Big Challenge for the Big Walkers to fund Pulmonary Hypertension Research

We did it! Our team completed the Big Walk (286 miles in 15 days) comprising both the Pennine Way and the the One Day Challenge from Edale to Sheffield. We have been back for over 4 weeks now and all of us have slowly begun to re-integrate back into our ‘normal’ routines.

Brian Friel died a couple of weeks after we finished the Big Walk. These words of his help explain what all of us have felt since we stopped, and why we can’t stop talking about it.

“It is not the literal past, the facts of history that shape us, but the images of the past embodied in language.”

This was an intense experience, as much in the build-up as in the doing – all the planning of route, accommodation and food, the gear chosen, bought and worn in, the practice walks, the banter from friends and family and the huge responsibility of fundraising. This was a very public walk, and everyone taking part was utterly committed to it for months before the start. The long one-way bus trip from Sheffield up to Kirk Yetholm just heightened the anticipation – if it took that much time driving, what was the return on foot, over fells and hills, really going to be like?

And then the doing was a total immersion in the true realities of life – get up, walk, eat, drink, sleep, repeat – but each day also brought fresh scenery and fresh challenges. Damaged feet, aching backs, recalcitrant legs, much tendonitis and patellofemoral syndrome, an episode of cellulitis: despite this and more, the team kept going when any reasonable medical advice would have been to rest. We walked from wilderness to city, and were shocked at the change. We went feral and it was like being a student again. We thought nothing much of a 14 mile walk or thick mist.  The weather was kind and we felt blessed.BigWalk_web

The facts of the Big Walk are clear, in terms of the distance walked and the height ascended, the places stayed, the time taken. But the concentration of the experiences we shared has ensured that this literal past is not what we are remembering these weeks afterwards. The images that we have and that we keep going back to – the sun breaking through on High Cup Nick, the craic and the in-jokes, the meals, Voltarol, whisky and Compeeds shared, the warmth of Tan Hill when we rolled in, the top of Cross Fell – have been shaped by our undertaking of this challenge together, and in turn I think they will shape us forever.

November is the official United States Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness month. The Big Walk has raised the profile of this condition locally. Heightened awareness and raised funds for research into new treatments, and potentially a cure. We may have finished walking but the fundraising is still on-going with money gratefully received at All the money raised will be used to support the growing research in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension within the Faculty, and discussion is already taking place about how to maximise its impact!

If you want to know in more (sometimes graphic) detail who, what and why during the Big Walk, please read the walkers blogs here.

Article written by: Professor Tony Weetman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry & Health.