(Ad)venturing outside the library

On Friday 24th July, a team of librarians came together at Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Hampshire, to take part in an epic adventure. The team of four – the Roving Librarians – CILIP in Kent’s Chair Maria Centrone, and Web Officer Philippa Rose, and the Templeman libraries’ Gemma Tucker and Karen Earl were taking on the Ghurka Challenge, known as Trailwalker: walking 100km in under 30 hours, across the South Downs.

A lot of training, hard work and meticulous organisation had taken place in the months leading up to the challenge (this is why librarians make the best endurance-adventurers!). The team had trained in rain and shine, day and night to prepare for the 30 hours non-stop walking; testing out shoes, socks, nutrition and hydration. Fundraising had collected over £2,000 for Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust, much of which would go to help those recovering from April’s earthquake in Nepal (find out more here: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what-we-do/emergency-response/nepal-earthquake).

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Photo courtesy of SussexSportPhotography.com

The Roving Librarians set off at 7am on Saturday morning to the sound of Gurkha bagpipes, hitting checkpoints 1 to 5 ahead of schedule and feeling fresh!

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By 9pm the night had set in and checkpoint 5 to 6 was tough. Tricky terrain and limited visibility from headtorches meant a significant drop in pace and a missed signpost caused a slight detour and a psychological dip. The team were soon back up to speed and the realisation that we needed to up the pace and reduce the rest-stops meant we had to dig deep. Checkpoints 7 to 9 felt gruelling and long. One more mis-direction and we’d be out of the running for a sub-30-hour completion time. But the adrenalin kicked in and by checkpoint 9 we knew we could do it!

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Then the rain set in… and the biting wind… a little hail… and then more torrential rain, making the steep climbs of the chalky downs feel like an ice-rink under foot, and the hilltop chill raw!

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Through it all, the Gurkha’s impeccable organisation, their inspirational welcome at each checkpoint, and the volunteers’ support and motivation as we left each checkpoint kept us going as we clocked up the miles. But we couldn’t have done it without our amazing, wonderful support team who met us at each checkpoint with smiles, hot drinks, clean socks, replenished our supplies, dutifully answered our list of demands, and filled us with the confidence that we could keep going.

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Over 400 teams took part, with 260 completing the course as a full team of four. The Roving Librarians finished in 29 hours and 5 minutes!

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We were presented with our handcrafted medals, beautiful khata (scarves), and a delicious Gurkha curry washed down with lots of well-deserved champagne!

We’d love to hear your stories of librarians adventuring – let’s challenge the stereotype! Feel free to post your feats of daring-do below!

To donate, visit the Roving Librarian’s JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/roving-librarians

To find out about taking part in Trailwalker 2016, visit the Oxfam Trailwalker webpage: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/trailwalker

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