Centurion Challenge 2013

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Between the 5th and 7th of July, I helped run the Centurion Challenge, which I successfully completed last year. My principle role was cycling up and down, making sure all the walkers were okay which was approximately a 200 mile cycle as I was going repeatedly from the back to the front and back again along the line of walkers. I also helped set up the route and campsite before the event, and helped with the monitoring of the walkers.

Below is the full write up from the event from the school newsletter:

……..started in front the main doors of the School at 4 o‟clock on a warm sunny Friday afternoon. The centurions, coated in sun cream and clad this in their crimson imperial purple shirts embroidered in gold, made their way down to the Kennet and Avon canal to complete the first 22 mile leg of their journey that would take them to the overnight camp at Lower Fox Hangers, our new camp on the outskirts of Devizes. By 9pm most had arrived and feasted on the barbecue prepared by our catering team of Emma Brewer, Olivia Angwin and Paul Floyd. Our cycle pursuit team of JJ, Ethan Rose and ex Beechen Cliff pupil Eliot Farmer monitored their progress under the watchful eye of Dave Brewer and Tom Moat our principle cyclists. Jack Torrance this year combined the role of Medical Assistance, health checks and the emergency collection of any of the brave 75 Challengers that had set out, but even he could not save our men from falling in unprecedented numbers by the end on the second day. By nightfall we had already lost our first
challenger to heat exhaustion. From now on our challengers were forced to constantly hydrate at every checkpoint and carry extra water supplies.

The bright dawn of the Saturday greeted our eager challengers, all keen to make haste and cover as much ground as possible before the sun was too high in the sky. Most had risen by 5 am and all were ready by 6 o‟clock for the next installment of the challenge and for over half this would be the end of the challenge. It was 28 miles to Hungerford. The first 20 flew by with such speed that some marshals were caught unawares with challengers bearing down on them out on the ever-increasing heat of the day. Jamie Forrest and Andy Seal had walked with our challengers on the first day but were now deployed in strategic locations to monitor and encourage our quick footed legion. The final 8 miles was walked in the open. The tree lined canal with its overhanging branches that had shielded our men from the full intense glare of the sun became open country side. The cool breeze of the canal became still stifling air. But our challengers marched on, sometimes losing their way in the unbearable heat, with several reporting the false dawn of church spires, willing the halfway point to be in sight but most made it. Exhausted but they had made it.

At the church of St Lawrence carnage followed . . . . refreshed our half centurions attempted to stand and restart. Moving out of the cool shade of the church yard they were brutally cut down by the intense sun light. We lost 17 within hour. Unable to make it back to the tow path they retreated to our new fleet of mini buses to lick their wounds and rest their aching bodies. They would play no further part in what was becoming a battle against the heat.

Challengers began falling at every checkpoint. Some slowed down to encourage their fellow walkers but to no avail and they too fell victim to the heat. In the next 10 hours were lost another 30. This was unprecedented in the history of The Centurion Challenge - never have so many valiant men been so brutally slain - injuries to hips, knees, and, worst of all, feet. The hard ground destroyed the skin no matter how well protected. Blisters burst through socks, bandages and even blisters plasters. Blisters formed on blisters, sweaty feet become bloodied but still a small band carried on. Some had resorted to the tactic of strapping their socks to their feet with tape to stop any rubbing. Some just toughed it out ignoring the pain until they reached camp and medical assistance. By 11:00 all had returned to camp. Some would restart from where they hand been force to stop and some had been forcibly retired.

That night a fleet of vehicles carried away the stricken back to safety of their homes. The camp was still. The laughter of the previous night had gone. Peoples talked in hushed tones. The enormity of the challenge had now sunk. To be a centurion takes courage, lots of it. That‟s why all are not Centurions.. The honour to be called a Centurion is paid for not with gold but through sacrifice. It‟s the eternal challenge of will over pain. It tests each challenger to their very limit.

Sunday morning arrived far too early for everyone. The staff were up again at 4:30am to prepare the final breakfast, bandage our band of survivors and bid them farewell on the last leg of the journey. Statistically if you have survived the first two days then you will make it home to Beechen Cliff and the glory that waits. However that does not detract from the pain that will be endured within the next 10 hours if you are to be a Centurion. One minute after the 4pm deadline counts for nothing. The coolness of the morning air lifted the spirits of our challengers and a small miracle unfolded. Some challengers started to run. Others picked up their pace too. The marshals had been briefed about the possibility but to see it unfold was inspiring. How could it be? After 78 miles our challengers could not only walk but some could run! and my how they could run. Marshals claimed new records for the passage of challengers past them. Energy bars were devoured on the move and water replenished at lightning speed. Dominic James this year arrived at school first at 10:12am. Mateo Russo followed some 40 minutes later, with Ethan Foster less than a minute behind.

Richard Stewart, Centurion Organiser said, This year was an amazing achievement. In spite of the horrendous heat all weekend that roasted our boys, they kept their spirits high and kept going. The staff, pupils and parents who help make this such a special event and next year we have plans for 100 Centurion Challengers!

Boys who participated in the Centurion Challenge:

Harry Ames, Conor McDonald, William Edwards, Elliot Norbury, Ben Black, Thomas Payne, Harvey Ellis, Patrick Osborne, Aaron Boehm, Ben Pearce, Henry Ellis, Akhilesh Pai, George Cave, Oliver Pimbblet, Conrad Hendy, Jasper Perry, Dylan Charles, Elliot Press, Louis Howell, Ross Plain, Owen Daykin-Pont, Anders Rees, Henry Hyde, Harry Potter, Ethan Foster, Charlie Ricketts, Frederick Isaksen, Henry Rawlinson, Edward Fraser, Matteo Russo, Thomas Johnson, Jordan Ricketts, Joseph Grosvenor, Samuel Watkins, Joseph Sargeant, Harry Room, James Head, Matthew Wedding, Hamish Kale, Jamie Singleton, Hugh Hegarty, Ala'a Al-Rawi, Edward Kamal, Ewan Tabram, Samuel Holburn, Jesse Armstrong, Max Kombert, Daniel Templer, Jack Holman, Nathan Bagby, Matthew Le Butt, Harry Turner, Dominic James, Edward Barby, Jack Lewis, Max Tyson, Archie Jelbert, George Bowen, Matthew Marchant, Elliot Warwick, Tom Leslie, Sam Brake, Finlay Mist, Jack Whitmore, Miles Lloyd, Milo Brosnan, Max Murray, George Wynne-Griffiths, Mark Lynch, Matthew Childs, Nicholas Natrella.

Monies raised will go to Well boring for their work with supplying water to those who need it.

Many thanks to all helpers as well because without these people who freely give up their time we would not be able to run this and other events:

Andrew Davies, Dave Brewer, Olivia Angwin, Emma Brewer, Paul Floyd, Adrienne Baker, Jamie Forrest, Andy Seal, Andy Mason, Amanda Denning, Giles Denning and Edward Kirk

Pam Norbury, Miranda Kombert, Mary Wayne Griffiths, Matt Grosvenor, Graham Holbourn, Alison Murray Bevan , Annie Daykin, Simon Marchant, Philip Lloyd, Daryl Payne, Catherine Wedding, Helen / Neil Foster, Ruth / Mark Turner,

Present and past Beechen Cliff Students:

Eliot Farmer, Jack Torrance, Rob Sayers James Taylor, Jayakrishna Jagadees, Ethan Rose, Jack Holmes

And last but not Mr and Mrs Fletcher for the use of their campsite facilities.

Richard Stewart
Centurion Walk Organiser

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