The long walk
I have signed up to run a stupidly long race in September. I’m keeping quiet about what it is because it’s a long way off and I have a billion miles of training and a persistent shin problem to get over first, but I need to tell you about it in order to explain the day out I’ve just had.
My running buddy and I decided to try out a long walk as part of our training. He’s out of action with a knee injury and I’ve got shin splints (good start all round), so it seemed like a good idea to do some walking instead of running.
We got a train to a part of Surrey that looked like it should be leafy and headed south without much of a plan, intending to keep going as long as the daylight lasted. Like ill-equipped Londoners on a weekend in the countryside, we were armed only with Google Maps on an iPhone and some homemade cookies.
We walked through Surrey and in to East Sussex on minor roads and some trails. The weather was mostly inoffensive and the scenery was pleasantly green and undulating.
It provided a valuable lesson in the things that become important when you’re out for a long time – a nagging calf (leg not animal), a lightly rubbing shoe, wearing too many clothes, not having anything savoury to eat, poor battery life etc.
Most of all it was an essential lesson in perspective. We walked 18.5 miles in five and a half hours, but we are going to be out for considerably longer than that and running much further on race day. I think I’d lost sight of that. I’ve been chipping away at a training plan and going to a coach and doing all the things I should do, but I needed a reminder of the enormity of what we’ve signed up to.
There was a lot of leg and foot ache at the end. I’ve actually never walked that far before. In fact, I rarely walk anywhere because I run or cycle. Towards the end, we started running and found that all the pain and stiffness eased, I suppose because we were using different muscles.
Whether you’re in training for something or not, it’s a nice day out, even at this time of year. Just get a train to somewhere, walk to another station a few miles away and get a train back from there. Stop at some pubs (we didn’t because we didn’t plan well enough to get to them when they were open), take a picnic (ideally not just cookies), and enjoy some scenery and a good chat.