Pedal Paddle Puff

On Thursday 11th June, 2015, two students at Edinburgh University embarked on a journey by pedal, paddle and puff from Edinburgh to Paris. The aim was to get from Edinburgh Castle to the Eiffel Tower in 10 days via bicycling, kayaking and running.

The challenged involved cycling 544 miles from Edinburgh Castle to Dungeness, averaging 109 miles a day and travelling down the East of the UK. Our theory that because we were heading South it would be ‘downhill all the way’ was quickly out the window when we came through the borders and engaged the ‘Northern Alps’ of County Durham. We quickly engaged the granny gear, put our heads down and concentrated simply on keeping our legs moving. The further South we got, the flatter the rides became but while the pain on the calves slightly eased, it was slowly replaced in other areas by a rock solid, uncomfortably shaped seat.

Having arrived in Dungeness, we prayed for good weather and the following day we jumped in a two-man kayak and paddled 22 miles across the Channel. Thankfully someone upstairs was listening and we were blessed with good weather, dealing with sunburn rather than crashing waves. It was hardly a spectator sport and after an hour of paddling we looked back to, only to see that Dungeness seemed a few hundred metres away with the French coast not even in sight. However, 6.5 hours later we made it to Boulogne, having dodged a few tankers en route. It was here in Boulogne that we began our biggest challenge yet; 144 miles by foot, all the way to the Eiffel Tower.

The running section was by far and away the hardest part of the task. Baked by the sun on some days and drenched in others, each day posed a different challenge. Dodgy French directions and cramp led to the added challenge of trying to maintain a decent temperament but, with a fantastic team behind us, humour was never far away and we got through each gruelling day one step at a time. After multiple blisters, ice baths and painful massages our final day saw the Tower come into sight and we made our final push.

We were lucky enough to be joined by a physio for the running section of the challenge, and without him I doubt we would have finished the challenge. Always putting our safety first, he made sure that we were constantly hydrated and well fed, keeping our energy levels high. This was all a part of the immense organization that took place over 18 months when the idea was first conceived. Never done before, it was an achievement that I would be surprised if either of us ever surpassed.

However, the whole thing was made worlds easier by the incredible work of those for whom we were raising money for. Raising a grand total of £60,000, we split the money between 3 exceptional charities. Mental Health Research UK was one of these phenomenal organisations. The charity’s work and dedication into professional research into mental health is unrivalled in the UK and has played a significant rise into the growing awareness of issues surrounding the topic. It is the lasting effect of this research that made what we did that much easier. Without the backing and motivation of Mental Health Research UK and the other charities it is unlikely that we would have been able to complete the challenge. I hope the money raised goes some way into the continuation of this amazing work.