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"Brutally tough"

Diane Gilpin on a training exercise in Dartmoor
Diane Gilpin on a training exercise in Dartmoor

Growing up in the little port of Teignmouth on the English south coast I was somehow able to persuade my Art teacher that the comings and goings of ships would be a good topic for my O Level.

So, I spent quite a bit of time down by the docks. I never met or knew anyone who worked on a ship but I wondered who they might be, where they were going, where they came from. It all seemed very romantic.

More than 30 years later I started to think about shipping again, looking at renewable energy opportunities in commercial shipping. In discovering how the shipping industry works I’ve started learning more about the remarkable people who have responsibility for keeping global trade moving. Some of it’s not good.

Seafarers can be subject to horrific conditions – foul weather, risk of hijacking, long absences from loved ones, poor pay and working conditions and the threat of abandonment.

Meanwhile all of us blithely go about our consuming with little regard for how our stuff gets to us. Look around you – where did that phone/laptop/jacket/avocado come from? How did it get here? Who suffered?

Sailors’ Society looks out for some of the people whose invisible labours make our lives what they are.

And so when I found myself signing up to the Welsh3000s, I copied a good friend who had signed up to do London Marathon for Sailors’ Society and pledged to do the same.

Taking on Crib Goch on the Welsh3000s challenge for Sailors' Society
Taking on Crib Goch on the Welsh3000s challenge for Sailors' Society

I’d be taking on 50km over 14 peaks in 24 hours. I had already done 50km in 11 hours - how hard could it be? The words “brutally tough” hit me between the eyes...

For the next few months, I trained most days, weight lifting, exercising, running and scrambling.

Finally the big day arrived. And it was the toughest thing I've ever done.

Sadly, on a gruelling, almost vertical downhill section (who knew that downhill was the hard bit?!) I took several tumbles, frightened and injured myself. Not badly but I knew I was beat. So, after 10 hours climbing three peaks over 1000 feet and several others less than that, I withdrew from the challenge.

I was devastated, but my supporters have been amazing. And I know that, although the end is a big part of it, it’s the journey that counts. And what a journey it was!

In the moments when I hurt, when I just couldn’t be bothered, when I thought I’d never breathe again, when I didn’t want to get wet, when I didn’t want to get hot, I remembered I made this choice. So many seafarers don’t get to choose. It’s the only career that can generate enough money to support their families – they have to endure so much more.

You can still donate to Diane’s fantastic effort on behalf of Sailors’ Society by clicking the button below.

Diane Gilpin designed and leads The Smart Green Shipping Alliance, SGSA.