Matt – The Challenge

December 6, 2017

It is always interesting when you finish something of this magnitude. You predict that you should be on a constant high and over the moon, but there is also a strange empty feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I am, of course, delighted to have completed our epic journey, but after so much time and effort has been put into the challenge over the last 12 months, there definitely feels like something is now missing in my life!

The last 48 hours have given me a chance to reflect on what was the most incredible, inspiring and humbling experience. Cambodia didn’t disappoint. As a country, it is beautiful, with the countryside varying massively. Whether we were following the banks of the Mekong, running through villages or one of the many different types of farms, there was always something to see. The people are fantastic, and the smiles that greeted us really drove us on. The looks of complete and utter amazement when Bota tried to explain what we were doing, acted as a source of amusement even in the tough times. Considering most Cambodians have been heavily affected by the Khmer Rouge regime, it is amazing that they are so welcoming to foreigners running through their backyard.

It is clear that as a country, politically there are some serious uncertainties. Which if they are not resolved, will seriously affect the investment and progress that is needed to look after their people. The poverty you see as soon as you are outside the major cities is very clear.

Basic issues such as health, nutrition services, sanitation, water and waste management are such obvious and visual problems that they need immediate government funding and action plans to address them. Temple Garden Foundation may focus their work only in the Chi Kraeng district outside Siem Reap, however, it makes me immensely proud that we have raised such a significant amount of money, all of which will make a real impact in the communities where it will be used.

There are a few people that I would like to thank who have helped make the challenge the success that it was.

Firstly, every single person who donated no matter how big or small the donation. We set a very ambitious target of US$50,000 at the beginning, and to double that and have now raised over US$100,000 is beyond ours and Temple Garden’s wildest dreams.

Ferg – this was his brainchild and I am very pleased he came to me with the idea of asking if I would do it with him. You won’t find many people who are more relaxed and laid back than Ferg, but behind that there is a real gritty sense of determination that got him through some tough moments along the way. We had a real laugh throughout the journey, which considering the pain we were in was really important to keep morale up. There were times leading up to the event that for many reasons Ferg wasn’t where he wanted to be with his training, and we were both worried whether he would make it onto the start line in good enough shape to even start let alone finish. He worked incredibly hard the last 6 weeks to cram in every minute of training that he could, in order to give himself as much chance as possible. One thing is for sure, he will never be writing a textbook on how to prepare for a multi-stage ultra-marathon. Who turns up for a challenge of this magnitude with two pairs of shoes that they have never worn before!?!

Kirsty – a massive thank you to my wife, as she has been nothing but supportive of this little adventure. She has been instrumental in setting up the website and her organization skills were key to the fundraising event being such a huge success. Training for these events is always a time-consuming process but not once did Kirsty complain about the hours I was away and having to look after the girls on her own. That is why it was so good to share all the emotions with her over the weekend and have her by my side.

TGF – it’s been great getting to know the team behind this great organization. They really are doing life-changing work, and it has been so good to hear about their plans and see how the money is going to be spent. I really hope we can maintain our relationship with TGF to see the positive impact their work will do over time. I would love to be able to take the girls there in a few years’ time and be able to show them firsthand what a difference we have been able to make.

Manulife & Cambodia Cycling – before Manulife became involved, we were trying to plot a route through google maps on roads that didn’t even exist. With Manulife’s support, we had the expertise of Cambodia Cycling, and they took responsibility for the route and local logistics. The value of having our phenomenal guide Bota, the support vehicle and generally not needing to think anything apart from plodding from A to B was absolutely priceless.

The other event sponsors – Awoo, Gone Running and Sofitel who all supported the challenge with either kit, nutrition or by putting a roof over our heads. All of which were massively appreciated, especially the Sofitel swimming pool after day 6 of the challenge.

To everyone who generously sponsored us, donated their amazing properties to our auction, and gave fantastic prizes to the fundraising event raffle, a huge thank you. Without your support and generosity, we wouldn’t have even gotten close to raising the amount we now have. To Mum and Anna who came over to Cambodia to see me finish, it meant a huge amount to have family there at the end of the week. And to Dad, Emma and Sophs who spread the word to all of their friends and contacts and really pushed the fundraising effort.

I’m sure I have left someone out, and apologies if I have! My brain feels a little slow right now, and the last thing I want this to sound like is an Oscar acceptance speech.

Cambodia, you have been etched in my heart and I hope our love affair can continue long into the future.

“Challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful”

Matt

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