IN troubling times such as these, when our polarised political landscape is dividing the nation, cynicism towards our supposedly dwindling positive traits can be an easy attitude to flex.

But for all of civilisation’s uglier qualities, there can also be equal displays of compassion, unity, togetherness, sacrifice, uncapped camaraderie, and unbridled support.

The latter is exactly what I both experienced in abundance, and even exercised myself, last weekend during this year’s Trailwalker event - a monumental charity trek in aid of Oxfam and The Ghurkha’s Welfare Trust.

The mind and body-testing challenge first took place in the UK in 1997 and each year sees about 2000 willing walkers tackle a multi-terrain course in no more than 30 hours.

Despite my unwavering love of physically destroying myself and dragging my aching body up hills high enough to cause a nosebleed, I wasn’t there to take part.

A group of my girlfriend’s former work colleagues, however, were. So, I was coerced in to making up what would go onto be the team’s essential support crew and unsung fifth pair of feet.

In hindsight, it was perhaps one of the greatest and most faith-restoring things I have ever done.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

The experience started on the Friday evening, in South Downs, when we arrived at the event’s base camp and met with our team: Colchester residents Gus Cole, Jitka Trejnarova, Damo Gray and his son Aiden.

Decorated with military vehicles, camouflage-clad soldiers and regimental queues of hungry campers desperate for a ladle of steaming hot spaghetti, the meeting spot had a strange post-apologetic and totalitarian feel about it.

It mirrored movie scenes in which ravaged villages try to rebuild following the outbreak of a deadly virus, which has wiped out majority of the planet’s population.

Someone even quipped it was similar to what we might expect to see after Brexit.

Nonetheless, together we all drew up a rough blueprint of how the support team would aid the walkers once they pulled into each of the nine checkpoints.

The next morning, we woke before the sun, which, given the murderous undertones of the eerie Airbnb in which we (hardly) slept, was actually a relief.

After one last encouraging pep talk at base camp, the support team - comprised of myself, David Garlick, Molly Garlick and Kelly Clark - headed for the first pit stop 12-miles into the route, while the ramblers took their first steps on a physiological test of a lifetime.

Twisting and turning through country lanes - where civilisation was sparse, but roadkill was rife - we travelled to each of the checkpoints, each time more determined than the last to impact both the physical and mental state of our four walkers.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

As we slowly chipped away at what seemed like never-ending stretches of road, our team was inspirationally doing the same. They, however, were doing so on slowly blistering feet and unpredictable surfaces, while we enjoyed the luxury of a cosy modern car for which inclines were not a problem.

As we made our way through quaint parishes and petite villages, we would refuel on freshly prepared hot meals in cafes using local produce. Our hardworking counterparts on the other hand were forced to gnaw on cereal bars – each bite of which would pass down desert-dry throats.

Daylight quickly started to disappear, and so did some of our team’s ability to continue the course. This is when two of the valiant walkers begrudgingly started to pull out at checkpoints four and five, respectively.

By this point, we were all 12 hours deep, and if any of the two remaining hikers – Damo and his son Aiden - were to soldier on and cross the finish line at Brighton Racecourse, we still had 18 more hours to go.

Come 4am on the Sunday morning, sleep deprivation was rapidly starting to affect us all.

Conversations were becoming tetchy and frazzled tempers saw us snapping at any little inconvenience.

Each time a minor argument broke out, a croaky voice of reason would remind us all of exactly why we were doing this, and then without a murmur, we would go back to strapping up a crippled ankle or massaging a muscle.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Thankfully, in the end, it was all worth it.

Shortly after euphorically crossing the finish line and being deservedly decorated with his medal, Damo, the team’s last standing walker, sincerely declared, ‘’I really couldn’t have done it without you guys.’’

And I completely believe him. Since we had all last slept, which at this point was more than 30 hours ago, we had all seen the night turn to day, back into night, and then back into day again.

But without witnessing his resilience and relentless determination to carry on through the pain of a breakable hamstring and close-to-buckling knee, we also couldn’t have given him the support we did.

The awe-inspiring effort he and the rest of the team put into pushing themselves beyond their limits, was reciprocated, and spurred us on to do as much for them as they were doing for themselves and the connected charities.

Maybe if we all applied that same level of commitment and compassion to each other every day, regardless of political allegiances or stubborn opinions, the world might spin a little bit smoother.

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