Hang Tough

3 Miles. 2 Girls. 1 Mountain.

Currahee


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The Last Patrol

Our most humble thanks to everyone who generously gave to our fundraising appeal. The total amount raised is now in and both Lindsey and I are blown away by what has been donated.

When we decided to put our nerdy adventure to Toccoa to some good use, we put a target of £500 on JustGiving – a target neither of us actually thought we’d reach but it was a nice thought that we might get close. Never did we imagine that people would be so generous and dig deep into their pockets for two brilliant charities – the World War II Foundation and the Royal British Legion – East Barnet Branch.

Well, we were genuinely blown away when we did the final tally and have raised £750 for the charities.

Thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts to everyone – friends, family, colleagues, fellow nerds and even strangers on Twitter who are fans of Band of Brothers.World War II FoundationRoyal British Legion

Currahee Mountain


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What a helluva way to die

The climb is over. Money has been donated. We have some amazing memories, fantastic photos and superbly generous supporters to thank.

At 5am on Monday 29 May we set off from our hotel just outside Atlanta and headed to Toccoa – home of the US Army Paratroopers in WWII. A destination Lindsey and I had longed to visit for some time and, after visiting many of the other sites related to the 101st and Band of Brothers, this was the last one to tick off our list.

Camp Toccoa at Currahee

It was still dark when we left but, as the sun rose, we neared Currahee and both squealed when we saw it in the distance. We passed the iconic ‘Camp Toccoa at Currahee’ sign standing proud outside where the original camp stood, and parked our car nearby. Then we headed down the road to the beginning of the Col Robert Sink Memorial Trail and the start of road up Currahee.

Col Robert Sink Trail

It was just as we’d seen in photos from WWII and depicted on Band of Brothers. It was almost like déjà vu. It was 7am and we set off on our momentous hike.

It was very humid even at that early hour so we needed to make sure we drank enough because, as well all know, “dehydration is a soldier’s worst enemy”. But, luckily no-one was there to shout at us for drinking from our canteen.

Lots of Band of Brothers-related comments in this post (obviously!) so apologies if you don’t get some of them.

Currahee Trail

Gory, gory, what a helluva way to die!

Day of Days

The first part of our walk was glorious – the fresh early morning sun peeking through the trees with gentle rolling road. This wasn’t too bad at all! Although, we knew we had a more strenuous part ahead of us. It looked exactly like it did in the pictures and we kept imagining the soldiers running up and down the hills in formations with their packs on their backs singing their cadences as they went.

We took some photos along the way, a video or two, and even some Facebook Live footage to show everyone what it was like. Then the terrain began to change. We could see the hills getting steeper the further up Currahee we went and then, just as Dale Dye had warned us – “It’s the last quarter of a mile that’ll kick your ass!” – we came to the big bugger.

Dehydration is a soldier's worst enemy

Dehydration is a soldier’s worst enemy

To get us going for this final push I had downloaded Blood On The Risers to my phone and began playing it. We walked in time with the singing and it spurred us on. It was hard. So very hard. The incline was ridiculous and both of us actually felt like our lungs were giving up on us. But then we could see the final turn in the road ahead and the radio masts looming above us.

We finally got to the graffiti rocks and took in the amazing view across Stephens County. We could see for miles into the distance and it was incredible. We had a drink and then headed up the final part of the trail to the summit. It felt indescribable to finally be at the summit of Mt Currahee – walking in the path of legends to the top. After visiting the other Band of Brothers’ sites, this was probably the most iconic. It was quite emotional.

Currahee Incline

Trying to show the incline of the last part

Why We Fight

After gathering ourselves, we walked back down to the graffiti rocks and just chilled for a while. We took some photos, did another Facebook Live video, and as it was Memorial Day we’d taken a poppy cross with us to pay our respects to all those who have lost their lives in combat. So much respect for all those who are no longer with us, who gave their lives fighting to better the world. Most of us can never understand what went through the minds of the soldiers who stood on that ground so many years ago. All we can offer is our respect and a promise that they will never be forgotten.

Once we’d recovered and the beetroot colour in our cheeks had faded, we then started our descent back to Camp Toccoa. It was now around 8.30am and the sun was well and truly beating down on us. We were both glad we decided to do the hike early in the morning rather than later. As we walked down that last part (that almost killed us) I played another song I had downloaded especially – the theme from Band of Brothers.

We’d looked forward to visiting Currahee and Toccoa for so long. It’d been a dream for years but we never really thought we’d make it. Standing on the top was surreal but something neither of us will ever forget. Thank you to everyone who donated. Thank you to those who supported us along the way. And thank you to the men and women who gave their lives to we can live ours.

Currahee!” and “Hang Tough!

 


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Preparation, perspiration, inspiration and more donations

It’s now less than 30 days before we head of to the States and we’re very excited about visiting Toccoa and climbing Currahee.

Hawkstone Park, ShropshireA couple of weekends ago I visited Lindsey in Shropshire so we could do a training session. It was a beautifully sunny weekend (we do get them from time to time in the UK!) so we made the most of the weather and went to Hawkstone Park – “an historic woodland fantasy with cliffs, crags, caves, deep woods and a series of extraordinary monuments built over 200 years ago”.

Hawkstone is an incredible place and the perfect destination to break in new trainers. It was a fabulous day of wandering around the various caves and strange buildings among the vast array of trees and greenery. We got in a few miles of walking and, more importantly, managed to squeeze in a Magnum ice-cream half way through as well. It was tough going but we just about succeeded in eating the ice-creams. It was for energy replenishment of course.

Hawkstone Park, ShropshireThe trainers are definitely broken in but we’ll probably get a couple more individual training sessions done between now and the end of May. We’ve got all the timings set and will be setting off from the Camp Toccoa at Currahee site around 7am (12pm GMT) on Monday 29 May. Hopefully, we’ll be back and refreshed in time for the Memorial Day Ceremony at 11am.

We’ve now raised over a third of our fundraising target and would like to thank everyone who has donated so far. We’ll hopefully raise more over the next few weeks and after our climb so these two charities will benefit from our feat. If you haven’t already donated, please visit bit.ly/HangTough and give what you can.

In the meantime, here’s a short video we recorded after our visit to Hawkstone Park (yes, we were in a furniture store). Enjoy!


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Rick Gomez (George Luz in Band of Brothers) gave us some advice for climbing Currahee:

Breathe. When you want to quit, keep going.

Thanks Rick, we’ll definitely keep that in mind!

And, words very similar to this quote from Winston Churchill that we’ll also take with us:

If you’re going through hell, keep going.

Rick Gomez Quote

Thank You


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Fundraising Update: And they’re off!

We’ve just been blown away by the generosity so far and have already exceeded £100!

Today we have gone past £100 in donations to our two charities – the Royal British Legion and the World War II Foundation. It’s a great start to our fundraising endeavors so we both thank you all for your generosity and kind words of support.

Here’s the the next £100!

This Girl Can


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We’re in this together!

In preparation for our Currahee climb, as well as trying to get fitter and lose some weight, recently I’ve been trying to push harder with my exercise.

I exercise five days a week before work, generally just 15 minutes on my cross-trainer, or a quick HIIT workout, but now the mornings are getting lighter I’ve been trying to get out regularly for a run. Even though we’re not running Currahee – because we’re not insane enough to think that either of us can run up a mountain – I want to get back into running because I want to be as fit as possible by May. This mountain is a tough climb, and it’s going to be hot, so I need to be as fit as a 37-year-old with a crap spine, and even crapper knees, can be.

I’ve never been very good at exercise and I’ve never enjoyed it.

I still don’t. At school, I dreaded PE, and I was always the fat one hanging around at the back, trying to get away with doing as little as possible. I left school convinced that I just wasn’t built for physical exercise, and nothing was ever going to change that. I’m short and chubby, I have chunky, stumpy legs and very little upper-body strength – my stocky little frame just isn’t cut out for striding gracefully on a treadmill or darting athletically through the water.

Between leaving school and starting a full-time job, I didn’t do any exercise at all (unless you count shuffling backwards and forwards to Britpop in the 1990s as exercise), so when I decided to start attending a gym it was tough, and I detested it. I stuck it out for many years, but in the end I cancelled my membership because I resented paying for an experience that made me so miserable.

In the last ten years, I have tried countless types of exercise in the quest to find one that was enjoyable. I’m still looking. I’ve tried yoga, kickboxing, aerobics, cross-trainers, cycling, swimming, weights, Zumba, pilates, boxercise, aquacise, salsacise – you name it, and I have tried it and hated it.

The only thing that comes vaguely close to being enjoyable is my weekly anti-gravity fitness class, where you do stretches, strength exercises and yoga poses with the use of a hammock, going upside-down and doing flips. It gives me an extraordinary sense of achievement when I master a new pose or flip, and I do enjoy it on the whole, but I’m always the fattest girl in the class, and quite often I catch myself wishing it was over and trying to stop myself from looking at the clock in case I’m disappointed by what it says.

anti-gravity

That’s me in the middle at anti-gravity.

The fact is, I just don’t like exercise.

If you’re reading this hoping to find out that somewhere along the way I suddenly had an epiphany, and now I can’t get enough of exercising, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I hate it, and it’s a struggle to do it every day. But I know I feel better when I’m fitter, so I persevere. Exercise is a means to an end, and I try to remind myself that feeling fitter is worth the effort.

My morning runs are a struggle. I get up early, and I trudge solidly along at a pace that most serious runners probably wouldn’t even class as jogging. My lungs ache, my legs hurt, I want to give up. I’ve found that exercising alone is the way I prefer to do it, but this means that I lack moral support or encouragement, and it can be easy to give up.

Taking advice from a radio podcast.

This subject came up on the Elis James and John Robins Radio X podcast recently. Elis, a keen runner, said he loved to see people exercising who were clearly new to it, or who didn’t exercise a lot. He said he loved to see these people out there, giving it a go, even if they were struggling, and he always wanted to shout encouragement to them. John was equally supportive of those of us who are exercising despite being out of shape, and it was a pleasant departure from the usual comic stance of fat people being the butt of the joke, and it meant a lot to hear it.

As a chubby jogger, I have been yelled at and laughed at while out running in the past, and it hurt. I’m out there, red-faced and trying my hardest, even though my whole body is screaming for me to stop. I eye every van uneasily as it passes in case the occupants decide to yell something at me (not to stereotype, but it’s almost always two blokes in a van). I don’t deserve to be ridiculed, and it is so demoralising when it happens, it can really make you question why you’re bothering.

John Robbins and Elis James

With the hammer legends themselves – John Robins and Elis James

Hey, we’re in this together!

I have a 30-minute loop that I attempt if my legs are feeling particularly fresh, but even then there is a get-out clause. There is a point on the run at which I know I can turn back, and I only pass this point if I feel confident I can complete the whole circuit. One morning, I was pounding along at my usual dogged pace, and I was hurting. I was approaching the point of no return and I had already made my mind up to turn back, when I looked up and saw a lady jogging in the opposite direction on the other side of the road. She saw me, smiled and waved, then ran on. It sounds ridiculous, but that acknowledgement, that gesture of, “hey, we’re in this together”, lifted me so much that I somehow found some energy from somewhere and I carried on. A bit of positivity can make such a difference.

And I’ve had some positivity on my runs this week, only it wasn’t a jogger on the other side of the road that was cheering me on. When I’ve felt like giving up, I’ve tried to imagine what Elis and John would say if they could see me, wobbling along with my determination starting to waver. I hope they’d use one of their catchphrases and call me a hammer legend, and they’d definitely tell me to keep going, and so I have. And I’ll be out there next week too, pounding that pavement again.

I’ve also got to keep in mind that we’re climbing Currahee to raise money for charity, so please show us some support if you are able to, by donating to our JustGiving page. The climb up Currahee is going to be tough, but maybe it’ll be a little bit easier if I can remember all the kind people who’ve donated, and imagine that my two favourite comedians are there with me in spirit, willing me to keep putting one foot in front of the other like the hammer legend I desperately want to be. #thisgirlcan

Header image © This Girl Can


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Win signed photos of Norman Reedus & Michael Cudlitz

Donate to our Currahee adventure and you could win a signed photo of Norman Reedus or Michael Cudlitz!

Last weekend Lindsey and I went to Walker Stalker Con at Olympia in London. We went last year as we knew Michael Cudlitz would be there and, being fans of Band of Brothers, we really want to meet Bull Randleman. So how could we pass up the opportunity again this year when we knew he’d be in town? I’ve been brainstorming fundraising ideas since setting up this website and being at WSC was the perfect opportunity to get a couple of signed photos to auction.

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon

Donate £5 at bit.ly/HangTough and comment with “Daryl” to enter

I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead so first I met Norman Reedus who plays crossbow-wielding, motorcycle-riding badass Daryl Dixon.

My hands were very cold so he was warming them up for me while signing the photo. I was wearing my Screaming Eagle pin badge and he asked what it was. He was so sweet and seemed genuinely interested as I explained about the 101st, Band of Brothers and our climb. I said he needed to speak to Michael about his role in the show and that I was going to auction the photo for charity.

He wished me good luck then gave me a big hug.

Norman Reedus at Walker Stalking Con - London 2017

Norman warms up my cold hands then signs the photo of him as Daryl.

Michael Cudlitz as Abraham Ford

Donate £5 at bit.ly/HangTough and comment with “Abraham” to enter

Next I went to meet Michael.

The queue to meet him was incredibly long as his red-headed mustachioed character, Abraham, is definitely a fan favourite. I picked up two photos that were available – one of him as Abraham Ford in The Walking Dead and one as Bull Randleman from Band of Brothers.

Although I was told he’d probably only sign one photo, he very kindly signed both without being asked. As he signed, I told him of our forthcoming trip to Atlanta and running Currahee. He smiled and wished us both good luck. He signed the BoB photo with “Currahee” and added “Bull” afterwards too. He’s also incredibly lovely.

Michael Cudlitz as Bull Randleman

Donate £5 at bit.ly/HangTough and comment with “Bull” to enter

To raise money for the World War II Foundation and Royal British Legion all of these photos are now available to win for a small donation. Each photo measures 8×10 and is signed by each actor with photos to prove.

Do you want to win one of these photos signed by Michael or Norman? Just follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Go to bit.ly/HangTough
  2. Donate a minimum of £5
  3. Leave a comment stating the photo you want – Daryl, Abraham or Bull (1 photo per donation)

We’ll pick the winners at random on Friday 31 March so get donating now! Notes below.

Michael Cudlitz at Walker Stalker Con - London 2017

Michael signed both photos and wished us good luck with Currahee.


Notes:

  • This is open to anyone worldwide.
  • Postage will be covered – Royal Mail First Class or Standard International. Recorded delivery is available upon request with additional costs covered by winners.
  • A minimum donation of £5 (or equivalent) for each photo is required.
  • You must specify which photo you would like by leaving a comment on JustGiving – Daryl, Abraham or Bull.
  • Only 1 photo per donation.
  • Three winners will be announced on Twitter (@HangToughGirls) and Facebook (/HangToughGirls) on Friday 31 March.
  • All donations are split 50:50 between the World War II Foundation and Royal British Legion.


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The meanings behind the reasons

When people ask me why I’m going on holiday to places like Bastogne, or Normandy, or Toccoa, I always explain by starting with, “Well, there’s this TV show I like…” But to properly understand why Jo and I take these trips, you have to understand what Band of Brothers really means to us.

If you’re predisposed to being a nerd, you’ll know how it feels to tumble headlong into a fandom. Some fandoms burn bright and then fade quickly, others stick with you for years. Band of Brothers is one of those shows that just got its hooks into me and never let go. I loved the story it told, the way it was written, the way it was shot, the characters – it’s one of those rare TV shows where everything works, and it still holds up today, almost 16 years after it was first broadcast. Band of Brothers is one of those fandoms that just sucks you in and the deeper you get into it, the more you love it.

To understand the real reason why Jo and I want to climb Currahee, you have to go back to 2010.

I turned 30 in 2010, and I was in no mood for celebrating. My dad had died the year before, and as a result my self-confidence had taken a huge nosedive. One of the most positive influences on my life was suddenly gone, and I stumbled towards my 30th birthday feeling a bit dazed, and wondering what there was to celebrate. On my birthday, Jo (because she is one of the most awesome human beings on the planet) presented me with an album filled with personalised birthday messages from the stars of Band of Brothers. It was mind-blowing, I couldn’t believe the time that Jo, and everyone else, had taken to make sure I had a happy birthday. It’s still the single most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me, because it made me feel important and special – all the things I hadn’t been feeling since I’d lost my dad. We’d both been in the Band of Brothers fandom online for a while, but I think it was this incredible photo album which started us on a path to super nerd status.

Band of Brothers Album

The Band of Brothers birthday album

Jump forward to 2011. I was still having a rough time of it, but me and my mum had just booked a weekend away to Paris. Jo emailed me to tell me that there was going to be a charity event in Devon where actors from Band of Brothers were going to do a parachute jump to raise money to erect a statue of Major Dick Winters in Normandy. I wanted to go so badly, but it was the same weekend we’d booked to go to Paris. In another remarkable act of kindness, my mum took herself off to the travel agent and paid to move the holiday to another weekend so I could go. I can still remember her saying to me, “I just want you to be happy”. At the time, I don’t think she realised that the legacy of that desire for me to be happy would last for years.

Jumping For Heroes - 2011

With Ross Owen at Jumping For Heroes – 2011

That trip to Devon was where we first met some incredible friends who we treasure to this day. We spent the weekend with Laura and Elodie, who we’d only ever seen online before, but are now firmly in our nerd squad. We got the chance to meet some of the actors, who amazed us with their patience and their willingness to spend time with us while we geeked out. We met a relative of one of the real-life veterans, who was generous and friendly and welcoming, plus all the people like Ross Owen and his team of volunteers, who worked so tirelessly to put on this event.

We came home from that weekend on a high, and ever since then it has snowballed. We went to Normandy in 2014 for another reunion, then again in 2015. On each trip we would have the joy of catching up with our old friends, and we always came back having made some new ones, and with new stories and new in-jokes. We met even more of the actors, who are just about the nicest bunch of guys you could ever wish to meet, more of the veterans’ families, and more fans, like us, from all over the world.

Bastogne 2016

Jo, Phil Barantini (Skinny Sisk), Ross McCall (Joe Liebgott), Rick Gomez (George Luz), Lindsey, Rick Warden (Harry Welsh), James Madio (Frank Perconte) – Bastogne, 2016

Having visited pretty much every last gun placement and war museum in Normandy, Jo and I decided to take a more epic European road trip last year to visit some of the other locations from the Band of Brothers story. We visited Eindhoven and the Island in the Netherlands, toured the Bois Jacques in Bastogne, dipped our toes into the lake at Zell am See and made the trip up to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. Then another actor’s reunion was announced for Bastogne in December, so we assembled the nerd squad again and went back to Belgium, picking up even more new friends on the way. By now, the actors seem to be just used to having us around, kind of like we’re part of the furniture. It really feels like we’re part of a big, friendly, nerdy community, and it’s really special.

One location had remained out of our reach so far – Toccoa, which is where it all began for Easy Company.

We decided we needed to finally tick it off the list, so we booked our usual bi-annual trip to Orlando, but added a few days on the beginning of the trip to take a road trip to Atlanta, and then visit Toccoa. And you can’t visit Toccoa without climbing Currahee, so it looked like these two lumpy fangirls were going to have to get in shape enough to haul their butts to the top.

It was at the event in Bastogne that we hit upon doing this for charity. The Band of Brothers events have all been organised by the World War II Foundation, a charity which aims to honour the memory of those who served in World War II. These events have meant so much to us, so it just seemed fitting that we try to raise some money ourselves, as a thank you for all the incredible experiences we’ve had, the friends we’ve made, and the places we’ve travelled to. So please donate if you’re able, not just to remember the veterans, but to help two nerds say thank you for some of the best fun we’ve had.

And all because “there’s this TV show I like…”


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A climb to raise money for veterans’ charities

On 29 May we will be climbing Currahee Mountain in Georgia to raise money for the World War II Foundation and Royal British Legion.

3 MILES. 2 GIRLS. 1 MOUNTAIN.

Currahee Mountain stands 800ft (240m) and was the training site of the American Paratroopers at Camp Toccoa during WWII, as featured in the HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. The “three miles up, three miles down” of the mountain became an important part of training for the men of the 506th Infantry Regiment, and we want to follow in their footsteps.

Joanne Jones of Barnet, Hertfordshire, and Lindsey Bannister of Wem, Shropshire, have been fans of Band of Brothers since it first aired on TV. Having travelled to several other sites relating to the TV series – such as the beaches of Normandy, the forests of the Battle of the Bulge, and Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden near Austria – Toccoa is the last on the list to visit.

As an incentive to complete the “three miles up, three miles down” challenge, Lindsey and Jo will be raising money for two charities close to their hearts.

The World War II Foundation is a non-profit organisation committed to educating future generations about the personal stories of the WWII generation. It accomplishes this mission through the production of award-winning documentary films airing around the United States and globally.

The Royal British Legion is the UK’s leading Armed Forces charity and one of its largest membership organisations. Members get together through the network of branches and clubs all over the country and overseas to participate in social, fundraising and welfare activities. They will specifically be raising money for the East Barnet Branch of the RBL.

To donate to these worthy causes via JustGiving, please visit bit.ly/HangTough.
For more information, please email hangtoughgirls@gmail.com.

Header image from HBO’s Band of Brothers