On Saturday 17 June, Team BWary (Alistair Mathew, Jonathan Daykin, Matthew Harshman and Matt Tickle) took on the Samworth Charity Challenge. For the uninitiated, this is a triathlon-style event with a twist – 3 hours of running, 3 hours of mountain biking and 3 hours of canoeing – all with the added challenge of there being no pre-defined route, so you have to navigate your way between various checkpoints in order to score points, whilst making sure to arrive back within the designated 3 hour time limit for each section or else suffer severe points penalties. The Samworth Challenge is a biennial event with this instalment taking place at Keswick in the Lake District.
The teams gathered at Keswick Rugby Club from around 6 am to get some breakfast, undertake last minute equipment checks and get fitted out with our GPS tracker. We then set off at 7 am on the first leg which for us was the “Mountain” or running stage (there were 52 teams in all with 1/3 taking part in each of the legs at a time). In reality what this meant was that we spent the next hour and a half running (in reality there was quite a lot of walking!) almost continuously uphill (via a few checkpoints along the way), until we reached the summit of Skiddaw (the sixth-highest summit in England) at around 8:30 am. With barely a moment to enjoy the view, we were off again careering down the mountain, picking up a few more points on our descent before racing our way through the centre of Keswick to finish at 9:59 am (a minute to spare!) alongside the Brownlee Brothers’ team. In all, we ran 22.5km with a total ascent of 1,000m! (NB. the Brownlees ran a lot further than us at the same time!)
For the second leg, starting at 10:30 am, we tackled the canoeing event which was by far our weakest event. We gave it a valiant effort though, whilst making the tactical decision to go for checkpoints that involved the minimal amount of time actually canoeing! We were a bit more conservative on this event and with strength and enthusiasm wilting somewhat in the midday heat, we made sure to avoid time penalties rather than going for any ambitious points grabbing.
The final event of the day, starting at 2 pm was the mountain biking stage. Our resident mountain biking enthusiast, Matt Tickle, approached this stage with relish, leading us up a steep climb to the Whinlatter mountain bike centre (apparently this is a top-100 UK bike climb) where we then proceeded to tackle one of the mountain bike trails in order to pick up the points from four checkpoints. Having finished up there, we then raced back down the hill, picking up some considerable speed and a few points along the way. The most surreal part of the bike ride came when the Brownlees first asked us for directions, then we had to point out where the checkpoint was to them and then finally we ended up lending them some water as they’d run out! (I believe Matt H has kept the plastic bottle from which Jonny Brownlee drank as a souvenir) Good to see that they were nice guys as well as unbelievable athletes! We eventually rolled back into the finish around 5pmand headed swiftly to the bar for a well-earned beer.
In the evening there was a celebratory dinner, prize giving and dancing (there were many people who were barely able to stand, let alone dance and this wasn’t just down to the free bar!). We knew we had been in a strong position to threaten the podium after the run stage, but after our performance rather tailed off in the latter two events we weren’t feeling too confident. However, our total of 540pts (230 run, 170 canoes, 140 bikes) was enough to edge us into third place, so we were delighted to get our hands on some winners’ medals!
All-in-all an amazing adventure, both incredibly satisfying and absolutely exhausting.
It’s not too late to sponsor us for our efforts and a big thank you to everyone who already has:
Footnote: The Brownlees did beat us by 310pts so it wasn’t exactly close, but they were pushed very hard by the team from Keswick Rugby Club who came away with a mightily impressive 794pts.