For the very first time in my life, this summer I’m undertaking a sponsored challenge for charity. I’d been thinking about doing a charity walk for a while, inspired by a pair of friends who walked 50K of the Thames Path a couple of years ago to raise money for LymeAid UK. What finally gave me the impetus was the word from my teenage son that the Computer Science department at his school were asking for participants in Operation Bletchley in aid of ABF, the Soldier’s Charity. ABF look after army veterans and their families (in some cases, sadly, their widows and orphans), helping them with employment, education and housing.

We decided to sign up and do the challenge together.

Operation Bletchley is a bit different to your normal sponsored walk. You don’t need to do the distance all in one go (although some very fit people do) and in fact you have an entire month to complete it. It’s not just walking either – there are 10 codebreaking puzzles to solve at intervals, with a choice of 3 levels of difficulty from Junior Codebreaker (easy) to Cypher Expert (fiendish).

The first choice to make when you join up is whether to walk 50 or 100 miles and for us, it clearly had to be 100 miles as we would probably have completed 50 in the normal way of things. We weren’t expecting to find that everyone else from the school was doing the 50 miles! We were unable to join the school team because of the different mileage, so we set up our own team page where you can follow our progress (and sponsor us).

The second choice to make is how to report your mileage; this can be done manually but it’s a nuisance. Some participants use Strava but as we already had MapMyFitness installed on our phones, we went with that. We don’t have smart devices that can sync with MapMyFitness (we’ve got step trackers but they are pretty dumb as step trackers go) so we start the app manually when we set out on a walk. What this means is, no cheating – only the distance we cover on an organised outdoor walk counts, no credit for pottering around the house! It’s all worked well apart from a minor oops when my son’s phone ran out of battery and stopped recording part way through a walk (luckily not a long one).

We’re two thirds of the way through the month and three quarters of the way through the 100 miles (and yes it is 100 miles each, not 100 miles between us), and so far we’ve raised over £250. Apart from some persistent blisters we’ve both really enjoyed it, and we’ve solved all but one of the puzzles so far (still working on Cypher Expert 6, fingers crossed we get it in time).

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Will we stop going for such long walks after the Challenge finishes? Absolutely not! (I might even start looking around for another challenge to do).