Whose idea was it to do 20 walks of 20 miles? Mine.
Who’s only ever walked one 20 mile walk in their life? Me.
Who did 2-mile dog walks as training? Me.
Who struggled every step of the way? Me.
But do you know what? I wouldn’t have changed any of my decisions!
Every step of the 400 miles that I have now completed, reminded me of why I was walking.
I am walking proof that through anything, determination and will power, will conquer.
Some of the walks I enjoyed, some I absolutely hated.
I enjoyed the views, the people I met and chatted to, the alone time (I’m a mum, I really appreciated the alone time!). The comradery amongst walkers really spurred me on. I saw model plane enthusiasts, para gliders, farmers – all happy to say hello to this lone female, with brightly coloured hair, brightly coloured leggings and if raining, a bright purple raincoat.
The rain is something I didn’t enjoy. When I started in March, I decided I was a fair-weather walker and wouldn’t walk in the rain. I missed several good days due to rain forecast – but at the beginning I had the gift of time.
It soon became apparent (after insoles in my shoes for plantar fasciitis) that my body was struggling with the realignment of itself AND walking. It threw my back complaint of degenerative discs out of sync and ended with me in debilitating pain some days. On other days the only way I could cope was to walk! I had injections into my spine, and come August, having completed 10 walks I was raring to go.
And then it was too hot. I was a fair-weather walker – but not stupid. This August has been one of the hottest on record – lovely, but not great for 20-mile walks.
I ended August knowing I had 10 walks to do. 10 weeks to do it – but I only had 8 weeks as other things had been planned. So that meant going for it.
Rain or shine.
The rainy days I’ve walked have seen me walking at some of my lowest points. Walk 1 of the South Downs Way, from Winchester to East Meon saw me walking in sun, rain, and fire. Up the steepest hills and down some slippery slopes. I was wet, and having hyper mobility, my kneecaps felt like they were wandering around my knees causing sharp pangs of pain. My asthma started playing up from smoke from a farmer’s fields. I wasn’t in a good way.
There have been some scary moments, like walking through Spiggy Wood on the Test Way – creepy!! Walking into a “deserted” farm thinking it looked like a perfect crime scene, to then be greeted by 2 white vans pulling up and confirming the dodginess of it all – thankfully I was not alone.
My all-time scariest moment was when I got sucked into my phone to much catching up on posting stories as I finally had reception. I will never forget, thankfully, looking up and realising I was 2 steps away from walking off a cliff. My heart still pounds now thinking of it. Living my childhood by the cliffs – I know the dangers. And there I am, on my phone. All phone usage was limited to stopping and standing still after that point – and I walked as far away from the edge as possible!
I’ve had a few friends walk with me on some of my walks – and these will forever be treasured days, the laughs, the motivation to each other, the injuries, the chats. My daughter joined me for a few of the last miles of the walks and my mother has too – along with collecting me and dropping me off at various places round the country!
For most of the walks, I had really good weather. The glorious sunshine on the ever-changing landscape, has been wonderful. Seeing the seasons change, the hedgerow and trees grow, providing fruit and nuts along my journey. Seeing gorgeous villages, and stunning houses – all whilst listening to music!!
My soundtrack of my walks has grown throughout the year. It started off as lasting about 2 hours – and now it’s up to 6 hours! The more I walked the more I added from new songs, so ones I’d been reminded that I loved. I’ve sung, conducted, marched and danced (only being caught a few times) my way through the English landscape – and now have particular songs that remind me of each walk. Pirates of the Caribbean- Basingstoke Canal, City of Stars – South Downs Way, walk 3, Into the Unknown – Test Way.
I consider myself to be very lucky to have been able to do these walks. Having been diagnosed with a heart condition that I could have died with at any moment, I consider myself very lucky to even be here. Without that series of events that started this journey off, all those years ago, things could be very different.
Having the Somerville Heart Foundation with me from the start of my discovery, on the journey to my recovery, and now a support system that I can fall back on, whenever I need it, has been reassuring and invaluable.
Every step I’ve walked has been in the knowledge that I have been raising money for the continuation of giving support to others, raising awareness, and supporting research.
My 20 walks of 20 miles are complete.