Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Walk a marathon: we did it

I did it. I walked a marathon - or, as it turned out, 28 miles - with nine amazing people (and two support drivers).

It all started last August, when my good friend and mentor Karl Whitfield, of Mother Nature's Diet, spotted my ambition on this life list to 'walk a marathon'. Basically, he called my bluff. He sent me a choice of routes, a choice of dates, a training schedule, and made sure it happened. And I'm so glad he did.

I started gradually increasing my walking mileage, and was proud of a fifteen-mile walk across the bridges of London in September 2016. However, in late February 2017, training began in earnest, with my good friend and fitness partner of many years, Kim.  Click here to see details of our training along the Norfolk Coastal Path.


Having spent the four months from the end of February to the end of May following Karl's schedule of walks, from 11.5 miles to just under 23 miles, we felt ready and confident for our 'marathon plus'.

We met up the night before to share supper in Wendover, spent the night in an agreeable AirBNB a few miles away, and then gathered for a 6.30am start on the Saturday morning. Our two drivers, Joe and Selwyn, bid us farewell, and we set off on a mild, initially cloudy, warm morning (the sun came out very soon, and remained with us right until the final half-mile).

As Karl had predicted, there were some moderate hills in the first few miles. It was well worth it when, after just 1.5 miles, we arrived at the Coombe Hill monument, with its sensational views across the countryside - I believe at least three counties were visible.

I was excited to see large numbers of red kites - brought back from the brink of extinction in just the last few decades - above us for much of the walk.

Earlier I mentioned a 'marathon plus' ... Karl didn't want to run the risk of us coming in just under the 26.2 mile marathon target ("another quarter of a mile! Round the block!") - so in planning the route, he aimed for 27 miles. However, at the last minute we also agreed to add a short diversion (about six miles into the walk) half-a-mile each way off the path down into Princes Risborough, where there was our final chance for a shop, a cafe and a public loo - as opposed to the dodging-behind-trees we did for the rest of the day. Which brought it up to 28 miles. (Or 28.8, or 29, or 29.5, depending on which walker's GPS you choose to believe! Mine was 28.07, so that's what I'm going with.)

Our planned lunch stop was (somewhat unromantically) just after walking through a sub-M40 underpass. This, in fact, was well over halfway, being at just under 16 miles in. Our drivers met up with us - Selwyn having got there some time before decided to walk out a mile or two to meet us and then accompany us to the cars - and we restocked with sock changes, extra water and food. Before setting off again. we took what's probably my favourite group photograph of the day.

As we moved into the final five miles, the dogged determination is evident.

As Jason pointed out, at least when you're coming down a mountain you have a clear idea of where the finish line is! But we kept going...

Finally, we reached the bridge over the river at Wallingford, where family and friends were waiting for us in the riverside pub.

This was a completely remarkable day and an amazing achievement for all concerned. Five men, five women, ranging in age from 30 to 65, all levels of fitness but one level of determination, and we all made it. We arrived about 12.5 hours after setting off, although around 10 hours of that was actual walking time. Many of us knew each other already, but new friendships were forged. Once again, the lovely Karl had initiated, bullied, planned and encouraged, and we managed an extraordinary feat.

For Chris, Jane, John, Jason, Karl, Cristina, James, Kim and Rebecca - my heartfelt thanks and love for joining and supporting me in this endeavour. It's a day I will never forget and an achievement of which I will always be deeply proud.

If you're interested, you'll find the full album of photographs here, including some provided by my fellow walkers.

Update: the wonders of technology allow me to add the route in 3D using the geek-heaven Relive.


One final comment. I initially took on this challenge for myself personally. However, as various folks asked me if I was accepting sponsorship, I decided to donate any monies raised to Clare's Legacy Fund (details in this posting). At the time of writing (mid June), £520 has been raised online plus a further £98 in local cash donations. I know that Clare's indomitable spirit was with us, and she would have loved the day - being, as it was, fairly close to her own home near her beloved Cotswolds.

For friends, for challenges, for fitness, for love and for nature, I give grateful thanks.

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