You’re nearly there! Training for a long-distance walk can be challenging, but here are some tips and advice to help you finish with a smile.
Can you imagine anything better than 24 hours of pure uninterrupted bliss in the great outdoors? Did I mention it would involve walking 100 kilometres? There’s no denying it’s a long way, especially if all done in one go, but don’t knock it before you’ve given it some good consideration.
We all love being outside, appreciating the beauty of the natural world. But what if you want something a little more challenging than a gentle stroll along the Chilterns? Something more like an all day all night trek along Hadrian’s Wall Path or the coast of Cornwall.
Sure there will be some training and preparation involved, and you may find yourself doing something silly like singing Doe, a deer, a female deer to keep yourself awake in the darker hours of the walk, but you don’t have to be superman, or indeed Bear Grylls to conquer a challenge like this.
Sarah Liveing is a 52-year-old mother of three and recently completed her first 100km walk from London to Brighton. A keen adventurer, Liveing tries to walk 50-60 miles a week and has tackled a variety of challenges over the years, including climbing Kilimanjaro, jumping out of an aircraft and cycling from London to Paris. But she didn’t always used to be this fit.
“In January 2005 I weighed 18 stone and was very unhappy with how I looked, how I acted and what I was eating. I’d signed up to do the Breast Cancer MoonWalk in May 2005, and in preparation I began walking and changing the way I was eating. For the first time in my life I was able to get into my head space,” Liveing shares.
As exciting as an event like this can be, it is not to be taken lightly. Acting editor of The Great Outdoors magazine, Daniel Neilson, believes the key is to work on your endurance. You need to build yourself up to a stage where you can walk all day without any problems.
Adam Brockett, senior events manager for the British Heart Foundation’s London to Brighton Trek, says, “It takes months of training to be able to get to the finish, but it’s so worthwhile when they see the sun come up as they reach Brighton.”
It certainly is a worthwhile challenge, and if you’re raising money for charity, even more so. “It’s great to raise money, and I do seriously think that the build up to the event with fundraising is very good for motivating people to train and get fit,” says Neilson.
During training is a good time to trial any new clothing or equipment Neilson says. “You don’t want to be trying anything new out on the day. Tiny problems with gear – even a buckle you find annoying – will be magnified tenfold in an endurance event. Even things like energy gels can have adverse effects when used for the first time.”
One of the biggest challenges on such an event is walking and navigating through the night, so training is essential. Neilson advises taking three or four evenings to walk somewhere familiar in the dark to get used to it.
The battle of the mind is another big challenge and you’ll be surprised at the amount of time you have to think. Try some of Neilson’s tricks to keep your mind occupied. Make up silly lists – like the best ever festival line-up or your own top ten movie names. If you’re alone, don’t be afraid to sing or talk to yourself – it often helps clarify your thoughts, especially if you’re lost. Audio books are another great distraction.
In the dark hours of the night, Liveing too had to find a way of distracting herself. “I started singing Doe, a Deer from The Sound of Music to give me a good pace and I counted 123, 123, 123 to get a good rhythm. My grandfather used this method to keep himself going as he walked from Poland to Paris in 1917, escaping the ravages of the first world war,” she says. “I’ve used it before and it always works.”
While you’re out, don’t forget to take advantage of your beautiful surroundings. Snap some pictures to capture your journey or take a bird, flower or tree book, so you can learn about the countryside you’re walking through.
Finally, when things look hard and your feet ache, remember you’re doing this because you enjoy it. But also be aware it shouldn’t be a route march, it should be a fun, informative and enlightening walk. Neilson tries to make sure he does a little history research before a walk. “The South Downs are absolutely covered in Tumuli – ancient farmsteads and burial grounds up to 3000 years old,” he says. “If that doesn’t make it a little more interesting, I don’t know what would!”