At midnight on Friday 21st June 2013 around 30 teams gathered in a dark and rainy Tollymore Forest car park to begin their quest to complete the “PLOD” – a challenging 50km hike through the Mourne Mountains – in order to raise money for Action Medical Research, a great children’s charity dedicated to improving the health of babies and children in the UK.

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Pictured from left to right: Chris Murray, Peter McEvoy, Ali Cowan, Stephen Arthur & Adam Brennan.

In reality, the PLOD started for the 5 Kainos team members about 5 months ago. There is no short cut to preparing yourself for the arduous walking, climbing and descending through various types of rough mountain terrain, over a LONG period of time: it’s all about the training.  Having also completed the PLOD in 2011, we knew that the 6am wake-up calls on a Saturday mornings were a necessary evil, both for our team and for the other poor Kainos employees we sometimes dragged along with us! The Belfast to Newcastle journey was, however, frequently punctuated with fuel stops for sausage and egg rolls to help morale; the breakfast of champions!

Adverse weather conditions on the night meant we didn’t start until 1am, when the organisers were sure the route was safe. We began the challenge with 10km of orienteering in the forest park.  We completed the course in 2nd place, around 15 minutes behind the leaders, then set off on the main hike, lit by glow sticks and plodder’s head torches.  From there it was driving rain, tough climbs and freezing wind for 8 hours.  For some reason, at the mountain check points the marshals seemed reluctant to leave their tents.  It might have been something to do with the torrential sideways rain and biting wind.  It was hard to tell!

At pre-arranged points we were met by our invaluable support driver.  Warm soup and coffee, and a change of sodden clothes, eased the pain slightly. About 6 hours into the walk (7am!), as we ascended Lough Shannagh, we caught a glimpse of the group in front.  This is the point we knew that all of those early starts were paying off – the chase was on.  By the time we reached the saddle at Carn we were just a couple of minutes behind and after a quick trip to the summit and back we were out in front!

The last 15km was tough.  Joints were aching and blisters biting with every step.  The goal of coming home first helped to alleviate some of the anguish and we crawled across the finish line (carrying our captain!) at about 10.30am on Saturday morning, nearly an hour ahead of the next team.

As we were frequently told on the night though, EVERYONE who completes this challenge can be very proud of themselves, not only for being physically and mentally able to make their way round 50km of unforgiving mountain terrain, but for helping to raise lots of money for those children who have been less fortunate than ourselves.  To continue providing assistance for this important research is the real challenge. There’s still time to donate and any amount no matter how small is appreciated.

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Click here to sponsor the team and help them achieve their target of £1500.