Food for Thought

Update on the fundraiser Combatathon and tandem skydive!

As you’re probably all aware by now, I was looking for sponsorship for the two fundraiser events that I signed up for: the 3-hour Combatathon on Thursday 23rd and a tandem skydive on Saturday 25th. I’ve now done both and I couldn’t be more pleased with how well everything’s progressed!

3-hour Combatathon – Thursday 23rd

Last year, I also participated in the 3-hour Combatathon in support of Macmillan Cancer Support. It was my very first one and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I still managed to come out of it without too much soreness save for some back and leg muscle pains. This year’s fundraiser was in support of Walk the Walk. When a friend mentioned it to me, I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be in the same week I already had the skydive for. As luck would have it, it ended up being 2 days before the big day.

I had some idea of what to expect, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel afterwards. Surprisingly, the 3 hours went by quite quickly and the instructors that were leading the event had made it a sociable and fun evening by bringing energiser sweeties and glow stick bracelets for all Combat participants to wear in the dimly lit hall. It was lots of fun and the energy in the hall made for a great night had by all!

Tandem Skydive – Saturday 25th

The big event that I was most worried about. As anxious/excited as everyone else was about doing their jump, I was nervous about exiting an aircraft from the side door at 10 000 feet above the ground! To my extreme acrophobic mind, this is a huge no no. I was determined to give it a try though, you’ve got to knock some things of your bucket list, right? Skydiving or bungee jumping was one of mine.

We all arrived bright and early for our required arrival time of 8:30am. It wasn’t certain whether we would be able to jump or not, depending on the weather and the forecast for the morning really wasn’t that great. We went through our safety procedures and skydive training while practicing positions to adopt when we were up in the air. It seemed that we were going to be hanging around until 12 noon for the first jumpers to go. I kept hoping that the weather would turn for the better and it really did: the first jumper got moved to start at 10:30 instead, so we went to a nearby cafe to watch the first jumpers and have a quick cuppa before we had to return to get me and a colleague prepared for our jumps.

Once we got back to the airfield, we quickly got suited up and had our harness strapped on. It was quite strange to have so many layers on, but it was absolutely baltic up there and I wasn’t taking any chances. The instructor that was strapping me into the harness mentioned that she had a fear of heights and had already clocked in 900 jumps. She told me at that height, the acrophobia didn’t even come into it; at that height, you’re just coming down and enjoying the scenery from the top and I would be grinning when I landed. I smiled at her politely, but inside I didn’t believe her for one second. I just wanted to get it done, so I volunteered to jump first. Before long, we were ready to go!

When we arrived, there were only 2 instructors and a pilot to cater to all the jumpers, but later on in the afternoon there were a few more instructors to help out with the other participants who were scheduled for the same day our workplace were there. We flew up in a Cessna 185 which could only fit 4 of us (2 jumpers with 2 instructors) without any seats and the pilot. The first 3000 feet was quite a bumpy ride with plenty of turbulence that made me a bit nervous. As my instructor, Iain, predicted though, once we passed the hills that were causing the turbulence, the last 7000 feet was a smoother ride. Soon, Iain was reminding me about the positions to adopt, I had my goggles on, the door was opened and out we went.

I was starting to panic when the pilot signaled that he was ready for us to jump. When the door opened, the wind was so strong I felt like I was going to be blown away from Kansas to Oz! I took deep breaths and adopted the position we were taught when we were at the edge of the plane. This part freaked me out too much, so I closed my eyes at this point, so I knew my heart stopped for a few seconds when I felt Iain lean over and we were out of the plane.

It was so scary to be out in the sky at 10 000 feet and falling at 120mph, I felt like I was having a James Bond moment, a flying bullet whizzing through the air. I remembered my friend’s comment to keep my eyes open when I was falling and thought, what harm could come from that? If it got really bad, I would just close them again. I was surprised to find despite the strong winds blowing us upwards that I didn’t have any problems breathing through my mouth and when I opened my eyes, it wasn’t as scary as I thought.

There were times when it was a bit disorienting with the ground-skyline at a 45° angle to my line of sight, but soon it didn’t really bother me. Once the parachute deployed, we were just hanging in the sky and it was an amazing experience. You could control how fast or slow you were going down by how hard you were pulling on the straps attached to the chute. We were going down so slowly you couldn’t even feel any movement. Iain then explained how pulling your hand down in one direction and keeping the other up turned you one way or another, and before I knew it we were in a spiral for about 5-10 seconds which was also….surprisingly quite fun. Once we stabilised, I felt a bit dizzy so it was decided we would just continue our slow descent, but Iain pointed out Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh to me on our way down.

It must’ve been about a 20 minute ride in the plane going up and about a 10 minute journey coming down, but when we landed I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the experience. The instructor that had sorted out my harness was right: I was grinning when I touched down. One thing she did mention was that people normally say jumping out the plane was their most favourite moment. That was the complete opposite for me; what I did enjoy the most was the free fall at 120mph. I truly felt like James Bond for about 10 seconds which I never thought I’d experience. We got to help the instructors bring in the chute and left the field for the next jumpers to get ready.

As my colleague and I were the first jumpers from our work, I went to chat with others who were curious to know whether we enjoyed it so they can be prepared for their jumps later on. After removing our gear, I couldn’t stop talking animatedly about how exciting the experience was. I even got a certificate for it that I was so proud of like a 5 year old child, but I couldn’t help myself!

The most important part of our efforts though was that we managed to surpass our team goal and I managed to reach my own personal fundraising goal, thanks to everyone’s support and sponsorship. Our team goal was to raise £4000 (that’s £350 each for 11 of us), but my personal goal was to reach at least £850 which was the amount I raised for the Combatathon last year.

I am pleased to announce that through the support of family, friends and other sponsors, I have contributed £866.22 towards our team total of £4537.17! So on behalf of our skydive team, I would like to thank everyone for their generosity in supporting this worthwhile charity and for helping children and their families who have to stay at hospital feel more at ease during the worrying period of time. Thanks to you all, we did it!

A big thank you to St Andrew’s Skydive for the great experience, especially to my instructor Iain for the smooth sailing ride, and to the Edinburgh Sick Kids Friends Foundation for allowing us the opportunity to fundraise for them with an exciting daredevil event.


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