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Three Peaks Challenge

Date: Saturday, August 6, 2011

Venue: Ben Nevis / Scafell Pike / Mt Snowden

Michelle, John and Charlotte have always said that Ryan just ‘got it’ and completing the Three Peaks Challenge for Meningitis in August 2011 ensured that we ‘got’ what it means to fundraise for a Life for a Cure.  Raising money is only half of the story; being tested  outside our comfort zone reminded us what we can achieve –  a fitting legacy to Ryan, who always lived his life this way.

I can honestly say that completing this challenge – climbing Ben Nevis, Scarfell and Snowdon over one weekend was the toughest and smelliest physical challenge I have ever completed.  As a runner, I naively thought I would be well equipped for this.  I soon discovered that walking boots need careful negotiation and that walking poles are more than an accessory.

I’m not one for great adventures and I’m not one for the great outdoors, so I have my husband Richard, and sister in law Jill to thank for getting me on this challenge in the first place; looking back I feel totally blessed to have completed the challenge with them.  We shared bunks and a mini bus with strangers who became allies, and learned that it would be the least equipped and least prepared walkers that would prove to be the most humbling in their refusal to give in, for each walker on the trip had their own intimate connection with meningitis. Quitting wasn’t an option.

We achieved the accolade from our guide for being the group with whom he has spent the longest time ever on Scafell (hence missing the time limit on the challenge) and who carried the widest range of confectionary with them;Three Peak law is, ‘never refuse a sweet while walking’ and learn to sleep amidst the stench of smelly socks on the mini bus if you intend to last the course.

I always knew that Jill was an amazing sister in law – I also knew that she was driven and competitive.  I didn’t realise that she would be the gentle soul massaging her brother’s calves, sharing her energy drinks with us and wisely ignoring my tears when Richard decided he would have to turn back on Snowdon due to crippling leg cramps.  On reaching the top of Snowdon, our achievement was tempered by realising Richard wasn’t with us and that we had always planned to do this challenge together.

So, I will never forget the moment when our guide appeared in the cafe at the top of Snowdon (a refuelling spot for our long descent) to tell me, ‘your husband’s asking for a strong cup of tea, he’s on his way up’.  It transpired that Richard had wrestled with his conscience, reminded himself of John’s battle in the London Marathon, reminded himself that we were doing this for Ryan, and, after 3 false starts, decided not to quit the Challenge after all; he had practically crawled up Snowdon on his hands and knees.  After 20+ years of marriage I know how much I love and admire Richard, but I’m not ashamed to say that I saw him through fresh eyes as he emerged from the Welsh mist, in agony, more than ready for that cup of tea.

I’m in no hurry to see Snowdon again, but I can look back and thank Ryan for teaching us that going one step at a time, even when self-belief is lost, is a life changer.  And Ryan would surely smile on hearing that many of Richard’s sponsors seemed to double their donations on hearing about his Snowdon show down. That was over £2,000 well earned as far as we’re concerned.

Jeanne Fairs