Vaseline does the trick



A suggestive blog post title never does the viewing figures any harm in my experience, but in reality it is as innocuous as it gets, in actual fact. Last week’s post discussed the issues relating to feet and I tried out a fair smothering of Vaseline (other petroleum jelly products are available) on the sole of each foot this morning, prior to today’s walk.

Depending on which expert meteorological source one believed, rain was coming and starting somewhere between about 6pm and 8pm, but in fact it came about an hour earlier than the earliest forecast and I was walking between the raindrops back to my door for around an hour and a half, and though it was never really heavy it was quite steady for a while. Nothing to get too worked up about.

After one of the most trying periods for some significant time, where events have seemed to contrive to raise me up and then knock me down, and I have been less relaxed about things that are said or done, whether or not they related to me or my views. I need to get into the mindset that is along the lines of – if someone else is acting stupidly or illogically, that is their problem and I shouldn’t fret about it, however hard that may be if it affects what I can or can’t do or achieve. But it is hard when I think I know what is right, and any logical argument that I can muster is batted away as if I just can’t see common sense. After all, I never attended the University of Life or been to the School of Hard Knocks like what they did.

I reflected on this during the first stage of my walk today, something like 7 miles, and I often use the opening hour or two to get things out of my system. It is not unusual for me to feel really angry for a few minutes before a natural cooling system seems to take over, and I often then reflect on the good things I have or that have happened or that I have to look forward to. After a stop for coffee, I felt sufficiently positive to have a decent speed walk along the promenades of Hill Head and Lee on Solent and really got a good pace going. The rest was pretty relaxed and even the light rain couldn’t dampen my spirits. I did just start to feel the soles achieving the first level of soreness towards the very end of this walk of a bit over 21 miles but the Vaseline seemed to work.

Less than three weeks away is this Thames Path Trail Challenge and I feel ok about it. I feel that the pains in my feet will not, er, kick in that early because I will be having regular short breaks on average every 13 km (8 miles) or so. After about 60 km (37 miles) I would be surprised if doesn’t hurt in a number of places and I will have to guts it out again. But the nature of this challenge is very much the constant hard ground rather than many inclines and so it will be very different to London2Brighton where there was a massive climb over the South Downs at around 88 km to look forward to.

This may well be the last of these 100 km challenges that I do, unless something really special comes on to the ‘syllabus’ in the future. They are just a pain in the proverbial backside to arrange, and I might think about some more personal walking challenges if I decide to carry on. I will quite likely take a break and reflect on it all after this one. The charity money has been steady but the two or three weeks before and two or three weeks after would always be expected to be the peak time. The Rocky Appeal is a great charity and one that is a favourite of our cricket club at Sarisbury, where the late Paul Tosdevin, the inspiration for my choice of charity, was a distinguished player and thoroughly nice bloke.

I might well have a couple of walks in the week after next but I’ll see how it goes and how I feel. In the meantime, and with many thanks to everyone who has donated to date, if you wish to sponsor me for the Thames Path Challenge, please follow the link:

or text SBOY80 10 to 70070 to give £10 – or SBOY80 followed by the amount to 70070.

Any donation, however small, will be gratefully received.


Heart and sole

Quite calm at the moment with things generally good in life and now looking forward to this walk thing in September. Another run out for the running shoes that seem to be ok, as are my feet, and 17.5 miles on a nice day for it. It was more important to increase the distance a little from last week for the sake of the feet rather than the mind, and that is generally a good place in which to be.

Nothing too memorable about this particular session – full of roads and hard ground and I need to think about my foot strategy for the Thames Path Challenge. I don’t tend to suffer inordinately with blisters but these are a big risk for this type of walk with little soft ground for relief. Actually, for me, it is the soles that are likely to be issue, if there is one. I will use the rest breaks (there are 7 of them) to help my feet as much as I can. I would imagine that they won’t be a problem at all until halfway at the earliest. So the sorts of things I do or consider doing:

  • beforehand, patch up any places I know to be weak – definitely trim toenails too
  • rub Vaseline into the soles of my feet
  • consider whether to use inner socks as well as the specialist walking socks (I tend to anyway but long distances can be different)
  • take spare socks to change into at about 60 km
  • make sure I have ibuprofen with me (last time on London2Brighton I forgot and had to cadge some from a friend Katie, who was also doing the walk)
  • take some other insoles or inserts in case they may help – that did help on Lands End to John O’Groats in Scotland when I started to have problems, but that was a different challenge entirely – shorter distances, but every day
  • most of all, once they are hurting, grit my teeth and think of anything else but my feet

Blimey, I’m getting nervous about the whole thing now. I need to do about one walk a week until the big day, progressively increasing the distance a little, and perhaps one or two short walks during the week evenings just to try variants on socks and inserts. In any case, it will be fine – and I can cope with the knowledge that it will hurt. The feeling of achievement at the end will be massive.

A light snifter

Only just over a month away and, just for once, I didn’t agonise for days over a big decision. When I say ‘big decision’, I don’t mean whether to get married or divorced, buy a new house, nor even to pay £198 million for Neymar, but for a walker, the biggest decision there is. After the marathon distance + that I walked last Friday, there is the start of wear on my boots. If I didn’t have an event coming up, I would simply carry on with them for another couple of hundred miles and there would be no problem. But I doubt that I could get away with 60+ miles in one go with them without some avoidable pain. I will keep them and use them after September 9/10, but given that this is an event purely on flat hard ground, good running shoes with support in the right places will be absolutely sufficient.

So I left work early on Friday and picked up some from one of my local dealers, about the fifth pair that I’d tried on. I have found that my own walking footwear need to be about one size larger than trainers or shoes that I would otherwise wear, to allow for foot expansion through heat on long distances and with a wide fitting for the same reason. They are very light and have what feels like a very strong cushion.

So, after a Saturday when my football team Pompey won in Pompey and my cricket team beat Pompey in Pompey, I was in very fine spirits and looking forward to a walk on the Sunday. And it was all nice and dandy, wham bam thank you ma’am. Well, of sorts. The first outing of new footwear should never be too daring and is really to allow the feet to acclimatise to their new surroundings. So a road trip today of 13.5 miles was very much a light snifter and my feet feel fine. Some aches in the right places, through using muscles that are not used to being used so much, with subtly different pressures on the feet, and some parts of my soles just a bit sore but nothing much really.

So good progress and that 34-miler has worked wonders for my motivation and enthusiasm, as have various communications with the challenge organisers, and event information coming through does certainly focus the mind. It’s all a bit real now. An 8:40am start time, sponsorship creeping up: even before any more focussed efforts in the couple of weeks around the event.

And – as always – some rather dashing gear that I can buy if I want:

Right. Brain and legs in gear for five weeks…..


Kickin’ the s*** out of it

It is very hard to explain how one’s mood can change so quickly. On Sunday and Monday, I was very deflated and demotivated, deflated about being demotivated, and demotivated about being deflated. It felt like an interminable loop, perhaps even a spiral. So how, by Friday, can I go on my furthest ever non-event walk, and on my longest walk ever without a break? Well, on this occasion, I can offer some explanation.

On Tuesday, just in passing a colleague by chance, I was offered a little chat for about 10 minutes. Now I am not going to reveal the identity of this colleague since some of the things s/he said were very outside the book and certainly would not be in any counsellor’s training manual. But let’s call him or her ‘Dave’ for ease of writing, which may or may not be their real name. Sufficient uncertainty and all that.

We sat down and Dave, who had clearly read my blog, started. I wasn’t aware that Dave had in fact read many of my blogs, and followed my progress for some time with interest. I do know Dave in the office, though the contact now between us on work-related matters is not necessarily that regular. The conversation started as follows – I may be paraphrasing slightly – “So Keith you got this 60 mile walk?” “Actually, Dave, it’s 62.” “Well, whether it’s 60 or 62 miles, you can kick the s*** out of that walk whenever you like, and you know you can kick the s*** out of it.”

I was a bit taken aback, but more was to follow and it became like a 1970s football manager’s team talk with profanities galore. I am no prude but it is very rare that I swear myself, and I can’t remember Dave swearing too often in the past either. After about the fourth or fifth swear word, I actually found it incredibly funny and was struggling not to laugh. “But you know I’m right, Keith” was about the only sentence without any swearing. The conversation was just what I needed. By the end of Tuesday I had decided to take Friday off and walk then instead of Sunday, given the limited time for recovery before work that can sometimes limit the distance I choose to walk.

So come Friday. I had already decided to do a good distance and the weather forecast of heavy rain after 4pm persuaded me to start early, but an 8:30am time for going out of the front door is slightly early for work, let along walking. Soon I was moving at a fair rate with Portsmouth in my sights. I had a coffee stop after 11 miles in Cosham at 11:45 and I was then full of beans, so to speak. The rain was here and there but mostly very light and I marched down the island, taking an unusual route through Southsea for me to walk down some roads that I hadn’t walked down for 30 years at least. The rain became heavier for the first time near Canoe Lake but soon eased.

I was absolutely in the zone and even already looking at a very good distance indeed. I was kicking the s*** out of today’s walk and, when the heavy rain came, I kicked the s*** out of that too, and barely saw any more rain of any substance again – I’d obviously also scared the s*** out of the weather. I was going to win, and not on the Duckworth-Lewis method. The feeling was extremely empowering but both my feet and knees were feeling a bit of pain in the final five or six miles after passing through Fareham on the route back to Sarisbury Green.

I spy with my little eye something beginning with ‘3’ – I knew just by the finish time, just past 7pm, that this was at least 30 miles, given I had only had that one 20 minute break back in the middle of the day, apart from short sojourns into shops for fluid. But I had slowed considerably after about 4:30pm and felt I was barely strolling at one point. Actually, I had long since reached 30 and the total distance was around 34 miles, with one stretch of 23 miles. Even on those 100km ultra challenge events, there are seven breaks. Today, that was 55km with one break. Probably more than was sensible for me but yeah, I kicked the s*** out of it. Thanks ‘Dave’.

Dedication, that’s what you need, and I haven’t got it at the moment

Walking for five or six hours at a time at least once a week takes some motivation. Unfortunately this weekend I didn’t have it. Over the last five and a half years I must have walked getting on for seven or eight thousand miles, I would guess, and it has helped me in so many ways, especially after achieving different challenges. But despite having another one coming up in the second weekend of September, I am really struggling to build up any enthusiasm for it.

Of course, I do have a reasonable level of fitness and I just need to maintain it and then turn up and walk it. Sounds simple but I know it isn’t. Often the fear of failure spurs me into action but not at the moment. It is sad for me to say that I was actually happy to use the weather as an excuse for not getting out and plodding for 15-20 miles. And it may be the same next weekend but I must force myself to do it, otherwise I can kiss goodbye to finishing the Thames Path Challenge. I know that I will be motivated and determined on 9-10 September but there is some work to do before then. The Travelodge is booked and leave arrangements made with work for a few days recovery.

I mused yesterday during one of the three episodes of the Columbo triple bill on 5USA that it would be far easier for me if I was a runner, since 7 or 8 miles in an hour and a bit, which was my staple many many years ago, would indeed take me only an hour and a bit and therefore the weather would not be an issue, simply finding the clear period during a gloomy day. It is a bit different to walk six hours in intermittently heavy rain. I have decided to take a break from long distance walking after the September challenge, do a bit of gym work now and again instead, and ponder what I really want to do.

Earlier in the week, I thought about the ambition I have had of becoming the oldest person ever to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats, or more likely the reverse this time. The last time I looked the record was held by a man aged 74 years and a few days but I see now that the record is held by an Anthony Allsop at 75 years 88 days. I imagine it might stretch further into the late 70s in the next few years as life expectancy and healthy life expectancy increase. I looked on the ONS website last week and saw that my own life expectancy is around 86 years – though that is an average for a 53-year old male, and doesn’t take into account lifestyle factors. I have something like an 80 per cent chance of reaching 75, incidentally, again an average blah blah blah. Dedication, that’s what you need, and what I need to get back.

However, it is hard to see beyond 10 September 2017 at the moment, let alone some dates in 2039. I did get a boost today of a very good £25 donation from two of my Fantasy Football compatriots who kindly donated prize money to my charity. So I have reached a milestone of £100 at least, though I must raise around £400 under the conditions of my entry, and around £200 by the end of July, else the charity may opt to withdraw support for my entry. I have a few people who have said that they will sponsor me but are likely to pay closer to the day so I have a good chance of reaching £400 anyway. I will speak to the charity organisers for the Rocky Appeal if any of this is in doubt, obviously.

If you wish to sponsor me to walk 100 km from Putney bridge to Henley, walking through the night until I finish, please do so either at

or by texting SBOY80 followed by the amount to 70070, e.g. SBOY80 10 for £10.

All donations very much appreciated, and many many thanks to those of you who have sponsored me already.

All I need now is some dedication…….


Walking with the orange light on

It’s happened to us all. Driving serenely along the motorway when the orange light comes on. Running out of fuel – you realise you’d forgotten to fill up before you left home – and suddenly all energies are concentrated on getting to the next services – which is always about 20 miles away. The light indicates 25-30 miles of fuel left, but who knows, you’ve never pushed that to the limit and never want to. There’s no point stopping; you just have to keep going. Turn off the air conditioning and any other in-car function that might just drain the fuel just that little bit more. Drive as close as you can to the optimum 56 mph and avoid any sudden braking or change in direction, obviously driving in the highest gear possible. Once you reach the service station, breathe a huge sigh of relief, fill up as much as you might need, and move on, refreshed, all well with the world.

My walk today had some parallels. All has been well in my own little world and though I didn’t feel I needed the mental side of a walk, I needed to keep up some level of fitness given I’ve got this gig in September. I took in a bit of Holly Hill before returning to the road, Warsash, Titchfield village, Stubbington (coffee) and then up Peak Lane, turning right towards HMS Collingwood. Without feeling anything other than ok, it was an ok run out after a couple of weeks and looking like a run of the mill walk. But suddenly, figuratively speaking, my orange light came on and I felt absolutely bereft of energy, my legs were aching and even slightly light-headed. There’s no point stopping; you just have to keep going. The worst thing is to stop, since it’s much more difficult to restart and then keep going. It’s ok to slow down to a comfortable pace – my normal pace is around 3.5 mph, and about 3.2-3.3 mph is still fine (don’t ask how I know this, it must be an autistic thing), walk as economically as you can, no excessive energy, think good thoughts if you can. Eventually I reached Fareham and refuelled. Not normal for me to have a hot sausage roll and a bit of bread pudding but I felt that that 600 calories or so would make the last stage – just under six miles – somewhere near calorie neutral. Though my legs did feel the after-effects of walking with the light on, so to speak, I felt all the better for that and reached home after just about 16.5 miles.

On that last stage, I thought hard about what happened and it felt quite analogous in turn to my well-being, and no doubt that of some others. Sometimes life can be fine but knocked sometimes by one or two events that might seem quite harmless on the outside, but that have the potential to disturb an individual. It’s as if life becomes life with the orange light on, until you can find something that helps you refuel. Lately, I had been troubled somewhat by a number of things that threatened to make me very bitter with the world but I have been very well refuelled and have plenty of happiness in the tank. However, I can’t always rely on having friends available for decent chats, a son and girlfriend getting first class degrees, a son’s and girlfriend’s graduations, Bryan Adams singing live (just for us) and my cricket team winning three matches in a row (after a first half season of relative struggle).

Looking at that list, you might be surprised to see cricket in the list but it is hard for anyone who doesn’t play sport, participate in sport or support a sporting team or individual to understand what a boost it can be to see them succeed. It is wonderful to chat with your friends over a drink having tasted success at whatever level and cricket did play a massive, yes massive, part in helping me to recover from a long period of difficulty in 2010 and 2011, not that very many at our club knew about it at the time. It was one of my occasional confidants, Paul Tosdevin, who passed away earlier this year and my Thames Path Trail Challenge is in aid of his charity – the Rocky Appeal. Still a few weeks to go but please think about donating:

or text SBOY80 10 to 70070 to donate £10.

You might think that I’ve done this sort of thing before so it should be easy. Take it from me, it isn’t and it won’t be. Even any small donation will be very gratefully received.


Ticking over with interest

I remember one conversation with our son Matt when he was about 9 or 10 that started with a question from him: “Why do I have to go to training, Dad? Why can’t I just go when we have a match?” I explained that it was about keeping fit, building team spirit and getting to know the way each other play, so that one can fit in to the style and predict what might happen next in a match. For some reason I thought about that conversation today, and why it was important to go out and get yet more miles under my belt, and it certainly is about keeping fit, but still about how my body copes, the relationship with my feet and just keeping a positive mental attitude. The intention was mostly just to tick over with 15 miles or thereabouts.

It was warm and a bit sticky today and it was just about that temperature which says “the shady side of the street” to me. And I was able to do that pretty well, and that is normally most important between about 1:30 and 4. But even at 5 and after, it was still hot enough to be minded to find some shade now and again and, of course, to ensure that I was taking in sufficient fluid.

I have found a couple of colleagues who have helped me resolve some of the irritation and mind games that my mind appears to be playing with me. Sometimes just talking and rationalising things hits the spot. So I wasn’t so troubled that I needed a walk for that reason but it was a case of ticking over. It had helped too that my cricket team had secured a much-needed win but it was such a tense final hour or two that I had a bit of backache, neckache and a slight headache, the last named returning this morning. The game was much on my mind for quite a bit of today, trying to relive the good points and those moments that always make me laugh (like the 16 year old saying he was going to offer one of the opposition out for a fight after the game – I don’t think he actually did, as it turns out).

The walk itself was one of those where I had no set route and often turned this way or that on a whim, eventually reaching Millbrook Station having taken a previously unknown shrubbery-lined path parallel to the railway line in Southampton. Millbrook is not an area I know well at all, and I turned up Foundry Lane, which was pretty quiet until I heard the voice of a woman bawling, “get your f****** arse in here now”, so I guess it’s not a much sought after neighbourhood for first-time buyers! I took some fairly random turns, knowing that I would end up in Shirley (ok, ok) and take a walk in the general direction of home. Having coffeed (is that actually a verb?) after an hour, the one-stop strategy meant five hours afterwards, with only a brief break to get sustenance about halfway through that. Note that my 100km walk in September has seven stops, not including the finish!

So, ticking over, no not quite 15, but 20.5 miles. It so often happens that I walk far more than I originally planned. I must just love it, but I won’t be walking more than the requisite 100km in September, that’s for sure.