I‘ve done some crazy things in my life but this tops the lot. Three months ago I agreed to the challenge set by Lee Adams (@matchwornshirt1 on Twitter) - to follow his footsteps back to Reademption, sorry I mean Fulham. The challenge? Walk 60km from Reading to Fulham for a match! Sure, I’ll even fly from Ireland to do it.
Fellow Reading fan Martin Sims (@Sims1871) joined the party and we couldn’t wait to get going. We had never met each other, but were going to spend 17 hours together in the name of suicide prevention.
Don’t get that very often do you?
So, a meet up at the Madejski Stadium hotel, a couple of beers for courage, and a few donations later, we were off! We left last Monday in the rain at 9.30pm and followed the A3 to London, it pretty much rained all through the night! We went through parts of rural Berkshire I’ve never been to, and after this walk have no intention of going to again!
Lee’s mate appeared out of nowhere at 3am with emergency supplies of tea & biscuits, what a hero! The staple for the night was two lines of the same song from Lee and the same two jokes from Martin! In desperation I called one of my best friends in Australia, thankfully she answered. My ears got a well deserved break.
The three of us huddled in a bus shelter in Slough, watching torrential rain pour down at 6.30am. It inspired breakfast, although served by a miserable git in the Toby carvery! We thought we had problems..
It gave us chance to dry out, fuel up and kick on, which we did. We went near Heathrow and even past a random gentlemen’s club! We hit London and the sun came out, we totally miscounted how long was left.
A 60km walk became a 70km one, but with sore limbs and smiles on our faces we made it to Craven Cottage about 3.30pm. The feeling of euphoria was amazing. In fact, similar to that night in the walkabout when we celebrated being champions in 2011!
The three amigos had done it - 17 hours of walking. We had so much support from everyone - all you guys, the local papers and radio. When the Reading fans in the pub sang there’s only one Johnny Hunt I was gobsmacked. The game flew by due to lack of sleep and lots of beer. However, it gave me the chance to catch up with a good friend I haven’t seen for a long time.
Martin and myself raised over five grand for the guys at CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). That’s not bad for two guys who are still trying to work out where we know each other from in a past life.
The walk may be over but the battle isn’t
84 men commit suicide every week - that’s 12 a day. It’s so wrong, and we need to make a difference. This walk has made me realise even more how we need to talk about mental health. For me I need to be a better friend.
Let’s all make a difference, the young lads in the pub I spoke to are the ones who can make it easier for the next generation. In 20 years hopefully mental Illness will be talked about as normally as a broken leg.
Importantly, the walk’s got people talking about mental health in such a positive way.
People that I have never met before have said thank you for putting it out there. Some have shared their story with me privately, others have donated money or shared the story of the walk. That is amazing! Thank you so much!
I want us all to keep talking about mental health. If my 80 year-old mate Bernard can, then so can you and I! If you have a problem share it, share it with me even! I’m always here to talk, hey you might be doing me some good too.
Just imagine if there was a programme every week on Sky Sports that talked about mental health, how much good would that do?
There are some amazing people out there involved in combatting mental health problems - I have had the privilege of talking to some of them for this column.
They are leaders of change, young and old; lovely people who are holding out a hand of friendship. So take hold of that hand, then do the same for someone else. Life really can be too short so let’s enjoy it.
Donate via Hunty’s JustGiving page below - you know you want to.