Hilly, chilly and windy

Weather forecasters couldn’t quite work out the speed or direction of whatever clouds they might have been able to see and, with the mind set that I didn’t really fancy walking in the rain today, a potential 11am start moved to just before 12:30. The sky was grey but it never felt like rain was on its way while I was walking, but the wicked wind of the west was cackling at me and trying everything to blow me away. At least I knew I would have that wind behind me later but I can’t recall a more difficult trek over the Itchen Bridge, even from the time when I was new to long distance walking, with both hands used to hold the earphones in my ears as I fought against what felt like a gale, with walkers coming from the opposite direction struggling to prevent themselves running down the Bridge towards me. Even after I reached the summit, the downhill stretch toward Southampton was still tough.

As predicted, the journey back was easier, even if I took a route that included a few more ups and downs – Athelstan Road is never easy, for instance – and a total distance of 15.5 miles or thereabouts was sufficient for a 5:30 finish. I never felt too bothered by what turned into a chilly afternoon and maintained a steady to workmanlike pace most of the time. The blister I developed last week near the big toe on the right foot had healed but remains a bit tender if not particularly burdensome.

Starting to look a bit more earnestly toward early May and the 106 km / 66 miles walking around the Isle of Wight, more than four times the distance walked today). It is a walk over 2nd and 3rd May but I expect to do it in about 20-28 hours. A start at around 10am on the Saturday is fine and so a finish on Sunday morning should give plenty of recovery time over the rest of the Bank Holiday weekend. I will have to sort out Friday night accommodation soon before it all gets booked up (there is a camp site but I don’t really fancy that on a night before the longest distance I will probably ever cover in a day). If any of my friends would like to do this event with me, I would absolutely love it but, if not, then there are about 1,500 people likely to be participating (some walking, some running) and these sorts of times see a real spirit among and between entrants, friendships made for life – if that doesn’t sound too cheesy. http://www.isleofwightchallenge.com/

I have, however, seen a social media backlash (perhaps too strong a word) against some of these events in that entrants are forced to raise a minimum sponsorship, and in this specific case it is £475. Half of that has to be raised by six weeks prior to the event, otherwise the organisers can revoke your entry. Many feel awkward at having to ask repeatedly for donations, having previously asked for and received them for events before. Certainly it was a more than magnificent response last year for my last walk – and I won’t be doing another event with mandatory sponsorship in the foreseeable future after this one. But if you just have a few pounds to spare, I would be really grateful. SANDS would be even more grateful. https://www.justgiving.com/Keith-Spicer2 – and for details about the fantastic work that SANDS do please see https://www.uk-sands.org/. Profits from the sales of my calendars will all go into the pot – and there are still a few available.

So with darkness falling slightly earlier as each day passes, the distances will need to rack up. A train to Christchurch and a 32 mile walk back home is very much in my plans, but not at least until late February. I must be bonkers.

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