Monday, 18 May 2015

London to Brighton

“That might be nice”, said Mrs A. “Find a nice little B&B up on the South Downs for an overnight stop”. It did indeed sound appealing. Tough going, but over a couple of days, probably achievable.

Bryn had e-mail me a link to a British Heart Foundation page about a London to Brighton walk over a Summer weekend. On further investigation, the challenge seemed a tad tougher than Mrs A and I had initially thought.  The idea was to depart from south London on Saturday morning and arrive in Brighton on Sunday afternoon, having walked through the night. The walk was filed under their ‘extreme events’ section: ‘The ultimate walking challenge. Up to 30 hours to walk 100k from London to Brighton’.

It was either trepidation about rambling across Box Hill in the dark with only a head torch to stave off an 80 foot plunge that finally put Mrs A off; or the prospect of me, Bryn, Ad and Ben talking about cricket averages for a day and a half. Either way, she instead decided to volunteer her services as support crew during our marathon adventure. A grand gesture, the full implications of which may not yet have hit home. Neither is it clear whether the dog will be assisting her.

The route is lovely and I’m sure in the more relaxed moments, we’ll be commenting in Hardy-esque tones about some of the finest landscape in southern England. The start is at Kempton racecourse. The irony of a post on Mug Punting about a journey from there to the finish at Brighton racecourse that does not contain any other reference to racing is not lost on me.

The training is going well: first my right knee twinged a bit, then the heel felt sore, now my left knee feels loose. The whole house has a faint smell of embrocation.

Still, I’ve sorted the sock strategy. A new pair every 10 miles is the answer. Keeps the feet fresh, apparently, and is the best prevention against blisters. There are masseurs on the course, too. Fantastic, though anyone who wants to put their fingers anywhere near my feet will require lead lined gloves and a carefully worded life insurance policy.  

All sorts of help is available ‘out there’. Ben has been providing some excellent advice on lubricants, gels and sprays that he found on a website somewhere. I’ll say no more.

I’ve only joined up with the south London members of our foursome once. We hiked from Battersea to Richmond and then through the park to Norbiton and finished with a welcoming plate of sausage and mash.  It was a relief to discover that we all walked at roughly the same pace and had a similar idea about stop/rest strategies. We are all on the same page.

Bryn is Team Leader (the trek was his mad, inspired idea) and has taken on the task of organisation this ramshackle crowd into a lean and hungry team. Walking past the practising boat crews around Putney and Hammersmith, Bryn was keenly eying the coxes with their well-used megaphones. “Step it up Davoski!” he rehearsed through funnelled fingers. Thankfully, the rest of the team were on the same page about this policy too. Brynaldo would be involuntarily breaking wind into a megaphone pretty sharply, should one be produced on the day.

There are some sensible ground rules emerging about language and motivation. Banned phrases include ‘Are we nearly there yet, Dad?’ , ‘I could murder a pint’ and ‘Is there a kebab shop near here?’ No-one is allowed to say ‘Shut the f**k up!’ until at least all the pleasantries about the weather and personal wellbeing have been exhausted.

How do you really train properly for a 100km walk? Even to get close to halfway (let alone two-thirds as you might do for marathon) will take over ten hours. I’m currently working up to that milestone.

Apart from an outing with the rest of the team, Mrs A and I have been joining any handy local sponsored charity walk going. Last Sunday, hiking 18 miles across some of the best bits of Ashridge for the Children’s Society Berkhamsted Walk was a treat. I was tired afterwards, so there is clearly some way to go.

And then this Sunday we tagged onto the Chilterns Dog Rescue Society’s amble through Wendover Woods. This is from where our dog came, so it was a worthwhile cause and all that. However, as Mrs A observed, here we were trouping along tracks Indian file with 40 other dog owners and their muts, regimented by yellow-bibbed volunteers. Suddenly we had become part of a crowd we used to openly mock.

This week I ordered some kit. I feel better about the trek already. Multiple pairs of grippy merino wool socks, a ‘wick-away’ long sleeved base layer (I think that means it’s a t-shirt) and a breathable zipped-top with holes in the cuffs for my thumbs. Oh, and a nice purple 10l backpack that I may lose to any of the girls in the house. Dog included. Sorted. All the gear, no idea…

The last thing to mention is sponsorship. Apart from the sheer personal satisfaction of achieving this monumental undertaking (am I overdoing it?), there is, inevitably, a sponsorship target to achieve. I would be extremely grateful for any contributions to my British Heart Foundation fundraising page. In return, I can offer you/spare you [delete as appropriate] an unexpurgated, candid and blow-by-blow account of the walk itself on 27th/28th June, right here.

You will also be contributing to a fantastically worthy cause. The BHF really do some excellent work. Heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer. It is entirely possible that some of the resources we are aiming to raise money for will be required to carry us over the line. Defibrillators en route, we are hoping.

Thanks for your support.

More soon…


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