I’m not one normally for watching Comic Relief, Children in Need or Sport Relief for hours on end, and this Friday was no different. However, there are two events that have really caught my attention. Both are fantastic achievements in their own way, of human beings pushing themselves to their own absolute limits. Eddie Izzard – 27 marathons in 27 days in South Africa, including two on the final day, which is today (Sunday), to mark the 27 years that Nelson Mandela spent in prison. All these seemingly in temperatures in the late twenties / early thirties Centigrade. Earlier, (a 58 year old mordidly obese) Jo Brand had walked from Hull to Liverpool in seven days, remarkable given that in September she could barely walk up what looked only a short hill with moderate incline. She has shown what so many people (I hesitate to say anyone) could do with determination and will-power.
As someone commented to me a week or two back, when the subject came up, they are both well funded, have support teams and have all arrangements made for them, but that is somewhat beside the point. They have both achieved more than they must have thought they could. I dipped into my pocket and donated, but that was a mere token of my admiration compared to how much praise is deserved. Around 20 years ago, I was compared to Eddie Izzard by one of my students, presumably because of a rather dry delivery of a pun, rather than painted fingernails, and I have to admit that I wasn’t really a great fan of his at the time. Now looking back, to be mentioned in the same breath as Eddie is something to be proud of.
News that the London2Brighton Challenge has a new option of walking the 100km in two days, with camping in the intervening night, left me in two minds. Great that it might encourage more people to participate but, on the whole, it waters down the challenge considerably. Two 30 mile walks, effectively, with the chance of a shower, good sleep, change of clothes and all-in-all, a refresh. To me, that makes it so much less of a challenge – I would easily have completed the Isle of Wight Challenge if I had taken such an option. Part of the whole challenge is the psychological element of walking through the night, which leaves you disorientated and it is massively more a physical feat to complete. So I will not be taking up that option and has made me even more determined to complete the challenge in the way that it was formulated.
In the light of all of that, I can’t remember ever being more focussed and full of motivation on Saturday morning. There is very little that will get me out of bed at 8am at a weekend, but I had the bit between my teeth from the start. Pammy could sense this and warned me not to overdo it, and it is a fine balance between pushing yourself and overdoing it. I felt I had that balance just right today. It was a trifle concerning to see that my boots have some wear on the heels, and these must be replaced as soon as is reasonable. My Week of Pain will have to be tempered to a degree to a goal of wearing in new boots but that was not going to stop me today.
I was out of the house at 9:23am (I always log the exact time in my head) and within just over three hours I was in Cosham, 11 miles down the road, for a coffee stop. I still felt full of fire and, in fact, that half hour was my only stop of the day, apart from at a couple of shops to get refreshment, and a chance meeting late on with Linda Hart / Lloyd near Fareham. From Cosham, I traversed south onto Portsea Island and took a deliberately slightly longer than optimal route past Fratton Park, before turning west and then north. In the last few miles, as it started to darken, there were some twinges from my Achilles, bringing back memories of previous long walks, but I was not to be deterred, even managing two more smallish detours to reach home after 10 hours. It was the furthest that I have ever walked on one day, apart from the aborted Isle of Wight Challenge, a total of just under 31 miles.
Yes, I did ache and I was not moving around as freely as I would have liked during the rest of the evening. But today, the morning after, I feel great. Yes, a bit stiff in places and I have a niggling hip flexor that is undoubtedly caused by the wear on the left boot and consequent lack of support. However, I have no doubt that, if I had sufficient light in the day and appropriate boots, I could walk quite a few miles today – probably not 30, but certainly 15 to 20 could be achieved. If I was having the week off work, 30 might just be possible. It has been a real boost to confidence, just three weeks after I was so despairing at having so little strength on that Sunday walk.
So next task is new boots (sounds like a job for Good Friday) and then wearing them in. These boots have been good to me and they will go to a good home in our garden, as flower pots! Suspect the first couple of days of the Week of Pain will be shorter than advertised. I can’t aspire to the same as Eddie Izzard, but I am thinking of his achievement and its ultimate fulfillment today. Puts anything that I have ever achieved or will achieve firmly in the shade.