I will be walking the final c. 240km 150 miles of my Bangkok2Birmingham journey back home from London in order to raise money for Guy’s Trust and Sport4Life. Click here for a recap of why and here if you’d like to support by making a donation.
Just under 5 days until the start of the walk now. I’ve been really looking forward to it, but am beginning to think I may have underestimated how difficult it’s going in be. My friend Al Curr, who very recently did a similar charity challenge along the length of the Thames (check out his blog http://thamestrek.blogspot.co.uk/), recently gave me the following pointers. Al’s words in blue, my thoughts in red. Pictures mainly from my googling.
Can someone remind me why I didn’t just take the train?
OK, I don’t know what kind of shape you’re in or how much walking you’ve done in the past – but it does sound to me like you’re underestimating it a little! It’s pretty tough. The first day not so much, maybe even the second, but it’s the constant pounding that your body is going to take that’s the hard thing. Your body will start doing things and hurting in places that will surprise you. It’s different for everyone, but the one constant is the feet. They are going to hurt like hell. At the end of each night it’ll feel like they’re in a vice. Take a pair of sandals or something to put on as soon as you stop each evening.
Sounds great. Can’t wait for this! Always wanted to feel what it’s like to put my feet in a vice
Early mornings are the key – I never started later than 7:30 (and that was too late), I’d suggest6:30am starts each day (I was up at 5:15 because it took an age to get ready because moving around was so slow and painful in the mornings). Because it’s October you’ll have less daylight to play with, and the last thing you want to do is be walking around in the dark at the end of a long day. Trust me, it’s hell.
Hell? O good. It doesn’t even get light in October til bloody 8am!
I was very surprised at how well I did mentally. Certainly there were a couple of days when I was shagged and in bed by 9pm, but there were also some when I stuck it out until later. I had a night with strangers for example, and lasted until about 11pm with them. A lot will depend on the weather though. I was lucky in that it was sunny virtually every day, but if you get pissed on you’ll be pretty grouchy and will of course need to use people’s washing machine/tumble dryer overnight. Walking in wet clothes is absolutely no fun at all.
Its good to know that October is southern England’s rainiest month according to the Met Office
I would definitely recommend as much company as you can get, but at the same time you’ve been away for a while so are probably quite used to having alone time. It made a big difference to me, although I also enjoyed having a day by myself. Even if people just join you for lunches along the way it makes a big difference. I also kept my phone off and just turned it on at lunch and the end of the day. Taking calls etc was a pain and it was nice to get messages in bunches.
Anyone want to join in the misery?
I carried a big heavy pack including tent, stove and a shit load of food. The idea was I’d eat the food as I went so the pack would get lighter, but everyone who joined me brought food for me that was always better than mine so I ate theirs instead! One big bit of advice is to try and eat solids (sandwiches, pasta meals etc) rather than energy bars. They do a lot more for you when walking and prevent your guts from rotting.
I went and spend £100 on a strong pair of proper walking shoes. Boots are heavy and my walk was going to be on good terrain and flat, so I didn’t really need the ankle support from boots. That said, if you are likely to get wet then boots might be better, it’s all about weight though.
Clothing is pretty key. Make sure you’ve got a clean pair of comfy socks for each day, it’ll make a, 2 pairs of shorts and 1 pair of trousers which I only wore in the evenings. I had talc for my feet and thighs (the chaffe was bad, I’d highly recommend savlon – miracle stuff!) and a ton of compeed. Get the ones that wrap around your toes, and get lots of them. Both myself and a mate who did something similar had issues with our little toes. You’ll be amazed how painful those things can get!
More good news…..It’s also dawning on me I have none of the right kit!
Aside from all that, the main tips I’d give you is painkillers and stretching. Seriously, on day 1 my groin was so tight I thought I might have to stop after around 28 miles. I stopped and stretched for about 15 minutes, doing every part of my legs I could think of, and felt like a new man when I set off again. I tried to stop every 90 minutes for at least 10 minutes of stretching and it made a massive difference because it stops all the lactic acid building up. Amazingly, my calves, quads and hamstrings were absolutely fine.
Looking forward to looks I’ll be getting doing a vigourous stretches by the side of the canal
What wasn’t fine was one of my knees and a horrendous shin splint on my right leg, right at the bottom, which is still giving me grief now 4 weeks on. My leg swelled so much it was ridiculous. On day 1 I didn’t take any painkillers, by day two I was on 2 nurofen every 4 hours and by day 3 it was 2 nurofen and 1 co-codamol every 4 hours. After that it was 2 of each every 4 hours (always with food) and I genuinely wouldn’t have survived without it. The first hour was god awful until the pills kicked in, but once you get into your stride you’re ok.
Great. The swelling sounds like a major plus point! I’ve always wanted to feel what it’s like to binge on a load of drugs too…..
Good luck mate, it’s a brave challenge. My final tip is don’t be afraid to be flexible. I was adamant that I didn’t want to do any of this getting picked up and dropped back, and I managed that for the first 4 days and then had to buckle to the offers when it got too difficult. Likewise, I made it very hard for myself with the pack I carried. I wouldn’t change it, and I seriously stripped down (carrying 3 litres of water added weight too but was vital – and make sure you re-fill every lunchtime) all unnecessary gear, but even light stuff all adds up to weight! Had I not had the tent, stove and all the food it would have been very different. I was quite rural though, so I carried breakfasts and dinners and knew I’d have lunches on the way at pubs etc. If you’re in urban areas your choices should be a lot better.
Cheers Al, you’ve really whetted my appetite for the challenge!