The Hatters at the Southern 50

The 2016 Southern 50 proved to be a memorable one for the Hatters once again.

This blog is a series of the participants’ accounts of the day.

“We set off at a time all normal people would be safe under a duvet, yet this did not stop us- as we are far from normal.

After we had cleared the stony glares of the leaders at the kit check and bag drop we proceeded to set off from checkpoint 12 at 9.18 on the dot. We quickly realised why the Chiltern Hills was such an appropriate name. Our second hill was made by the devil; the contour lines couldn’t decide if they were lines or shading. However, our spirits where quickly lifted as we passed the Hatter’s team 101 who left over an hour after us, as you can see we’re sadistic people!

We made friends quickly along the route, and pretty soon it seemed like they wanted to become lifelong friends as they followed us for the last 20km! For the last 10km in the dark, my arm became a walking stick for a certain member of the group and my shoulder a pillow case for her tears, yet we all finished in a respectable time of 9 hours- putting us in twelfth position.

The drama didn’t end as soon as we finished the race. In fact, it was just the beginning. After learning that supper was to be beef stew we immediately set out to find a way to get pizza. Alas it was not to be: there was no mobile data; my dad only sent me two pizza place’s numbers; no one could find out our post code and we repeatedly told these pizza places we were in Waltlington when we were actually in Waddington! To add to insult we learnt we had actually walked 35km not 30, (we are currently seeking legal advice to whether we can sue or not). We look forward to next year where we are going to attempt the 50km…”

Louis Velati, The Bandana Squad


The main highlight was that not a single young person failed to finish. This was a result of the determination, desire, heart, kindness, selflessness and teamwork shown by the young people that were walking.

We started with one of the easiest kit checks in memory at the 6th because the Explores all seemed to listen to and read the information provided… well I say all; there was a hat, a couple of pairs of gloves, some waterproof trousers and a rucksack to deal with but that was about it. The leader team were thrilled that some of this was left until gone midnight on the Friday…

At 6.06, two leaders left the school to start walking and half of the walkers were already tucking into breakfast, dressed and ready to go. ‘The Hatters Explorer Scout Llamas’, featuring Rhys, Tom, Tigger (also known as Sam) and Gideon were donning their brilliant t-shirts designed by Gideon. Meanwhile Sarah, Sarah and Katharine of ‘Scouting for G’s ;D’ were obviously dressed in bowler hats with canes – clearly embracing the Hatters proud heritage… mad!


Speaking of Scouting for G’s ;D, the weekend was full of moments that made the leader team immensely proud. Some teams and members can be very precious about who they walk with and determined to compete in the precise teams that they set their hearts on from the start. In the Friday night when it became clear that Joel and Efea would need to form a scratch team, the team formally known as ‘Scouting for Girls ;D’ performed the selfless act of taking Joel and Efea under their wing.

This might not seem like a huge gesture but it ruled the team out of winning a trophy, which they knew as they were doing it. They realised that these events are about far more than that.

This show of togetherness was repeated in the morning by the Bandanas who split in half to accommodate Sophie and Jenny, who like Joel and Efea, faced the difficult task of forming a scratch team with strangers or missing out. The teams had barely started walking, Dave and me were a couple of checkpoints in and the whole leader team were already bursting with pride.

I can’t go into much detail on the young people’s adventures, I can only share a few details that I am aware of:

  • Louis, Zac, Jake, Adrei, Steph, Emilia, Jenny, Sophie and Jojo walked the Southern 50 for the very first time, all completing 30km!
  • Louis Velati and Aidan Joyce walked for the second time, helping a new team member through to the end.
  • Jack and Aaron walked for the very first time, going in at 50km to win the novice trophy with Michael and Joe who had won the 30km with Emily and Katharine last year.
  • Sarah Andrews entered the event for the first time and completed 50km with Efea and Joel who had already done the distance but also Katharine and Sarah who hadn’t attempted the 50km before. This team showed tremendous character to make it through to the end with all that they went through along the way, sticking together and helping each other through thick and thin (mud, mostly).
  • Last but not least, the 50km veterans; Sam, Tom, Rhys and Gideon went out of their way to help a 30km team through a tough checkpoint, probably remembering how grateful Tom, Rhys and Sam were to receive help from a 50 mile team the year before.

I’m already looking forward to the 2017 Southern 50. I’ll be walking the 50 miles again but I won’t set the same terrible example as this time around. I failed to prepare for the 50 miles and if I had prepared then I would have been fine. So to repeat the County Commissioner’s comment on Sunday at the presentation – this is something that you have to prepare for and unlike their foolish leader; the Hatters were ready and did absolutely brilliantly – every single one of them.

On Sunday, to cap off an extraordinary weekend, rather than sloping off in a Southern 50 shuffle, the Hatters stayed back to clean up the school and have received a lot of praise for it.


Next year, we’ll be back and we’ll be ready to show the whole event that above all else, no matter what the circumstances are, the Hatters can be relied upon to do our best, to be selfless, to work together and to ‘be nice’.

Well done Hatters! You should be really proud of yourselves.

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