Ex-Royal Marine Bandsman Graham Hayes may be used to marching, but he recently entered the 60km (37.5 miles) 'Just Walk' challenge across the South Downs in support of Smile4Wessex. Graham, whose Hayes Music stores can be found in Southampton and Romsey, finished in 5th place in an incredible time of just 10 hours and 20 minutes. Here, in his own words, is the story of Graham's day.
"It was 6:30am and I was sat in the Grandstand at Goodwood Racecourse. Somewhere behind the fog was 60km of stunning West Sussex countryside waiting to be explored. The 37.5 mile route was mainly off road taking in bridle paths, tracks and trails including the South Downs Way.....oh, and plenty of hills!!
After a bacon roll, and a quick group warm-up we formed on the start line. Joined by another 150 or so walkers it was time to start our adventure. The event was organised by the ‘Just Walk' group who did a brilliant job, fully stocked rest stations and the all important route arrows. As the legs began to tire it became a comforting sight every time you saw one, easy to follow and reassuring to know you were heading in the right direction.
The fog soon lifted and a glorious day developed as the kilometres passed by. I had no game plan or strategy so just walked at a pace that suited me. The scenery offered plenty of distractions, as did the numerous bizarre topics and thoughts that popped into my head, and of course I had music – must have marched along to every Kenneth Alford composition I could remember!!!
Two key points of the day, firstly the 30km mark. I was half way, every step I took now was taking me one step closer to the finish. And secondly at the 40km point, one of the longest, steepest hills I think I've ever walked. Once at the top my brain told me that everything else had to be downhill (as it turned out it wasn't, but I didn't know that at the time!!)
After 10 hours and 20 minutes my walking journey was completed as I crossed the finish line in 5th place. More importantly was the self satisfaction of my achievement, I'd pushed the boundaries of my mind and body and accomplished something to be proud of. This of course is what the charity is all about, pushing boundaries, and I'm extremely grateful to be involved in my small way."
Our sincere thanks to Graham for his fantastic support, and for encapsulating in his last sentence why he and so many others put their bodies through the pain barrier for Smile4Wessex.