A SELKIRK woman has walked more than 50 miles within 24 hours, completing the Caledonian Challenge hiking over Highland mountains.
Human Resources manager Debbie Farrell, 32, and her team tried the challenge last year but injuries and lack of preparation forced them to pull out at the 34 mile mark.
But this year they triumphed, achieving the 54 miles along the West Highland Way in 23 hours and 48 minutes.
Walkers passed Ben Nevis, Glen Coe, Rannoch Moor, and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
Debbie admitted that last year the team had not done enough training and there were a number of injuries along the way.
She told us: “We were very slow in completing the distance we did and I was not allowed to continue as we had taken so long. I was devastated.
“ But within two months, three of us had signed up again and talked another friend into it.”
Training started after Christmas with walks of five miles, then 10 miles, combining hills and the flat and trying to increase their speed. In April they hiked the route, completing 40 miles over two days.
The physical challenge was new to Debbie: “At school we did the common riding route and this was probably the most I had ever done. I was not particularly sporty or a walker”
She said: “We started with the fundraising bug in 2009 when a few of us abseiled off the Forth Rail Bridge, which was a 165ft free fall”
Of the challenge this year she said: “We got great weather and only had two showers which makes a massive difference. The first 24 miles we managed in eight hours and it was pretty easy. The scenery is amazing and you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Glencoe ski centre marked the 34-mile point where the walkers saw their support team for the last time before the finish.
Debbie added: “You head over Rannoch Moor and that’s when it really became tough as the darkness sets in and you have to use your head torch. It made me feel sick so I switched it off and just battled on with the little light from my team-mates’ torches. You don’t feel like eating as your body tells you it’s time to sleep and all you want to do is wait till it’s light.”
The pain in Debbie’s right ankle was diagnosed as tendonitis at a checkpoint and doctors strapped it up to allow her to continue.
“The sun started coming up at the top of the hill over the Bridge of Orchy at about 3am and you then just feel normal again.”
The final section to Tyndrum is relatively flat but with only two miles remaining, the team feared they would not make the 24 hour deadline.
Debbie revealed: “It’s the fastest we had walked since the start of the day. Mum and Dad came up the path to walk with us.
“When I saw my Dad standing looking very proud of me I cried and made him run along beside us as we pushed for the finish.
“Coming into Strathfillan Wigwams, where the challenge ended, was amazing: there were people cheering and music and our support crew and some more friends and family were there to spray us with champagne.
“We were all so tired and proud of each other. It has to be the most amazing feeling in the whole world.
“Even when I graduated from university I never felt the way I felt that day knowing what a massive challenge we achieved.
“It was awesome and the friends I walked with are certainly very special to me and made every step of the way great”