For 97 days I have sat in my kayak, raising money for the benefit of people living with rheumatoid arthritis and supporting the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS) by paddling around the UK mainland. That's 570 hours on the water, 2,223 miles and 2,050,200 paddle strokes! Finished, fin, finire!!!
But let's back track a little:
We left off last time with my welcome party organised by my new colleagues at the Freeman Hospital. They had members of the local NRAS Group, an escort from the RNLI and members from Sunderland Life Savers all waiting for my arrival at Tynemouth, to support my challenge and raise awareness of RA. The evening was a resounding success, adding a delightful £400 to my fundraising pot!
Post-Newcastle gravity must have been on my side as I was storming down the west coast, despite the terrible period of weather I was experiencing I still managed to speed through Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk in no time; after all it was downhill, so I was told!
I had some frustrating days with strong 25mph headwinds limiting my long days, but it did give me an opportunity to enjoy the rare sunshine and my first intentional swim of the trip in Sheringham. Also, during this time I broke my Werner paddle, but luckily the blow was softened by System-X Distribution which provided me with a new one, which was very kind and much appreciated.
I quickly made my way into Suffolk and managed to have a great interview with Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk. By this time, I was a mere 4 days away from the end of the challenge and I could feel the excitement building in my tired body to cross that finish line and complete my voyage!
Before I knew it I had begun to head West and back along the Thames - I only had a short distance to do for my final day and the challenge would finally be completed.
6 July - D-Day. I leisurely paddled into London and I started to recognise parts I was familiar with, then looming in the distance the iconic Financial District. I paddled past the Dome and I realised I was finally on the home stretch. I rounded the last corner and started to make out the faint NRAS sign and my family, friends and supporters. I had made it, in one piece and in less than 100 days!
Throughout the challenge I have had immense support and I could not have done it without everyone driving me on. Their generosity when sponsoring me has been mind blowing; I have reached nearly £30,000 on my fundraising page www.virginmoneygiving.com/martinkayaking, a fantastic amount, which I am very proud of and know it will go directly towards supporting people living with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK.
I hope to keep receiving donations towards my efforts and get as close as possible to my target of £100,000. I've shared a few of my favourite support quotes below, thank you for reading my blogs over the last 3 months. Any support you can give to NRAS would be fantastic, so please do not hesitate to help where you can. For more information visit www.nras.org.uk or call 0845 458 3969. If you would like to find more on my challenge please visit www.martinkayaking.co.uk
Dr Martin Lee
"I am so impressed and inspired by Martin's amazing and courageous achievement. I am also hugely grateful to him for giving up his time and I and the whole NRAS team congratulate and thank him from the bottom of our hearts for the personal hardship he has endured on behalf of all those living with RA in the UK. What an amazing role model you are Martin. Congratulations on a fantastic achievement" Ailsa Bosworth, CEO NRAS.
"@martin_kayaking is reaching the end of his round Britain kayak. Chapeau sir Chapeau" Matthew Pinsent, Four Time Olympic Rowing Champion.
"What Dr Martin Lee has achieved is amazing. 2600 miles under your own steam is a relentless and gruelling challenge and takes more will power and determination than I can imagine!
To really show what this incredible challenge has taken...
2600 miles is just under 4200km - this is just about how many kilometres I have rowed in an entire year in the lead up to London 2012 as a full time athlete, and Martin has achieved it in only 100 days. Just incredible! What a great way to raise money for NRAS - a true inspiration to anyone suffering with Arthritis. Stay active, achieve goals and never give up!
I will draw upon what Martin has achieved in the last 100 days over the coming month and a half in the lead up to the Paralympic Games. Well done Martin!" Pamela Relph, Paralympic Rowing Squad.
Follow Dr Martin Lee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/martin_kayaking