Winter Walking

Though we are technically in the Autumnal season, the temperature has dropped so significantly in the last few days you cannot help but think it’s already Winter.

And with the Winter months comes the planning. The planning for the New Year, the new training plan and the new adventures.

This time last year I was planning the winter months training for the London Marathon. And whilst I am extremely satisfied that I ticked one of the greatest races in the world off my bucket list, I am equally glad that I will not be spending months upon months over the Winter waking up at 6am to run.

Instead I will be taking my training in a different direction. I will be walking my way through the Winter in preparation for the Isle of Wight Challenge. 65.8 miles around the coast of the Island, hopefully in under 24 hours.

Lately I have been talking to a few friends. Friends who have completed challenges run by the same company, Action Challenge, and those who have completed marathons. The one common comment made by all was “just because you can run, don’t assume you can walk.”

This comment has thrown me somewhat.

I always thought running a marathon would be far more difficult than walking. Your heart rate and exertion is higher after all. Right?

I believe that I am going to prove myself wrong over the next few months. Because not only am I going to have to deal with walking long distances, for hours and hours, I am also going to have to deal with sleep deprivation and cold temperatures; whilst dealing with anything that Mother Nature decides she will throw at me throughout my challenge.

However with several 24 hour challenges under my belt, thanks to Mission 24 two years running, I know that I have the mind power to get me through the small, dark hours.

What I need to do in the lead up is just rack up the miles.

So with that in mind I have been thinking about the routes I could complete and the miles I could cover. The training plan issued to me by my chosen charity partner, Mind, is no where near as extreme as the one I received for the London Marathon. The Marathon plan showed many days running; running short distances and long ones. At this stage I cannot remember how many hours I spent running. And I did very little else. A little spinning, a little yoga here or there. But mainly -running!

This plan has the longest walk in the lead up as 10 hours long. And for some reason I find this less daunting than the longest run I had scheduled for the Marathon, at 20 miles.

Luckily, as I live in the Home Counties, on the Herts- Essex border, there are plenty of routes I can look at over the next few months; not only to change things up so I don’t get bored but also to ensure that I cover the required milage.

The Lea Valley – One of the flattest routes I took to train for the London Marathon. It was flat, it was picturesque – it is perfect to cover the miles I need for my longest walk in preparation. Starting from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park I will make my walk along the river path up the River Lea – passing through Hackney, Walthamstow, Cheshunt, Broxbourne, Harlow and finishing at Bishops Stortford – around 30 plus miles.

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Epping Forest – a walk I tested today and did not enjoy. Following what was a “bike” trail to being with, I lost my trainer in a swamp of leaves. Plus it was pouring down with rain, so I got back to the car cold, wet, shivering and muddy. I am determined that the forest will be a cornerstone of my training in the upcoming months. If I plan it right and scope it out enough I could easily cover 8-10 miles each time.

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Shorter Walks will be key, just like the 3-4 milers when training for the London Marathon. They will keep me ticking over. And lately I have discovered more around my area than I ever have before. I like the off road routes – so the likes of Broxbourne Woods close to home will be a definite player in the short walk routes.

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Old childhood stomping grounds in North London will also be key. Family and friends still live there so why would I not incorporate shorter routes with friends into the training mix?

The likes of Hampstead Heath offers miles of wild wondering, with plenty of hills. To this day I still get lost on the heath. Yet every time I visit I still feel the joy of a first time visitor.

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Aldenham Country Park offers a short route – which you could easily lap in your visit. A country park that is a stones throw from the area I was raised offers a little day out for the family, or an opportunity for someone like myself to train – lapping here will rack up the miles around the lake.

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Whatever happens over the next few months I know one thing – the routes need to be long and the routes need to be those that offer pleasing scenery.

I will not be able to cover boring paved streets; I need country parks, I need rivers and I need countryside. If I am gong to cover 65 point something miles – I need to be pleased by the views.

So whatever I plan over the next few months I need to take this into consideration. I need to feel appeased. I need to ensure that whatever route I plan, it involves a route that offers me something to look at, that stimulates my mind and offers me mileage to challenge me physically.

It is a challenge I said I would never do, but a challenge that will come from the heart. A challenge that raises money for Mind. A charity that has become so meaningful and so dear to all my family.

There may be times when I don’t believe I will complete. But I know that i will. Finishing is the only option. And I hope, just like the London Marathon, he will be there to cheer me on. It won’t be in person – but I will hear his voice, I will feel his warmth and I will make every step count – for him!

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