The London Bridges Challenge, meeting Doug, (and not bringing the dog) – by Naomi Coleman

Ready, steady, go!

We set off to the Diabetes UK London Bridges challenge on Sunday without the dog. We’d spent the best part of the weekend discussing whether to take our 18-month old puppy on the 10 mile walk across 12 bridges – or not. To my mind, dogs are designed for walking, but Ben, my 11-year-old son, argued that she’d never been on a tube before. Imagine if she refused to walk half way through our challenge he cried?

So we left without the dog and strode up through Battersea Park to the registration point for our allotted start time of 11am. We met up with my Diabetes UK job-share Bridget and her equivalent 11-year-old son Maurice.

This was a chance to walk and talk, take in the sights and meet new people. A day without computers and connect in real time while appreciating our beautiful, diverse city.

After proudly donning our Diabetes UK London Bridges T-shirts, we set off at the tail end of the 3,000 supporters before us – you’ll see quite a few in the video…

We were a sea of blue, bobbing along Albert Bridge and Chelsea Bridge and the hardier among us, Vauxhall and Lambeth bridges beyond. Well stocked with snacks and water, and a cool breeze in tow, our feet ate up the first few miles effortlessly. Smiling Diabetes UK staff directed us as we approached a new bridge, waving tourists boosted our stride and turning a corner to see favourite landmarks – St Paul’s, St Bride’s, Big Ben, the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and Walkie Talkie, was a refreshing way to spend a Sunday away from weekend chores.

We came across our fellow walkers at a watering hole just past Lambeth Bridge. A welcome chance for a sit down and for children in our group to jump on a swing and for us adults to compare notes.

Meeting extraordinary people

Naomi and Bridget take on the London Bridges Challenge 2017

Next up, Westminster Bridge towards the London Eye. Heading along the Southbank, we joined the throng of day-trippers and moving people sculptures. Criss crossing along Hungerford Bridge took us towards food shops and an obvious stop for lunch. It was here we met Doug – a newly-diagnosed Type 2 man who recognised our Diabetes UK T-shirts and came up to us. Doug explained the nurse at his GP surgery told him to change his behaviour, diet and even his friends. He clearly wanted to manage his diabetes, but didn’t know where to start. He’d come to the right people, we could help!

Meeting Doug was the highlight of our day. The look of relief on his face when we directed him towards the Diabetes UK website, support groups and Helpline was worth every step. He said meeting us had made a huge difference to his day – and maybe even his life.

Hearing stories like Doug’s is a big part of our job. As content editors, Bridget and I look after the Diabetes UK Your Stories section and this blog site. People write in with their own personal experiences of living with diabetes – whether it’s Type 1 or Type 2 – because they want to share their stories with other people in a similar situation. These stories can be a lifeline for people who are newly diagnosed or struggling with the condition. We hope that people like Doug will find courage and advice from stories like these.

With six more bridges to go and the boys flagging, we needed to step up speed. A glimpse of Tower Bridge kept momentum going and it wasn’t long before we were striding across the Millennium Bridge. On the other side of Southwark Bridge we followed signs for the Thames Path East where boats unload their containers – a working side of London we hadn’t seen before.

We reflected how each bridge has its own personality. Albert and Chelsea Bridges are elegant and petite, with Vauxhall and Lambeth wider and more industrial looking. We thought Hungerford and Waterloo are more intimate and social, while the almost sculptural Millennium Bridge set off the blandness of London Bridge. Our final destination, the king of all bridges, Tower Bridge, was a fitting place to finish and count how many hand stamps we had collected.

A stamp collected for each bridge conquered

With aching legs, the Diabetes UK staff cheered us to the finishing line. Just as well we left the dog at home – we’d taken five hours to complete the challenge and were the last group to receive our medals. But it was worth taking the time to walk, talk and feel the unique camaraderie that diabetes brings. This came across during fundraising too. Friends of family members felt moved to sponsor us, more than doubling our target to a grand total of £350.

We hope people like Doug will become part of this great support group and one day be able to share his story.

If you’ve been inspired to take on a similar challenge, take a look at all the other fundraising events we have all over the country to see what takes your fancy on our fundraising events page and those activities local to you.

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