Some deep thoughts this week as I pondered how to proceed with this walking part-hobby part-obsession. I thought back to when I started long distance walking at the start of 2012 and when I first got the idea of doing proper challenges. I had this weird idea of walking some long distance, specifically Land’s End to John O’Groats. It’s the sort of thing many must think about for a while, then never get round to doing it.
Except I felt I had to do it. Not just for me, but for my niece Lorraine and her daughter Poppy, who had passed away and been born sleeping. Lorraine received considerable support from SANDS https://www.uk-sands.org/ and once I had the idea to walk for the charity, it was impossible to turn back. Poppy would have been 7 years old this week, and her legacy lives on. Two younger sisters, Emily and Daisy, will in time get to know and understand the full story and the impact that Poppy has had on their lives. I have already felt the full force of her on my own. At a time when I was still struggling with my own mental health issues, she made me realise that this was the best way to fight my own battles, and help others fight theirs.
Going on regular walks helped me build up decent fitness and gave me confidence that I could achieve something special, an achievement no-one could ever take away from me. It was hard work but every time I had the slightest inkling of jacking it all in, I thought of Lorraine and Poppy. Once I started the walk, I often felt in the first couple of weeks that I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I stuck at it. Later, when I was in pain most days, it was even harder but, by that time, I had regular contact with a group of friends from work (the COOF group) and many were commenting on my daily blog – that being this blog, in case you didn’t know (see posts February to April 2014). Many of you will have followed at the time – apologies if I am boring you.
Once I had passed Bath, I knew I could do it, but wasn’t sure that I would. What were the real driving forces were Lorraine and Poppy. Every time I faltered, I thought of them. This blog excerpt from one day in the fourth week summed up how I felt:
I could give up and go home tomorrow if I wanted and the pains would disappear pretty quickly, I would imagine. I guess most people would think I’ve done really well, 371 miles. But many don’t have a choice. Women who have lost children can’t just switch the pain off. I am also at an age where I hear news of former schoolmates who have died, either recently or some time back, others who have cancer, or spouses with cancer, or with children with severe difficulties. I can only think how lucky I am. In the board game of life fairness, I clearly threw a high score and owe something to those who threw a two and a one.
Ultimately, yes, I did make it. Ultimately raised almost £12,000 for SANDS. Ultimately raised the awareness of the support available for women and families for the hundreds of people who either sponsored me or attended one of the fundraising events at the time. Poppy – 7 years old on 13 January. That was all for you. You will never know how important you are.
Today’s walk: 22 miles. Hurts a lot. But I’ll be ok in a day or two.