Tenacious troops are embarking on a mission with a difference as they attempt to walk 49 miles in 24 hours. Sixteen members of the 2620 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment are trekking the entire length of the Peddars Way to raise funds for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH).
They will leave Knettishall Heath Country Park at 5am on Saturday (22nd July) and hope to reach Holme-next-the-Sea, on the Norfolk coast, by 11am on Sunday (23rd July). The troops, based at RAF Marham, have already raised £1,735 – their target was £1,500 – and are now setting their sights on £2,000.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’re looking forward to the challenge,” said Flight Sergeant Stuart Bland.
“How long it takes depends on individuals, because we’ve got a mixed group taking part and it’s going to be a huge test. They’re fit lads, but some have probably never walked more than ten miles in one go. They won’t have spent that much time on their legs.
“It’s not just the physical side of things, either. It’s about mental agility and resilience, because there will be times when their brains tell them to stop. Their minds will want to give up before their bodies, so it’s about breaking down barriers and continuing to push forward.”
Flt Sgt Bland is the only regular serving member of the group. The others are a mix of full-time and part-time reservists. Five others will be helping in a support role, meeting their colleagues at various points with food and water.
“The planning and admin is done and we’ve done a full-route recce, so can’t wait to get underway,” added Flt Sgt Bland, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary with the RAF.
“We just want that day to arrive now because everyone’s ready. We were due to be doing some training that weekend but one of the guys asked if we could do a charity event instead.
“I mentioned Peddars Way and said ‘do you reckon we could do it in 24 hours?’ We decided it was possible and came up with a training plan, before decided we wanted to do it for EACH.
“As a squadron, we’ve done some fundraising for them before so it was an easy decision. It’s a great cause and we all said we wanted to support a local charity.”
The walk has been planned to incorporate numerous breaks, including an hour halfway through. It has been broken down into seven legs, all of around ten kilometres, and the group should be walking at an average of four or five kilometres an hour – the pace they would patrol at during an operation.
“I’m proud of the troops, who have shown real commitment and determination to make a difference,” said Flt Sgt Bland, who has served in Kuwait, Kenya, Northern Ireland and the Middle East, as well as two tours of Iraq and three of Afghanistan.
“I’m also proud to have raised so much money already and thought it would be a challenge getting anywhere near £1,500. However, it seemed to come in quickly and we’re grateful for the support. Hopefully it keeps rolling in.”
2620 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment is the longest-serving unit at RAF Marham. To sponsor the group, click here.