Every year, Alzheimer’s Society runs a series of challenging walking events in eight of the U.K.’s most breath-taking locations, inviting thousands of participants to take on a 26 or 13-mile trek. Those taking part and fundraising for Alzheimer’s Society are helping to provide help and hope for the 900,000 people living with dementia, as well as their carers and loved ones. This has never been more important – people with dementia are struggling as the cost-of-living crisis deepens, with higher care costs, reduced social activities and rising loneliness.

Everyone over the age of 14 is encouraged to get involved and sign up to Alzheimer’s Society’s Trek26 events, but they are no easy feat!

We see thousands of people each year take part – many are people who have been directly impacted by dementia, walking in celebration or in memory of a loved one, and there are also many participants who have seen the impact of dementia in their communities and want to help. They are inspired to take on a challenge that will require a substantial amount of training and is mentally and physically challenging, all to support the cause and raise as much money as possible for Alzheimer’s Society.

The events are designed to be spread across the U.K. so as many people as possible can take part. Alzheimer’s Society has also aimed to come up with a good variety of types of events, whether the mountainous Brecon Beacons or the Lake District with lots of cross-country walking.

The events themselves provide an opportunity to walk with, and meet, around a thousand other people on each of the treks, often with shared experiences of dementia. One of the elements that helps the events stand out is the reactions of those taking part, with a range of different emotions experienced by the trekkers. These include anticipation and nerves at the beginning as walkers consider the epic 26-mile trek ahead of them, resilience to get through the trek in all kinds of weather conditions, and the fun of taking part and making new friends. When crossing the finish line, we see all the emotions of the day come together – from joy to sadness and plenty of tears. The emotion of the day is made more powerful by the different experiences of dementia that many of the participants have had.

Serena Wigglesworth-Littlewood from Huddersfield did the 13-mile London Trek in 2021 with her daughter, Stella, as her mum is living with dementia. They raised £1,465 for Alzheimer’s Society with donations from family, work colleagues, and supporters. Serena said, “One of the things we did do in the run-up to the trek, which seemed to hit a chord with people, was 13 reasons why we were doing the challenge – one for every mile. This helped to raise awareness of dementia. We used a lot of information from Alzheimer’s Society’s website and hopefully taught people new things about Alzheimer’s.” Talking about her mum and the special times they had shared that had now been taken away from them because of her mums Alzheimer’s was a big part of how Serena and Stella got through the challenge, with Serena saying “My Spotify playlist, ‘Opera and classical stuff that I like, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for my mum. She has introduced me to some beautiful music, and we have shared some wonderful times together at the ballet, musicals, and live screenings. I have so many happy memories but unfortunately, we can no longer go to things like that together. However, music continues to take my mum to a better place, and we can still share some pretty special moments listening to it together.”

A further reason that Serena shared for why she was walking was a post from the @alzheimerssoc LinkedIn page which read, “’Dementia destroys other family members as well as the person who has been diagnosed with it. You carry the responsibility for another person’s life and wellbeing on your shoulders 24/7 and 365 days a year.’ We still laugh but our relationship is very different.”

Those taking part in the treks are offered full support from the outset. This includes a 16-week training plan for each participant and full support from the moment they sign up for their event. Training plans include advice around elements such as eating plans, incorporating recovery time into training, different terrains and reminding participants that they are changing lives with every step they take.

Alzheimer’s Society provides regular email updates detailing what to expect including, for example, kit lists. On the day itself, volunteers and stewards provide snacks, lunch, water, teas, and coffee and are placed along the route to provide support.

There are also numerous social media support groups on sites like Facebook and participants are given a commemorative trek top when they achieve the £300 fundraising target (£200 for 13 miles). Everyone receives a well-deserved medal at the end of the trek.

As much as Alzheimer’s Society provides support for the day, much of the encouragement comes from other participants along the way, and the events are notable for the support trekkers provide to each other, united by shared experiences and their ultimate goal – to stop dementia in its tracks.

To support Alzheimer’s Society, take part in one of the charity’s Trek26 events, taking place in eight breathtaking locations across the UK.

To stop dementia in its tracks, visit alzheimers.org.uk/Trek26 

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