30 degree heat, the length of the River Thames and equipped only with a pair of trainers; this challenge was not for the faint hearted.

From 20th – 27th May, Joe Parkes – a Restless Development supporter –  experienced moments of high elation, rewards of peanut butter sandwiches, to leaden legs and being chased down by cows. Read on to hear all about his adventure for Restless Development running 7 marathons in 7 days. 

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Day 1: Source to Kelmscott

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Maybe I thought the source of the UK’s most famous river would be more impressive. However I set off on my journey with only a random layby and a public footpath sign to indicate the start.

Not even getting soaked from giant storm clouds could dampen my spirits. It was encouraging to see the river widen and get pretty big by the end of the day.

Day 2: Kelmscott to Oxford

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The start of day 2 was slightly more eventful, as no sooner than I had set off, I found myself being chased down in hot pursuit by a herd of cows. It certainly got my heart racing having to speedily climb over a barbed wire fence to escape them!

Though my highlight of the day was running along by the Tadpole Bridge section of the Thames. Suddenly I had a moment where I welled up and felt really emotional.  Maybe I can attribute it to listening to Tupac at the time, but it was also from a sudden sense of awe and appreciation of what I was doing and how far I had already run.

Day 3: Oxford to Cholsey

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This morning I was sore and the day felt more like a battle. I just tried to get as far as I could, which was surprisingly hard given my increasing fatigue and it being a very hot and sticky day.

Day 4: Cholsey to Henley

Over the course of undertaking this challenge I began to realise how important very small things are.

From Reading onwards I was fighting hard for every step.  I really noted how much will power and resolve it took to keep making every effort to progress forward. I dug very deep indeed, and it was the small little things which helped me get past my mental blocks and hurdles.

That day, it was the thought of change and staying at my parents’ house for two nights which gave me a real boost.

Day 5: Henley to Old Windsor

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Despite being largely on ‘home turf’ where I had grown up, ironically this was the day I also got lost!

Fortunately my incredible wife Emily was on hand and managed to help direct me back on course, but not before I ended up in an unreal private estate with a large red brick house and white reindeer.

The end of the day was hard and I ended up hitting the wall super hard. Fortunately I was able to push through by my mum hand feeding me peanuts.

Day 6: Old Windsor to Teddington

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Legs were flagging, ankles sore, feet blistered and knees squealing.

I battled on by myself for hours today – head down, music on, teeth gritted.

However, not too far from Hampton Court we saw a sign proclaiming 147 miles to source. I had come a long way. For all the pain, I was rewarded with a massive chicken burger, piece of apple crumble and an ice bath for my legs at the Travelodge I was staying in that night.

Day 7: Teddington to Barrier

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Last day and somehow I found an unreal reserve of power and energy and motored my way to Hammersmith with Biggie playing. It was phenomenal being in central London having arrived on foot from so far away.

Before long, I went on a small detour to Restless Development’s Office and had an unreal welcome. It was a fantastic experience to have around forty people cheering and clapping, and who were clearly so stoked for me.  Soaking up their energy and filling up my water bottle it was soon time to move on.

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The last part of the journey was a bit of a blur and surprisingly frustrating. Within a few miles of the barrier I not only found myself on the wrong side of the river but then realised it was going to be very hard to reach the actual end on foot. However with the incredible support of my wife Emily, I was finally running the last couple of hundred yards. Utterly exhausted I finally made it back home by 11pm.  It was the following morning that the enormity of what I had achieved hit me. To have had so much support and so many amazing messages, I just felt elated.

To also know that the money I raised for Restless Development will make a big difference and help change lives, made the first taste of a beer that bit sweeter. Restless Development are a charity that have a can-do attitude and are taking on some of the toughest issues in the world. I’m so happy to be supporting them and the support they’ve shown me in return  has been so good that I’m already thinking about my next challenge.

Whatever I decide to do, I’ll get to discover what I’m capable of and raise money for a good cause too. The buzz is unreal. Why not challenge yourself too – how will you push your boundaries?

What do you think?

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