The challenge was to walk 100km non-stop across the South Downs in under 30 hours to raise money for charity. Friends from Colchester decided to take on the challenge.

They did not all make it, beaten by injury along the way.

But what they and their support team found was worth so much more - compassion, togetherness, sacrifice, camaraderie and support.

All in all, they learnt a better way to live.

IN troubling times such as these, when our polarised political landscape is dividing the nation, cynicism towards our dwindling positive traits can be an easy attitude to flex.

But for all civilisation’s uglier qualities, there can also be equal displays of compassion, unity, togetherness, sacrifice, camaraderie and support.

The latter is exactly what I both experienced in abundance, and even exercised myself, during this year’s Trailwalker event - a monumental charity trek in aid of Oxfam and the Ghurkha’s Welfare Trust.

The mind and body-testing challenge first took place in the UK in 1997 and each year sees about 2,000 willing walkers tackle 100kms over a multi-terrain course in no more than 30 hours.

Despite my unwavering love of physically destroying myself and dragging my aching body up hills high enough to cause a nosebleed, I wasn’t there to take part.

A group of my girlfriend’s former work colleagues, however, were.

So, I was coerced into making up what would go on to be the team’s essential support crew and unsung fifth pair of feet.

It was perhaps one of the greatest and most faith-restoring things I have ever done.

The experience started on the Friday evening, in South Downs, when we arrived at the event’s base camp and met with our team: Colchester residents Gus Cole, Jitka Trejnarova, Damo Gray and his son, Aiden.

We drew up a rough blueprint of how the support team would aid the walkers once they pulled into each of the nine checkpoints.

The next morning, we woke before sunrise. After one last encouraging pep talk at base camp, the support team - comprised of myself, David Garlick, Molly Garlick and Kelly Clark - headed for the first pit stop 12 miles into the route, while the ramblers took their first steps on a physiological test of a lifetime.

Twisting and turning through country lanes, where civilisation was sparse but roadkill was rife, we travelled to each of the checkpoints, each time more determined than the last to impact both the physical and mental state of our four walkers.

As we slowly chipped away at what seemed like never-ending stretches of road, our team was inspirationally doing the same. They, however, were doing so on blistering feet and unpredictable surfaces, while we enjoyed the luxury of a modern car for which inclines were not a problem.

As we made our way through quaint parishes and petite villages, we would refuel on freshly prepared hot meals in cafés while our hardworking counterparts on the other hand were forced to gnaw on cereal bars.

But as daylight disappeared, so did some of our team’s ability to continue the course. This is when two of the valiant walkers started to pull out at checkpoints four and five.

By this point, we were all 12 hours deep and if any of the two remaining hikers – Damo and his son, Aiden - were to soldier on and cross the finish line at Brighton Racecourse, we still had 18 more hours to go.

Come 4am on the Sunday, sleep deprivation was rapidly starting to affect us all.

Conversations were becoming tetchy and frazzled tempers saw us snapping at any inconvenience. Each time a minor argument broke out, a croaky voice of reason would remind us all of exactly why we were doing this, and then without a murmur, we would go back to strapping up a crippled ankle or massaging a muscle.

In the end, it was all worth it. Shortly after euphorically crossing the finish line and being deservedly decorated with his medal, Damo, the team’s last standing walker, sincerely declared: “I really couldn’t have done it without you guys.’’

And I believe him. Since we had all last slept, which at this point was more than 30 hours before, we had all seen the night turn to day, back into night, and then back into day again.

But without witnessing his resilience and relentless determination to carry on through the pain, we also couldn’t have given him the support we did.

The awe-inspiring effort he and the rest of the team put into pushing themselves beyond their limits, was reciprocated, and spurred us on to do as much for them as they were doing for themselves and the charities.

Maybe if we all applied that same level of commitment and compassion to each other every day, the world might spin a little bit smoother.