From the Kelpies to Kirkcaldy and on to Dundee - Bob’s Walk 2015 is ready to hit the road for Maggie’s Fife.
Led by Bob Grant, retired GP, it gets underway on Saturday, with the core team ready for nine days of constant walking which will take them 117 miles through three regions, over two bridges, alongside several canals, and into two Maggie’s Centres.
And every penny raised will go directly to supporting the work of Maggie’s Fife.
Bob’s team will be joined by family, friends and many supporters during the walk, as well as up to 100 Harley Davidson motorbike enthusiasts who will be staging a ride out Maggie’s in Dundee to roar them into the Tayside centre where the walk ends on Sunday, June 21.
The aim is to top the £15,000 raised in the 2013 walk.
Donations have started to come in via the Justgiving page as well as from key businesses including event partner Mackays Jam and Marmalade - whose chairman, Paul Grant, will join the first two days of the walk - and route partners, FMC Technologies of Dunfermline which is sponsoring day two.
The core team met last week to go over the route planned by walker Bert Hannah and finalise its schedule.
The first few days see the team covering up to 15 miles at a time - some seven hours of walking - before the mileage tapers off slightly as hikers weave their way round the coastal path.
Bert, from Kirkcaldy, was part of the 2013 team, and this time he has taken on a planning role as well.
The good news is he has mapped out a fairly flat route, explaining: “I hate hills!”
Bert (68) has done previous walks including Land’s End to John O’Groats and a ‘Length of Ireland’ trek – which featured alternate days of cycling and walking – for different charities and organisations.
Originally from Methil, Bert explained the Kelpies tie-in to the 2015 walk.
“They had just been unveiled, so we thought that would be an iconic spot to start from, especially as they are building a new Maggie’s Centre at nearby Forth Valley Hospital.”
Like Bob who has lived with cancer since his childhood, Bert is aware of the impact the disease can have on people’s lives – his father died of cancer in 1949, when Bert was little more than a toddler.
With his route planned, Bert will help lead the walkers on their journey, with every step raising funds for Maggie’s Fife.
They set off from a point near the Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert on Saturday, heading via the Falkirk Wheel along the towpath of the Union Canal to Winchburgh, Kirkliston, South Queensferry and over the Forth Road Bridge to the Fife Coastal Path and up to Dundee via all the coastal towns and villages.
This will be the fifth Bob’s Walk since 2003 – others were staged in 2007, 2009 and 2013 – and to date the initiatives have generated over £40,000 for Maggie’s Fife.
The walks, and Maggie’s, are both close to Bob’s heart.
Improving the support to cancer patients was at the heart of his work as a GP.
Drawing on his own experience of treatment from his teenage years onwards, he has chaired the Scottish Cancer Group, worked with MacMillan Cancer Support, been part of a group set up to look at cancer in teenage and young people, and has chaired the group looking into Scotland’s referral guidelines, not to mention chairing the board at Maggie’s Fife – all to ensure that people living with a cancer diagnosis get the best possible support at every stage.
Diagnosed with cancer as a schoolboy, he lived with the lasting effects of radiotherapy for many, many years before finally having his leg amputated in 2002.
Twelve months later – and still getting used to a prosthetic limb, which he subsequently removed – he did his first walk round the coastal path using NHS-standard issue crutches,
He’ll do this year’s walk on hi-tech crutches designed to minimise and absorb the impact of walking along beaches, over rough countryside and on roads; a testing enough challenge for the rest of the team but one which puts particular strain on his frame.
The fatigue and aches, however, will be worth it as the team reaches its destination and heads for a high tea – a great feature of every walk – or a beer before re-convening the following morning.
Bob said: “This is my fourth walk for Maggie’s and I know it will be exhausting because it’s day after day. Because of the crutches, I get sore shoulders and my hands are always very painful by the last day.
‘‘This year, I hope to have a choice of two pairs of crutches which will allow me to alter the strain on my skeleton It will be tiring but I know the endorphins will be flowing and any fatigue will be overwhelmed by the buzz!
“There are so many things to enjoy.
“I can never get enough of the Fife Coastal Path and I’m looking forward to the ever-changing scenery, the wildlife, the East Neuk villages and of course the finale in Dundee.
The last day is always amazing and always surprisingly emotional.”
Sunday in Dundee is 117 miles away. The journey starts this weekend ...