The loneliness of the long distance walker

New Year’s resolutions are at the forefront of many minds and many will already have been broken. I remember well two years ago, in the height of training, going out on 1st January and walking a decent distance in patchy rain and seeing two runners. On the 2nd, a dry day, I must have seen one hundred. I suspect that, if those two I saw on New Year’s Day were acting out New Year resolutions, they were the ones more determined and were much more likely to see them through, and not for them to be put off by a bit of rain.

I have no resolutions really, except an achievable one of being lighter at the end of 2016 than at the start, and to complete the London 2 Brighton ultra challenge. What I have noticed this year is a greater number of resolutions and support groups relating to well-being. For instance, there is a new meditation group at work, to which I have been invited. I also saw an excellent and very moving programme on the BBC on loneliness and its (somewhat circular) links with depression, and made one wonder if there is really more that one could do to help others in obvious need.

I am not going to attend the meditation classes – it is undoubtedly an excellent idea but it is not really my thing. I am not going to go into my mental condition as it was five or so years back, since I have done so previously on this blog but I do find walking long distances act like meditation. I can drift off for many minutes into my own world and I have occasionally arrived home struggling to remember the precise route I have taken. On the BBC programme, I know that loneliness is a dreadful thing, not that I can claim to have suffered much ever – only during parts of my long walk did I feel lonely, but walking was my therapy. However, I still am not sure I could have completed it without my daily phone call to Pammy and writing the blog was a tremendous source of help, with the resultant comments and likes. It sounded a cliché at the time, and perhaps still does, that “your comments are keeping me going”, and a 20 minute call to a work meeting once a week (where we did anything but talk about work) gave a real sense of people getting interested and involved in my challenge, and I hope they felt that they were helping me achieve my goal, because they certainly were. I felt I wasn’t alone, in spirit at least.

So after LEJOG, I am keeping going, almost two years on from that really exciting part of my life. It gives me a sense of worth and fitness, with one challenge per year feeling like the right amount of challenge! I have once or twice reflected that maybe my future is behind me, due to starting off with a challenge that I will almost certainly never exceed. It can thus be harder to get motivated for the day-night challenges. So it is more with a sense of panic and forboding that I get to a decent level of fitness near to the time. Before I can think about being able to conquer L2B, as those in the know are apt to call it, I need to have done a 30-mile day, which will be some time in April, perhaps coinciding with another “week of pain” when I go walking 6 or 7 times in a week.

I have started making plans in any case for L2B and have a very rough idea of the route. I am already looking at accommodation on the Friday night (27 May) in Richmond before it all gets booked up by other participants. Anyway, there are three rest stops where meals are available, with other intervening points (termed “midpoints”) where there are snacks and drinks available.

Start at Richmond, Old Deer Park by the River Thames

12.5km midpoint

24km Rest stop at Sutton, Oaks Park

40.5km midpoint

56km Rest stop at Tully’s Farm, Turners Hill

67.5km midpoint

80km Rest stop at Wivelsfield, near Haywards Heath

88km and 94 midpoints

100km Finish at Brighton Racecourse, Brighton.

Sounds easy if you say it quickly but this will be tough. I cannot think it will be worse than last year’s Wight Challenge, with the predominantly coastal route battered by wind and rain from the middle of the evening. I would imagine that, once again, it will be possible to track progress over the event’s website, but details will be clearer nearer the time.

So a training walk tomorrow, Sunday. Forecast is mainly dry but some showers so the waterproof jacket will get another runout. Looking forward to it.


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