Hardcore Hiking…

spires-smallerOn paper, the conditions were ideal. At least they would have been, if the farmers of Lincolnshire hadn’t all conspired together, to plough all their fields at the same time the weeks before the event.Then there was the weather. Did I mention the weather? Five hours of non-stop heavy rain, while the competitors slipped, and stumbled their way through those muddy fields.

So the question remains: Why would literally so many people gather together for so much collective discomfort over a 26, or 13 mile course? One of the organisers, Donna Sutton said, “It was our biggest turnout in the last five years.”  Was it for charity? Well, there are far easier ways to give money, one of which was being simply to click on your banks website. Was it down then to simply one’s desire to improve on one’s personal best. The conditions were hardly conducive to anyone being rewarded with their best ever marathon time. So what was this mysterious force that drew so many people together? Surely, it has to come down to the overwhelming sense of achievement that results from undertaking such a task. The fact that the conditions were so difficult, that just made the sense of achievement even greater.

Spires and Steeples Heritage Trail

Now, in its 9th year, the name of the event comes from the rural sport of Steeplechasing. The course itself runs from Lincoln to Sleaford over a 26 mile course, taking in the villages of Washingborough, Heighington, Branston, Potter, Hanworth,  Nocton, Dunstan, Metheringham, Scopwick,  Digby, Dorrington and Ruskington. Money raised from the event went to the charity Wheel power.

King Arthur’s Old Stamping Ground?

To be honest, the Camelot half Marathon-being only 13 miles long, wasn’t really too much of a challenge, especially since I spent the first part of the week walking along an extremely torturous section of the SWCP between Dartmouth and Torquay.  This was easy in comparison. Nevertheless, apart from a few fraught moments when the maddest looking husky I’ve ever seen in my life turned up at the start-actually frothing at the mouth mad, and who in turn set off just about every other dog there, it was great fun taking part-once everyone had settled down, and the views were amazing!

Held annually in Sherborne, the walk itself is circular in design (which saves on the logistics of trying to bus all the competitors back to the start), and consisted of several hills, the most prominent being Cadbury Castle-which is one of the reputed sites of King Arthur’s Camelot, from which comes the name of the challenge.

On the day of the event, the sun dazzled, everyone I met was friendly, we were plied with as much cake as we could eat to keep our strength up ( obviously! ), the medal was well designed, and as a collective group we managed to raise over £2,400 for the charity Honeypot. I’m already looking forward to next year.

Pill Boxes

Often while walking alongside the Thames you come across many of these Second World War built concrete guard posts-popularly known as Pill Boxes, but yesterday between Lechlade-on-Thames and Radcot, they literally seemed to be everywhere. I think I came across about 7 or even 8 just in that short 8 mile stretch.

The narrow slots in the concrete are of course gun slots through which to fire weapons. Thinking, however, about their supposed role in the second World war, it was so Dad’s Army it was untrue. They were supposed to be manned by the Home Guard, who for the most part were too old to fight, and which as everyone knows didn’t actually have enough guns in the first place to even train with, ( My Great Granddad served in the home guard and would typically use a broom to mimic a gun ), so the prospect of actually placing a gun inside each of these concrete bunkers was never going to happen.  Still they stand today silhouetted magnificently against the skyline as a silent tribute to a different time.

 

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Days that make a difference

I’ve been wanting to complete a marathon for quite some time, but it had to be the right one, so after about a year of exploring different options, I finally signed up to the Cotswold Way Mighty Hike, containing a section of the National Trail starting from Wotton-under-Edge in Gloucestershire where the route then followed the Cotswold Way escarpment before finally descending to the World Heritage Site of Bath and finishing in front of Bath’s famous Royal Crescent 26 miles later.

I had spent the previous 3 months diligently training for the event, culminating in a least two 23 mile training sessions on the final week, and was quietly confident of being successful when I arrived at the starting location on a cold, misty morning just before 7am for registration to commence. Being one of the first people to arrive I was given a yellow wristband which placed me in the first pen. After a brief warm up session involving a laughably bad attempt from me at Zumba, there was a countdown, before the ribbon holding us into the pen was pulled free and finally on Saturday 23rd July at about 8am I started out on my first ever marathon.

It was a really well organised event, with volunteers from both Action challenge and Macmillan themselves marshalling and accompanying us on the walk itself.

Despite, a worrying episode towards the end, where I was having dizzy spells, and had to sit down for nearly 40 minutes just after the 25th mile, to rehydrate and get some rest, I finished 182nd out of 376 finishers (At least 50 dropped out during the event ) with a time of 10 hrs 43 minutes and 55 seconds, while at the same time, managed to raise a total of £332.50 for Macmillan Cancer Support

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Hadrian’s Wall

Something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while was to walk the whole country widthways. The place to do it, apparently, is along the Hadrian’s Wall Path, which stretches a mere 84 miles across the country and which crucially, runs close to it being at its most narrow point.

Last week, taking a full 6 days, me and a friend walked from Wallsend on the East Coast, all the way to the West Coast of Bowness-On-Solway.  Apart from the monsoon in Newcastle on the Monday, my car breaking down repeatedly, and the severe leg cramps that followed, great fun!

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