Following the birth of Emma on 14th July 2003, Harry decided to take part in a firewalk at the JTSMA conference on 1st November 2003.
Alisha with Dad
"The bad news for me is that in order to raise this money, I have to walk over blazing hot coals bare foot. I thought my last BBQ was pretty hot, but this is taking the biscuit - according to my "tempter" leaflet, the average fire temperature is 1236 °Fahrenheit, or 669 °Celcius."
Before completing the actual walk, there is 2 hours of training to prepare mind, body & soul for this life-changing event.
"At this moment in time, I'm told it's perfectly possible but I can't quite see how. I'm certainly not prepared right now, so I hope the session works!"
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone who sponsored me for the firewalk and especially my friends and family who took a sponsor form to their friends and family, helping to raise the total even further. The total is now standing at £735 which is absolutely fantastic.
Prior to firewalking, we had a two-hour training session. I was glad that the instructor was somewhat likeminded, and used science rather than witchcraft to explain the principles! The team from Blaze were absolute professionals throughout and Cliff Mann, the instructor who took us through the training session, was unorthodox (well built and loud) but with a great sense of humour and proved to be an excellent motivator.
He started by asking us if we had any ideas of how it was done but also provided some explanation that he'd been offered from previous sessions, the best of which was "the sweat on your feet turns to steam and you hover above the coals!"
The basic principle was "Don't take too long!". He answered questions for us, including some he raised before we'd asked - I guess that with 15 years experience he'd heard most possibilities before. He answered the question of "What happens if you fall over" with the forthright and straightforward answers "You won't" and "You'll get up very quickly". In fact, no one has ever fallen over in their events!
I won't go into too much detail about the rest of the training session, but suffice to say, towards the end we got very focused on exactly what we were going to do. I'd say it was more a matter of "self belief" than "mind over matter".
Prior to the start of the training session I had been carefully avoiding thinking about any combination of "fire" and "walking". When it started, I suddenly couldn't help my mind wandering onto the subject. I think "oops", or something similar, but expletive, was the thought that came to mind. By the end of the training session, we were all so ready that there was serious, but light-hearted, jostling to get to the front of the queue!
If a picture is going to save me a thousand words, I will start with one:
The Morning After
This isn't the full picture - well, it is a real picture of my feet after the walk - but actually taken the morning after (OK, I admit I may have gone to the bar afterwards) - so you'll have to use your imagination to extrapolate the ash onto my soles, but you can see it in my disgustingly unwashed areas. Well, enough about my washing habits.
I did get a little nervous when I realised there were only 3 people in front of me, but pushed down any negative thoughts. So now, just as I was eager to go, they stopped everyone to put even more burning embers on the path. Two people in front, one. Now the instructor asked me the two questions he asked everyone, "What's your name?" "Harry." "Are you ready?" "Yes!" "Show me!" and I was going.
Harry does the Firewalk
Unfortunately it was too dark during the walk and the movie that Carol shot of my walk just didn't come out, however I have got my hands on a scan of my "official" picture (above).
The firewalk itself was really exhilarating and yes, it definitely was hot! I can vividly recall the feeling of the heat on my toes and soles of my feet as I crunched my way through the burning embers. After probably 5 steps it was all over and I felt fantastic! We had been asked during our training to visualise how it would feel to finish, and now I had, the experience had proved to be every bit as exciting as I'd imagined it. A fantastic rush, and the fantastic crowd who cheered and clapped everyone, made it really special.
In all, there were approximately 30 people signed up for the walk, and no one chickened out. The most impressive effort was from an older lady who normally uses sticks to aid her walking. She was amazingly "fired up" (sorry) after her walk and was supposed to have been helped across by one of the organisers - however she was off and across before they had time to get hold of her! She later told me that it was the furthest she had walked unaided for years.
So would I recommend the firewalking experience? Absolutely. Would I do it again tomorrow? Yes, but I might need another pep talk first!
The morning after the firewalk the Jennifer Trust held a Service of Remembrance for those who are no longer with us because of SMA. I was honoured to be asked to read the names, alongside another parent, Tiziana, who had lost her little girl Sasha earlier this year. It was very emotional and brought back a lot of feelings that I push down day-to-day. The firewalk though has helped me in another way: I used my imagination to project an image of myself with the strength to read the names, and I read them loud and clear.
Thank you for all the sponsorship!
Amongst many supportive messages (thank you!) I received after the Firewalk is the following from Anita Macaulay, who was founder and Chief Executive of the JTSMA at the time, sadly now deceased:
what a fantastic account of the firewalk!!
well done - you deserve every penny of the sponsorship you raise! Please pass on my personal thanks to everyone who supported your efforts. Each and every step across the firebed is a step of challenge and self belief - now you know you can do anything! and most important of all our precious babes must have been giggling up in heaven when they watched us and afterwards so proud of us for raising so much money to help other little ones in the future.
Thank you again, and thank you to both you and Carol for bringing your precious bundle of joy, Emma, to meet us all - it was truly a privilege to cuddle her for a while
Take care and love to you all
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