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What an achievement! Yvonne conquers amazing walking challenge

Yvonne Holland is back at her desk after tackling and completing the iconic John O’Groats to Land’s End walking challenge.

The senior Project Manager took a four-month career break earlier this year to embark on the 1250-mile walk.

It was a lifetime ambition of Yvonne’s that had previously been pencilled in for retirement – but was brought forward by an unexpected diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

She said: “About 18 months ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes which came as a massive shock to me as I didn’t fit the ‘normal’ criteria for the disease – I was fit, healthy and had no family history of diabetes, but am apparently one of 1:10 who are thin on the outside and fat on the inside.

“As I was coming to terms with it over the summer of 2022 I thought about doing the JOGLE (John O’Groats to Land’s End) a bit sooner, whilst I was still fit and able to do it.

My project Ardrossan Campus was delayed due to the delays with the advanced works and it looked like there might be a window of opportunity in the summer of 2023. I applied and was successful in getting a four-month career break from May to September.”

She said: “Being a project manager, I had allowed some contingency within the programme to allow for any issues – injury, illness or issues with my aged parents. Fortunately, none arose during that time.

“It was really important that I looked after my health, maintaining stable blood sugar levels and feet during this time as it could have led to serious complications. That is why I chose to walk a manageable distance each day (average 13 miles but between six and 20 miles)  so I didn’t have to rush and had time to stop and enjoy a view, visit a castle or museum and speak to people along the route.

“For most of the route I was carrying my kit which weighed around 25lbs – my husband met me every fortnight or so with fresh clothes and new supplies.

“On occasion friends would meet with me and joined me for a few days walking along the route. I didn’t mind walking alone as I enjoy my own company and didn’t use podcasts/music as a distraction. I wanted to be fully aware of my surroundings and enjoy them to the maximum.”

Moo-ve fast Yvonne!

“ I had an incident with a cow that had swum across the canal to my side and wasn’t for going back. It wouldn’t let me past and had gone ahead of me for over half a mile.

“I called police and they contacted the farmer who was able to get the other side to turn it round. Good job as otherwise it would have walked all the way to Garstang some eight miles further down the towpath.”

Yvonne sets off on her journey from John O’Groats

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Did you know?

Yvonne is a keen walker (here she is above at Conic Hill) and completed most of Europe’s hardest walks including the Pyrenees, GR20 in Corsica, Tour du Mont Blanc, Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland and Southern Upland Way (to name a few).

She was thorough in preparing for her latest challenge and put her project management skills to good use!

Cow standing in field

Yvonne, 58, started her walk at John O’Groats and enjoyed sunshine in Scotland before enduring tougher, wetter conditions as she moved south of the border.

She said: “I had 33 very warm and dry days in Scotland. For the last six weeks in England it rained heavily every weekend.

“I have seen wonderful and varied scenery, seeing wildlife up close such as peregrine, Cornish chough, deer, foxes, butterflies and  Exmoor ponies. I also met loads of interesting people along the way and listened to their story and sharing some of mine.

“There were challenges – like walking into a 50 mph headwind from Storm Antoni for 15 miles. The hard days weren’t when I was expecting them – but got through them knowing that the next day would be better.”

Yvonne also importantly raised over £5000 for Diabetes UK, Christian Aid and Enable  (Ayr and District) and was keen to thank all who supported her.

She admits the experience will stay with her and have a positive impact in the way she lives moving forward.

She added: “I really appreciated the support of friends and family through surprise visits, emails, texts and whatsapps – it really made a difference.

“I also couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband Ian who listened and encouraged me every night. He never wavered in his belief that I would achieve it and provided fantastic logistical and technical support.

“I also loved being able to take life at walking pace for those three months – you can’t hurry it and only need to be concerned about what you need to achieve that day. That has been a good example for life going forward.

“All in all, I have been able to prove to myself that I can still achieve great things despite having this disease. It won’t go away but I am better able to deal with it.

“I’m now looking forward to taking Ardrossan project through the final design stages and into construction.”

A lady standing next to a sign with the sea in the background

Congratulations Yvonne! What an achievement!
You are the true embodiment of focus, passion and inspiration!

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