From 24th to the 27th June, The Cure Parkinson’s Trust (CPT) supporter Giles Harrison took on the extreme challenge of walking for 72 hours, with little or no sleep around Richmond Park in Surrey in a bid to raise awareness and funds for CPT as well as RNLI Lifeboats and Bowel Cancer UK. Giles’ fundraising venture was fittingly named ‘The Sleep.Walk Challenge’. Here is Giles’ story:

“Well, that was a nice little walk!” were the words I tweeted at 9am on Wednesday 27th June. Precisely three days earlier I had started my SleepWalk Challenge, in support of CPT, Bowel Cancer UK and the RNLI. In those 3 days (72 hours), I walked for 140 miles and had only 2 hours sleep!

My route took me round (and round and round!) London’s stunning Richmond Park, with occasional forays into Wimbledon Common and along the Thames Path. Every six hours I would stop briefly at my support base - a camper van, parked with special permission in the corner of Richmond Park for a meal break and to cool/wash my feet and change into dry socks. That way, I was able to keep walking from 9am Sunday, through three days and nights, until 9am on the Wednesday morning.

For me, the SleepWalk represents the huge challenges some people face in their daily lives and I wanted to capture that spirit of positivity and endurance that enables them to carry on. Parkinson's can be a cruel and debilitating disease, but CPT funds crucial research and gives hope to thousands - like my uncle - for a better life.

The high points

There were too many to mention them all, but walking through Richmond Park in the moonlight, just me and the wildlife, was a magical experience. The Monday morning was particularly special; as the sky was starting to brighten, I indulged in a 3am disco dance in the park (you should try it) - it's amazingly liberating and restorative! Strutting and twisting along the road to ‘Staying Alive’ or ‘You Sexy Thing’ was highly entertaining not only for the bemused deer staring at me, but it also made me laugh out loud at myself – providing a huge good-mood boost. Just as importantly it also stretches muscles that don’t get used merely walking. There was madness in the method! Grinning from ear to ear after that, I was treated to the most beautiful dawn, with the sun lifting the mist that had settled across the park. And I was lucky enough to share the sunrise with a herd of stags and fawns silhouetted on the hilltop. It was so beautiful and special that I wept.

The rest of the walk was no less special. I've been touched by all the wonderful friends, family and strangers who came to support me, some even walking with me for sections (ages ranged from 12 to over-70!). From those who couldn't come in person, there were so many messages of support and donations, from across the globe that kept me going.

Special heartfelt thanks have to go to the indefatigable Jenny and my Mum, who ran my support and meal base for the whole time, and to Angela who cooked me a delicious and varied menu to keep me going.  

The low points

You know what, there weren't really any! It was an amazing experience. I got a couple of blisters and my legs were pretty sore, and I got tired at times but it was managed with careful planning, pacing, physio attention and an ice bath at the mid-way point. It just goes to show what is possible with the right support. Oh, and a positive attitude - that probably helped too! 

The point of it all

To raise awareness and funds for three brilliant charities, who help people through adversity and huge challenges in their daily lives. The CPT Team, in particular, helped me with media promotion and as a result I featured on BBC London radio, spreading the word of the great work that CPT does. I also promoted my fundraising venture on Twitter @SleepWalkGiles posting my progress throughout the walk which was shared multiple times reaching a large audience. I’m delighted that at the time of writing this the total amount raised is edging towards £8,000. Now, that’s worth staying out of bed for!!”

Giles (middle left) warming up with friends at his support base in Richmond Park ready to begin his epic Sleep.Walk Challenge 

Pre-walk stretching complete, GPS reset and the walking has commenced!

Giles with Sunday's support team re-charging for the next leg of the walk 

Amazing view of the Stags in Richmond Park at dawn on Monday

A very cold but welcome ice bath at the half way point for Giles

On Tuesday Giles ventured out of Richmond park to have a well earned cup of tea with the Teddington Lifeboat team

The stunning misty view over Richmond Park at dawn on Tuesday

Giles is joined by midnight walkers Jane & Anna on Tuesday evening

225km over 72hours on the GPS - Incredible!

If you would like to read more of Giles’ story or support his fundraising efforts please visit his fundraising page.

If you feel inspired by Giles and would like to take on your own fundraising challenge in support of CPT please contact George or call 020 7487 3892 to find out how we can support you.