The first 5 days.
Most importantly thank you to everyone who has donated so far. To be approaching £7,000 at this point is amazing. If you haven’t donated yet that’s fine too, it’s a while before I get to Barcelona. Every penny that is donated will go to the charities as I’m covering all the costs associated with the trip myself.
I completed the first 4 days of my challenge yesterday so just over 100 miles into the big walk and today is a rest day which I am enjoying! So, it’s all going to plan so far and here is a bit more detail and insight into where my head is and has been.
I need to start by going back a bit to the 4 – 5 weeks before setting off. This was the final cycle of my training and the idea was to reduce the number of both the miles and days I walked, tapering as it is known. The logic behind this is to keep the fitness levels high but to allow the body to recover somewhat prior to the actual event. I was really looking forward to this as the amount of training I’d worked up to was taking all day for 5 days each week and I thought it would be nice to have some free time. How wrong could I have been?
I found that having the spare time left me over-thinking so many things about the challenge in front of me. Had I measured the amount of miles and planned the route correctly, would I really still be able to do 25 miles in one day let alone 4 on the trot (I hadn’t done it for a few weeks), had I done enough training both walking and in the gym, had I done too much training?! I am pretty rational and logical, but I just couldn’t get this stuff out of my head, consequently I was furious with myself and pretty unbearable for the people around me particularly Liz, my wife and best friend so just for the record, sorry (again) Liz xx. As I got closer to the start date other priorities inevitably came to the fore in preparation and because I had more distractions my mood lightened. The focus then became Wednesday 27thMarch and that first day. I’m happy to say that all I have written above is true as I’ve discussed it with Liz and she’s confirmed I was horrible, it’s good that we have such a strong, friendly and loving relationship – phew!
The first four days then and I’m happy to report that I feel just about how I expected to feel. A few aches and pains in the right places, nothing unusual that would worry me, and I can feel the relief of not having to walk in anger today, albeit I had a 30-minute stroll this morning just to loosen my legs off.
Day 1 saw me leave my home in Ipswich with a little crowd who had gathered to see me off and walk an hour or so with me, which was very nice of them I thought. I walked out of Ipswich, through Tattingstone and Trimley to Colchester and just beyond to the village of Birch. I did an interview with Lesley Dolphin on BBC Radio Suffolk on-route and I’m delighted that they’re going to take an update from me each week to keep the profile up. I listen to music a lot while I’m walking and particularly radio programmes and I was listening to Chris Evans and I heard them taking requests. I called in and the researcher that I talked to sounded very interested and came back to say that they would call me back either today (although there was only 20 mins left on the show) or tomorrow – yeah right! It was good to get the first 25 miles under my belt and to dispel any lingering doubts.
On day 2 I walked from Birch to Wickford via Tiptree, Gt Totham, Heybridge and Maldon. As I was walking through Tiptree and listening to the radio as usual my phone rang and it was the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, oh me of little faith. “We talked yesterday about you talking with Chris about your walk are you still up for doing that?”. Talk about gobsmacked! Anyway 10 minutes later, a few rushed texts done and there I was live on national radio talking to the man himself who I’ve been a fan of for years. I found him and Vassos very good interviewers, which made me just about to not gabble and get the message over regarding my three charities. Another first at 59¾. Another good day that felt about right with the high of the interview with Chris Evans.
Friday, day 3 was a tough day. I still can’t work out exactly why, it started well enough and whilst the two additional miles due to the bridge to the ferry in Tilbury being closed was a blow it didn’t feel like the reason at the time. I just couldn’t get into the rhythm once I got across the Thames for the last 9 miles and it felt a real slog. I’m sure I’ll distil this further over the walking days to come and I’m sure it won’t be the last tough day but right now I’m still unclear on it. Anyway, I walked through Basildon, Corringham, Stanford-le-Hope, Tilbury, Gravesend (via the foot ferry – another first) and Meopham to my stopping point which was just outside Vigo Village where I was met by a friend of mine, Jane and off we went to the Bull Hotel at Wrotham where I spent the night. I thoroughly recommend it, good beers and food and very comfortable rooms.
Day 4 was the complete opposite and just what I needed following the “downer” of the Friday. The hilliest day until I get to the southern half of France and indeed the 5thhilliest of all it went extremely well. The walking rhythm was just there, and I could attack the hills as I wanted and it was good training for the hills to come, I am sure, it couldn’t have gone better. I could definitely feel the tiredness in my legs as I got towards the end but how much of that is because I knew I was near the end and a rest day I wonder? My route took me through Tonbridge, Southborough, Tunbridge Wells and Rotherfield to my finish point which was about 2 miles south from there. I returned to Tunbridge Wells and the Hotel du Vin for the Saturday evening and my rest day which is where I’m writing this update from. Again, I can thoroughly recommend for all the same reasons but, in writing this I have to say that I arrive at these places completely knackered and very hungry so why wouldn’t I feel that they were comfortable and enjoy the food? Therefore, my recommendations have to be considered in this light.
In summary I can only say it has been a good four days that couldn’t really have gone any better all in all. As I’ve read and heard many times from others that have roamed the outside world (many much more than me) I really didn’t appreciate the beauty of what we have around us. Obviously, it’s easy to say that about the wonderful countryside which at times I’ve walked through and felt like I’m the only one on earth – it really does make you appreciate how big the world is and how small we are as individuals. Some of the scenery has been just beautiful and so tranquil and of course the weather over those last few days has made it look and feel even better. Also, though, even when I’m walking through the more built up areas and not the chocolate box villages there is a beauty there and it is other human beings. Most people offer a smile and a nod or word of recognition, some if they clock the t-shirt want to know a bit about the challenge (mostly with a slightly quizzical look the more that they here about it). I’m sure this will continue as I step into France next Tuesday, I am a believer that in general people are good, albeit with different life learnings, perspectives and all that encompasses.