News Article: Practice fund raising effort for Guide Dogs

We entered the Coniston Challenge, an annual event run in the Lake District where teams raise money for the Guide Dogs. About £100k was raised in total this year by about 50 teams, each team comprising half a dozen or so people. The event involves canoe paddling 3km, mountain biking 12km and walking 12 km up the Old Man of Coniston. We will have raised about £2000 when all is done.

The athletic ability of the teams ranges from fitness fanatic to couch potato, from hard core triathletes to people who have never climbed a hill in their lives. The atmosphere is really friendly and easy going – it is all about getting round the course together as a team and coming back friends. So there is none of the rush to transition between events seen at normal triathlons. This is a nice day-out doing some exercise in the fresh air, and in the middle of beautiful scenery.

We had two teams, the Hares (Andy, Kerry R, Leanne, Amy and her partner Ben, and Rachel our ex-RVN) and the Tortoises (Jon, Jo and her husband Clive and son Tom, Laura, Ann and her partner Paul).  The members of a team had to stay close together so it was important to make sure everyone is “on the same page” with that before the start!

The paddling was in unsinkable “sit-on-top” canoes. These were doubles. There was no current on the 3km course round Lake Coniston, the route stayed close to the shore and there were marshals and safety boats. The Lake was calm, so this was an easy undertaking for people with no previous experience in canoes. It was on Lake Coniston that Donald Campbell drove the iconic Bluebird to glory … and death … but the water speed record wasn’t at much risk from our kayaks!

The cycling was a 12 km loop from Coniston, up some hills to a trail with a beautiful view overlooking the lake and surrounding hills and fells, and then a descent through the Grizedale forest following a winding trail. No mountain biking experience was needed, but the hills up required use of low gears and the descent was pretty bumpy so some confidence with a bike proved useful.

The yomp up the Old Man of Coniston was arguably the most physically demanding event. Teams made 800m of ascent from the Lake, through woodland, up a rocky trail past a tarn to the summit for views that lift the soul. It took about 3-3.5 hours to get to the summit and loop around to return to the Lake by a different path past another tarn.

Although the organisers asked teams to carry maps and compasses and talked about self-navigation, there really was no great need! The event was thoroughly marshalled with Coniston mountain rescue team on hand, and every team carried a GPS that gave real time position to a big screen in the canteen back at the campsite. Each team had a swipe card that they used to check in at various way points along each of the three routes, and these swipes allowed for split times to be available later.

We did the challenge as a team building jolly. The practice funded the team entries and nurses and receptionists were pivotal in raising sponsorship money over the months leading up to the challenge. Clients got interested in the posters about it that were displayed in the waiting room, and a lot of donations came in from that route.

Thanks to everyone who donated!

With a goal to work towards, staff were noticeably keen to get bikes in the months leading up to the challenge and “get out there”.

Most of us rocked up the night before on the Friday night and camped with the other teams, right by the event hub on a school playing field. There were showers, wash and toilet facilities available. The event started with a briefing early doors on the Saturday. The organisers laid on a pre-start breakfast in the school canteen, a pasta lunch (to be taken between events if you wanted) and an evening meal with entertainment afterwards in a huge marquee. This year there was a live band! Once hangovers were nursed and tents were taken down, we drifted away on the Sunday morning.

We weren’t racing each other (much!), but the apocryphal old adage about the Hare and Tortoise proved true, at least this time! The weather was beautiful for us, but it wouldn’t have mattered much if it wasn’t. In September the weather is never going to be that bad, and the trees are just beginning to think about “turning” for the Autumn.

The whole day felt like a journey through a box of chocolates. The beers were well-earned at the end of a great day.


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1, The Hares 2, the tortoises 3 Launching the kayaks 4 paddling 5 paddling 6 bike 7 lunch 8 yomp 9, yomp 10 summit