge together at each location, instead of doing them separately.

This disease can make you feel isolated and make going to organised events scary and stressful, but it’s not the case with WALK IT. Everyone is in the same boat as you, and you don’t have to feel ashamed for going back and forth to the loos or have to explain what the disease actually is to someone.  We look forward to seeing that wave of purple sweep through the streets once again!

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