RiverTribe Editor Linda Duberley took part in The Victoria Foundation’s Camino Challenge this summer. It turned out to be far tougher than anyone imagined and for Linda – a novice challenger – undertaking a 220k cycle and then a 110k trek was a trial. Here she writes about how TVF’s Challenge left her with a new focus on fitness.


Somewhere, three quarters of the way up a mountainous climb in temperatures of around 34 degrees, I realised that my normal level of determination might not be enough to get me to the top of the Camino Trail. I was right. Just under 5k before the top, I had to stop and limp into the Team’s van. Not a bad effort for a virgin challenger. I assumed the worst was over. It wasn’t.

When I read about the undulating terrain of Northern Spain, I imagined a scenic bike ride amid the UNESCO World heritage landscape interrupted only by tapas and turbo-charged with the odd glass of red wine. The problem was that my fitness had slipped since competing in a triathlon three years ago and my inability to deal with the gears was laughable – improved only with the help of a very patient teammate. 

Yet, four days later we cycled into Santiago de Compostella, after a lunch during which I had kept my sunglasses on because I was literally crying with tiredness and tension. Two days later I was back on the trail – this time walking. Surely, I told myself it had to be easier this time. Wrong again.

The down-hills were painful and on one day I survived on a mixture of paracetamol and neurofen. It wasn’t until I was standing in Madrid Airport that I actually realised how much stronger I felt. Once the water retention – built up through drinking litres of fluid everyday – eased I could see that I felt and looked a lot fitter. Determined not to let everything slide south, I developed a plan.

I tracked down RFC’s Director of Rugby, Steve Hill, and asked for his advice. He put me in touch with Ian Taplin, Fitness Co-ordinator at RFC and the co-founder of Areté Performance, whose team of world class trainers put top athletes through their paces. They are serious specialists in body transformation and lifestyle management.

Kimmy Edwards, a graduate of Loughborough University’s internationally renowned Sports Science course, got on my case with a programme of core strength conditioning and cardio work outs using the bikes and ergos. He helps train RFC’s Ladies Team and they are fighting fit.

Kimmy can push you to your limits in an assertive but understanding way. Critically. he talks of developing the habits of greatness. You may not be a champion athlete but you can develop the same habits and the same mind-set. This is what sets Areté Performance apart from many other training set-ups. They are serious people who train top athletes but can calibrate their offering for a middle-aged woman like me who is unlikely to trouble the scorers but dead set on holding back the tide of encroaching age-related health problems.

I will be training every week with Kimmy. Some of the rugby players next to me on the machines are a little taken aback. Some of them are the same age as two of my children…..but I have successfully held on to that feeling of strength I felt at Madrid Airport and if I keep this up I might make the grade in an evening dress at TVF’s Ball at Twickenham Stadium on December 7th.