In the last week (9th to 15th March), my training for the 10nTaff for Tŷ Hafan has intensified, walking for nearly 5 hours and cycling for nearly 2.5 hours. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve walked 90 miles and cycled 54 miles. I’ve trained in the freezing cold, high winds and torrential rain. I’ve also seen glorious sun rises and sun sets. However, much more is needed before I’m ready to join fellow Dads, Uncles and Brothers to climb 10 mountains and then cycle from Brecon to Cardiff in 55 hours.
There is a reason for the spike in training that is not just associated with the challenge. The arrival and spread of the coronavirus in the UK is unprecedented. It is also terrifying. As parents with a son who has a life-limiting lung and heart condition, my wife and I are on red alert. We have to do everything we can to ensure that our son does not contract this virus. As the parent who has to go out (to work and to do the shopping) I am at most risk of contracting the virus. Subsequently, I have to try and limit the risk of me bringing the virus into the home and spreading it to my wife and son. This means sleeping apart, keeping a safe distance away from my son and wife, and not preparing any food. The burden of caring for our son lies solely on the shoulders of my wife, which is tough. I can no longer clean his teeth at bedtime or bath him on the weekends. That is now down to Jackie. I can’t even sit next to him and watch a movie. And we have no idea how long this will last.
As a self-employeed photographer, most of my March and many of my April photoshoots have either been postponed or cancelled. This is a sort of blessing in disguise as it means that I do not have to mix with large groups of people and, therefore, there is a reduced risk of myself catching the virus. However, there is the concern about my income.
With all this worry, cycling and walking is helping me keep sane. I know that to complete the challenge I have to be ultra fit. The 3-day 10nTaff challenge is brutal. On day 1 we climb the 5 highest mountains in North Wales. On day 2, we climb the 5 highest mountains in South and Mid Wales. On day 3 we cycle from Brecon to Cardiff. If we start walking at 5am on day 1, we have until 12 midday on day 3 to reach Cardiff. By taking on the challenge we hope to raise the profile of Tŷ Hafan, one of the UK’s leading paediatric palliative care charities offering care to children and support for their families, throughout Wales. We also aim to raise much needed funds to ensure that families like ours continue to get the loving care they so desperately need.
Getting out on my bike or putting on my hiking boots just allows me to think. I exercise alone, avoiding other people wherever I can. On Wednesday, my wife and I managed to go for a walk along the coast, but we can no longer risk having carers and nurses in the house to provide such respite. There is also the camaraderie with all the other guys taking on the challenge and those acting as our vital support team. Many of them are in a very similar situation, desperately trying to keep their children and young people safe and away from the virus. Behind the banter there is amazing support with several of the Dads who’ve lost children offering their help such as going shopping.
Training will continue despite the uncertainty of what lies ahead. Exercise that I hope will give me the strength to help my family through this terrible crisis.
Paul is a commercial, industrial, events and wedding photographer based in South Wales and covering the whole of the UK. To discuss a photography assignment, please contact Paul on email@example.com