>Six days

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There is now officially less than ONE WEEK to go until I leave for Peru.

I’ve got the walking boots, the walking poles, the 3-season sleeping bag for the sub-zero night temperatures. I have the various supplements and medications to keep my knees working (and me walking) and together we have raised £3,775 — not including promised sponsorships on paper.

But with your help, I can still raise even more. Everything you donate from here goes 100% to Macmillan Cancer Support, the whole reason for this trip. When I am climbing 4,200m to Dead Woman’s Pass or crossing the Urubamba river on a rope bridge, remember I am doing it all for Macmillan, and the people they help every day.

It promises to be an exhausting trip — which is probably why it’s called a hiking “challenge” — but I wouldn’t be going at all if it wasn’t for your support, and I should mention the support of First Group who have been more than generous with sponsorship, too.

I owe a massive debt of gratitude to everyone for their donations so far, for everyone who has come to fundraising events and anyone who just joined the group to give me moral support, and invited their friends. I have the hardest part ahead of me still to come — but if I don’t get a chance to update before I go, thank you all.

I hope by raising money for Macmillan this once-in-a-lifetime trip will go some way to being a tribute to my aunt, and to my very special family.

Don’t forget, you can still donate online and help me raise even more at
http://justgiving.com/jameschesters

>May 8 update

>Now it’s getting really close — as of today, it’s 21 days until the big challenge. So far the updates have all been about me — my fundraising, my training, requests for more donations. But I want to take some time to remember the whole reason I am doing this challenge.

1 in 3 people will have cancer, of some kind, at some point in their lives. To put that into perspective a little, 25 people who have joined this group will one day suffer from some form of cancer. Think of your groups of friends and your immediate family — what does 1 in 3 represent? Even if personally we won’t have cancer ourselves, we are all affected.

Macmillan Cancer Support, in their own words, provide people with practical, medical, emotional and financial support — and push for better cancer care.

Macmillan are literally a source of support, helping with all the things that people affected by cancer want and need. It’s not only patients who live with cancer, so they are there to also help carers, families and communities. Macmillan guide people through the system, supporting them every step of the way.

They fund nurses and other specialist health care professionals and build cancer care centres. But they give so much more than medical help.

People need practical support at home, so Macmillan provide anything from some precious time off for a carer, to a lift to hospital. People need emotional support, so they listen, advise and share information though their CancerLine, website, support groups and trained professionals. People need financial help to cope with the extra costs cancer can bring, so Macmillan give benefits advice, and grants for anything from heating bills to travel costs.

Together Macmillan listen, learn, and act to help people live with cancer.

This is the reason why I am going to Peru, so that Macmillan can carry on giving support, and keep giving help to the people that really need it.

Macmillan have been there for my family, just as they are there every day for so many others.

>Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone

>In an effort to get some training in for Peru, I joined two fellow trekkers for a walk in the Chilterns, an area of “outstanding natural beauty”. It was rated as seven out of 10 in difficulty, about 20km and 5 hours of walking. No problem, I thought.

First the good news: I was not noticeably less fit than either of my counterparts. In parts after steep uphill climbs where I’d be feeling a little warm and out of breath, they seemed to mirror my own reactions — and most importantly, it didn’t take me long to recover. Heart and lungs seem to be in excellent working order.

Continuing the good news theme, my hiking boots are incredibly comfortable and there was not even a hint of a blister or rubbing all day. An excellent buy there, and I think we can safely say they are broken in.

The bad news is I am in pain. Somewhere along the way the steep downhill descents must have proved too much for my knees — and if you hadn’t guessed by the fact I am updating in the middle of the day, I am home from work sick today as I can barely stand up. Completing the walk yesterday was very difficult and painful as my knee became stiffer and more unyielding. The doctor has told me today I have strained the ligaments, and I need to rest it. I can also put an ice pack on it twice a day and take anti-inflammatory drugs three times a day. It’s a good job I have a stash of the latter in the cupboard.

My research on the internet tells me this kind of thing is quite common, and unsurprisingly associated with steep downhill descents. I was probably going too quickly. For Peru, if not before, I will need walking poles and a knee support — and I think a small supply of medication in my luggage.

It’s frustrating, I want to be out walking and training in the gym, and right now I can’t do either. But I’ll crawl the Inca trail on my hands and knees if I have to.

>New year, more donations

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Updates have been on the ground lately, but you will all hopefully be pleased to hear how the fund-raising is going.

To date, the current total is standing at a huge £2,170 — a massive thank you goes out to all the readers of this blog who have donated online and/or sent me cheques! I really would not be able to do this without your help!

I am not there yet, though, and am still trying to find the remaining £1,200 of the minimum I need to raise — and see no reason to stop at the “minimum”. I know times are hard for all of us, but please if you are able to give anything at all, all donations are gratefully received.

There are plans in the pipeline for another Essex fund-raising event before my departure, so watch this space for more information there.

Otherwise, you will be pleased to know that I am training hard — usually hitting the gym 5 out of 7 days, and sometimes twice a day. I’m working on a range of things, from my core strength and balance, to strength training and cardiovascular workouts.

I have recently sent out letters to local hiking and camping shops in the hope they might be generous enough to help out with some of the equipment I need, although there have been no responses as of yet. Either way, I hope to be in possession of a pair of hiking boots next weekend as a birthday present, unless one of the stores stumps up a pair first.

More updates soon — as ever, please keep donating and keep inviting your friends to read — and thanks for all of your support!

>Autumnal update

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Recent donations have now topped the £500 mark — particular thanks go to Amanda’s colleagues, Mik and Adil who carried me over the £500 milestone.

In other news, it’s been a good week for publicity. Coverage to date has appeared in the Basildon Echo newspaper, the Chelmsford Weekly News, online on the ThisIsEssex web portal and the South Woodham Focus. Coverage will also be appearing in next week’s Essex Enquirer.

Our fundraising quiz night raised a total of £113 — thanks to everyone who came along and contributed, it was a lot of fun and exceeded expectations. Special thanks goes to Howard Carter for donating his time and services on the night!

In other news, a sponsored dress-down day and Halloween pumpkin competition in work have added another £47 to the fundraising total. Altogether, this brings the current total up to an impressive £695. The Essex Chronicle took an interest in the pumpkin story, so kindly gave me some more coverage there.

We will be planning more events in the near future, including hopefully a fundraising evening in London, so please keep an eye open for updates, keep visiting, keep inviting your friends to read and keep the sponsorship coming! My current aim is to reach £1,000 by Christmas — but I need all of your help to achieve this.

Thanks again to everyone who has donated to date and helped support events, but most of all thank you all for showing your support here!

>Moving into marketing — and more donations!

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It’s been too long since my last update, please forgive me loyal followers, supporters and sponsors!

Since my last update, I have got a new job — leaving behind the grey, drab world of purchasing I have become the new marketing guy for my company. What this means most importantly is I have almost complete control of my Peru trek publicity. The local “operating company” of my much larger company have formally agreed to sponsor me a very generous sum towards my final target. Putting my PR and journalistic skills to good use, I have produced press releases publicising the fact — from a local angle (company gives money to local man) and the more corporate angle, for the trade press.

There has been a warm response from two local paid-for newspapers in Essex, with one daily evening paper sending a photographer round to my house this evening to take pictures. The other paper is very keen to run the story but is asking me to provide the pictures. Of course, I should have thought of this in the first place before sending the releases out — they will get much more interest if they come with pictures. This will be remedied in the next day or two.

In other sponsorship news, my first fundraising event has been confirmed for the evening of October 22. A charity quiz night, hosted by a local DJ and renowned quiz master, is in the process of being booked — the idea is for there to be six people to a team, paying £5 each, with the hall holding about 60 people in total. I have begun soliciting local shops and businesses for raffle prizes, next I need to work out some kind of advertising.

The Facebook group has swelled in numbers since my last post, it is now up to nearly 60 members and is a great way to publicise the fundraising events I am planning. It is also an easy way of keeping supporters updated with the sponsorship progress.

Money donated (or promised via my paper sponsorship form) to date totals almost £500! The handy little graphic in the sidebar tells me this makes it up to 15%. In the last three days I have had three separate donations; the Lions Club of South Woodham Ferrers have generously donated £100, my uncle sent me a cheque for a further £50 and a good friend this evening has donated £15.

I aim to have hit the £500 by the end of this weekend — but let’s see if I can smash through that target!

As always, anyone wanting to find out more information about the Peru hiking challenge, or the work of Macmillan, please visit http://www.macmillan.org.uk/peru. And any kind souls who would like to help support my great Peru trek for Macmillan Cancer Support can do so on my JustGiving page.

>Things moving along very nicely

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Ten days on from the blog and my Justgiving page going live, and I am pleased to report things are going along very well indeed. To summarise, briefly:

The dedicated Facebook group is nearly up to 50 members, with friends, family and friends-of-friends all joining to wish me luck with my trek and with the cause. Now, how to convert “members” into “sponsors” :)

Speaking of sponsors, sponsorship is currently at £275! It is nearly an even split between online and offline donations, which is interesting to know. Give it time, and I will be producing piecharts for this info. And for anyone wondering, the current total is 8% of the required £3,300. What does this mean? We are nearly into double figures already! I expect to break through the £300 barrier in a matter of days.

Initial negotiations with my company regarding corporate sponsorship have been positive, so I am hopeful that I will have more good news to report there soon. I am also in negotiations regarding having a “dress down” day, with £1 to join in — and tomorrow I will be floating the idea of a Halowe’en theme and prize for the best dressed. Even if I have to provide the prize myself.

Contact has been established with my area’s fundraising rep for Macmillan, who will be dutifully putting me in touch with the local team. I expect promotional materials, collection boxes and information about how to go about public collections to follow in short order. Along with lashings of moral support.

Finally, initial reports from the gym show that my fitness is moving in the right direction since my last reassessment. My body fat is down to 20% (and hopefully falling), and we have now completely redesigned my fitness program to incorporate much more climbing, walking, and CV work. I might try wearing a freezer bag over my head next time I’m using the step machine, for that authentic Inca Trail experience.

Remember, if you would like to help contribute towards my challenge and support Macmillan Cancer Support, please visit my JustGiving page.

>Going to Peru for Macmillan Cancer Support

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In December last year, my aunt lost her long battle with cancer. In her memory I have signed up to hike the Inca Trail for Macmillan Cancer Support. My aunt spoke of the Macmillan nurses as if they were saints to her, and I can think of no better tribute to her memory.

I will be joining around 60 people trekking the Inca Trail as part of Macmillan’s Peru Hiking Challenge, between 29 May and 7 June 2009. The 10 day challenge will take us through cloud forest to a 4200m Andean peak, trekking along high mountain passes to Machu Picchu, Peru’s famous lost city of the Incas. It promises to be an extremely testing physical challenge as we will be trekking and camping in remote and dramatic conditions. The event, and the months of preparation, will be tough but I am doing this to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support (registered charity no 261017).

I have to raise a minimum of £3,300 to take part in the event, of which at least 67% will benefit Macmillan Cancer Support. I hope to raise much more than this and hope that you will all consider sponsoring me in my challenge, which I am aware is a very minor compared with the challenge that cancer patients face each day.

If you are able to support me in my challenge, please visit my JustGiving page