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Martin’s Captain Tom 100

A Sponsored 100 km walk from Bridlington to Scarborough - and back

Like many people, I have had my own challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. When I was sent home from work on 18 March 2020 ‘for twelve weeks’ because I am classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, little did I realise how long-term working from home was going to be.

At the beginning of April 2020, we lost my father-in-law to COVID-19. Understandably this has been difficult for the family to deal with, especially when my wife’s parents didn’t live nearby.

In January 2021, the country entered a third lockdown. With the winter weather and little options for doing the things which kept us busy in the summer lockdown (like gardening) my own mental health suffered, to the extent that I was finally signed off work.

The story of Captain Tom, and his incredible achievements, is legendary. I was inspired by his fortitude, the incredible example he set and his amazing resilience. Above all, his optimism and spirit were something that the nation needed in a time of crisis. His passing from COVID-19 was so sad. When I heard about the Captain Tom 100 challenge, I decided that I wanted to do something worthwhile to celebrate his life, whilst at the same time fundraising for a worthwhile cause.

Due to my own issues with mental health, it seemed fitting to do it in aid of MIND.

I also decided to do it in memory of my father-in-law, so sadly missed by all his family, many of whom were denied the chance to say goodbye to him, or to pay their last respects in the normal way. As I write this article, my wife has not even been able to give her Mum a hug since her Dad died fourteen months ago. Her Mum has also been suffering with her health due to long COVID.

As part of my rehabilitation, I had already been undertaking quite a bit of walking. A favourite walk has been from Filey seafront along the beach to Speeton Cliffs and back – about ten miles in total. I therefore set myself the challenge of walking 100km as part of the Captain Tom 100, planning a route from Bridlington, around Flamborough Head and across Filey Bay to Scarborough – and back. I decided to break the walk up into four segments to make it manageable.

On May Day Bank Holiday, my wife and I undertook the Bempton to South Landing part of the walk via Flamborough Head. Unfortunately, I miscalculated the length of time that this would take and the biggest challenge became my wife who was miserable on the way back to Flamborough. She told me she only wanted an easy walk! Fortunately, she was easily bribed with fish and chips and even though we were drenched from the heavy rains heading back to Bempton, it all seemed worthwhile.

I undertook the rest of the walks alone, but not because of the events of the day before! Day two was from Filey seafront to Bempton, walking along the beach to Speeton Cliffs and then climbing up the Headland Way path above the cliffs. Although I thought I had judged the time of the tide quite well, there was an unexpected rush to beat the tide and find the cliff top walk. As I climbed the cliffs, it was not long before gannets were soaring overhead. The journey back was during an incredible hailstorm, after high tide. Photos of the black clouds over Filey Bay during that hailstorm appeared on BBC Look North that evening.

Day three was meant to be quite a bit more leisurely; a walk from South Landing to Bridlington and back. However, spurred on by the incredible kindness and generosity of people along the way, I pushed myself and walked beyond Bridlington to Fraisthorpe Beach then back to Flamborough.

Day four was always going to be the toughest part of the walk; from Filey Bay to Scarborough lighthouse and back along the Cleveland Way. And so it turned out to be, climbing up and down coastal terrain, steps and paths, it was hard work. Originally this had been planned for the Saturday but due to the weather forecast I decided to delay it to the Sunday. Again, I was met with remarkable kindness from people along the way who showed interest in why I was doing the walk and what it involved. In total this segment alone was 40 km (25 miles). Although I would class myself as reasonably fit, it took me a few days to recover. Amazingly I had no blisters and, apart from the last segment, recovered easily after each day of the walk, so I must have built up a reasonable level of fitness.

Initially I had low expectations of how much I could raise for my charity. I hoped for £100 but that target was soon met. So, I increased my goal to £500 and again I achieved that before I had completed the walk. I became more ambitious and set myself a target of £1,000. To date I have surpassed that total, but I am still hoping to raise even more money for MIND so if anyone would like to sponsor me, please go to my Just Giving page.

I have been touched by the support of family, friends and strangers who have offered words of encouragement, donations and kindness all along the way.

The walk itself has done me and my mental health the power of good. It has given me something worthwhile to focus on, something meaningful; it has turned my situation into a positive; it has given me the opportunity to raise money for a worthwhile cause; and it has helped me to feel better about myself. It has involved social interaction, either on the walk itself or in contacting people and asking them if they would sponsor me. There’s been a real sense of achievement here. I’ve experienced a lot of kindness from people.

One of the best pieces of advice I received before undertaking the walk was to enjoy every minute and to take lots of pictures. It has been an amazing experience enjoying nature and the beautiful scenery. I have been fortunate enough to see gannets, puffins, swallows and countless other types of birds, although the highlight has to be the two barn owls that I spotted; one at Bempton RSPB and the other near Filey Country Park. Getting back to nature has been proven to be good for well-being and mental health. And I needed to take the selfies to prove that I’d completed the challenge!

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on the way, even if it was just to say hello. I have enjoyed every minute of my walk, always trying to keep a smile on my face and greet people along the way. The spirit of Captain Tom was never very far away.

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