Updated: Aug 11, 2019
"Walk from dusk to dawn," she said. "That's not running..."
Sounds great as an idea until it dawns on me I can get lost walking to the fridge...and that currently, dusk til dawn is approximately 7 hours right now and lengthening....
<<<I hurry off to pack bags for a move to North Norway before realising I can't afford to live there. Stays home, accepts challenge. >>>
"But what if a tree lands on your head?" he asked trying to persuade me not to do this.
"Well, you'll have to start calling me Ms. Woodhead." I replied.
I have been planning this trip all week, with a careful eye on the weather. I know the nights are lengthening, putting pressure to get this done sooner rather than later. Also, there was a fairly sizeable moon this weekend. But granted, it's been a real struggle to get the laundry out in between storms so although Saturday was full of gusts and lightning strikes, the weatherman promised it was going to be a dry, mildly windy night. So Saturday night at the moonlight it was to be.
"But what if you get lost?"
"Then it'll be a very long walk."
"But what if you get eaten by a fox?"
"Then it'll end my ambition to be Little Red Riding Hood."
"But what if you get attacked by an axe murderer?"
"Then if you'd be so kind to do a prison visit, I'd be very grateful."
"That's true. I don't fancy his chances." Still I made a mental note to put garlic and herb cream cheese in my sandwiches.
"What if" has plagued my life. It's the words that some up anxiety for me. That paralysing fear of doing anything, making even the most simple decision, fraught with difficulty. It's the question that has me, and others like me, scuttling back into our comfort zones which, quite frankly, have a tendency to be perennially uncomfortable. The best response I've taught myself to say, and this is with thanks to Susan Jeffers of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, is: "I'll handle it." Which is true: with a life like mine, there's not that many calamities for me to face that I haven't already mastered. Actually, that's not true, but I'm being optimistic. I've got this far despite myself, I might as well carry on.
So on to preparations. I knew that sunset was 21:19 and sunrise was 05:04, thus there was a total of seven hours, fifteen minutes of marching time. I'd also discovered I could walk 18.5 miles in 9 hours because of last weekends' expedition, but that had been rougher terrain. I figured that with rest stops, I'd need to find something approximately six hours' walk away and that was well away from busy roads. Google maps to the rescue had me fixed at Broughton Poggs. Hardly a lovely sounding place, but it was gettable to by B roads. Or rather from.
Next was to pack. I'd forgotten to order a battery pack for my mobile, so I'd have to be very mindful of that, using no more than 10% per hour. Garlic sandwiches & banana bread. One flask full of herbal tea as I'm running out of milk. Two torches plus spare batteries. One coat. Loo roll and spare Tena - a trick I learned when working outdoors years ago, pop one in and then if one has to pee in a hurry, one doesn't have to waste time wiping before urgently hauling up trousers, nor littering the countryside. Finally, it was time to pick my clothing - light, cool and bright in colour would be sensible. Unfortunately, I don't own anything like that. I went for the tightest jeans I could find: my nod to anti-rapism.
Once packed it was time for an afternoon snooze. Why is it that when I've got things to do, I can conk out in an instance, but when I'm scheduling an afternoon nap, insomnia kicks in? I think I managed an hour.
And with that, boots on and a drive over to a friends' house who was to abandon me in Broughton Poggs. Somewhat reluctantly. We arrived with ten minutes til dusk so I finished reading a BBC News story on how a woman has won this years' ultra marathon, having beaten the male-dominated competitors. I noted the advice: "it's imperative that you start at the pace you're going to finish in." I'm doing a seven hours, and not seven days, so I started with a brisk walk anticipating a crawl home in the later stages. This is my usual standard. Professional athlete I am not.
Stop 1: 22:10
I rested under a streetlamp, quick drink and a sandwich. Pleased to report that so far, no one has pulled over, I've not been run over by a drunk driver, no overhead cables have hit me over the head, nor have I succumbed to a fox attack. The most frightening thing that's happened til now was the car alarm sounding just as I was taking a second bite from my sandwich.
Stop 2: 23:04
Discovered as I entered the town, there had been a footpath alongside the road. Of course, I only noticed this after I crossed the road to sit on a park bench...
I have been jaywalking. So: no road accidents, no rain, no lightning, no falling down potholes or sinkholes. No abduction and I haven't been arrested. So far so good. Did get a startle when the streetlights turned off, plunging me into real darkness during my rest.
Stop 3: Midnight
Ate a hunk of banana bread and reviewed my progress. Battery: 73% - good, feet - okay, hips - fine. Was perturbed slightly by this sign:
Thus: No molestation from drunken revellers, no tripping over uneven pavements or curbs, no slipping on dog poo or banana skins. No curb crawlers. No acid rain. No being eaten alive by escaped crocodiles. So far, so even better.
Stop 4: 1:10am
I am officially over half way there - 16kms completed. It is now very, very, very dark as I'm finally away from all towns and villages, traipsing along a very narrow country lane. Thankfully there's no traffic. I'm still on schedule. It has been quite an eventful hour, in fact: one entire car passed me.
Then I stomped up a hill, with the trees interlinking over the road, I clearly frightened a ton of resting birds who immediately shat themselves. Somehow I managed to avoid it all. I am now attuned to the chirping of insects and no longer flinch as the bushes adjacent rustle, sometimes louder than others. It's windy, but it has a cooling effect when I'm away from the trees. My legs are tiring now, not least because it's been getting somewhat hilly. Came across a haunted house...
So: not been shat on, not shat myself. Not fallen over shit. Not been run over. Not encountered a poltergeist. All very good.
Stop 5: 1:50
An unscheduled stop, or rather a sooner than expected stop. Only because I could not walk past the park bench, and with no guarantee of another one at all, my aching legs threw me at it. I pondered whether it would a good idea to ask my doctor for a hip replacement now, and whilst they were doing that two new feet and a knee op would also be quite handy. I consoled myself with banana bread.
Lots and lots of cars pass me by. Almost all of them a taxis. I'm in the middle of nowhere and the drunken revellers are clearly also village dwellers. Sometimes they come back along the road and drive slowly by me but no one stops, and I don't hail them. That's willpower! Most don't dip their lights as they scream by. I worry for my retinas.
So: no abductions. No hit and runs. No broken bones. No falling in a ditch and not being able to get out again. No twisted ankles. No random clowns.
Stop 6: 2:40
Another quick warm beverage as I rested by the railway station. No bloody benches though. Perhaps there might have been if I'd walked down the hill into the station but there was no way I could add in any more strenuous activity. No trains arrived and no trains departed. Interestingly, almost every single house had a light on inside. I reckon the entire village is scared of the dark. Wusses.
So: no contact with a train. No dislocating shoulder waving at passengers. No falling off railings. No serial killers on the loose. Nada.
Stop 7: 3:10
Saw another bench and really couldn't walk past it. Am aware that the soles of my shoes are getting really thin. And I've got several blisters. SatNav has me as 1h, 30 away from my intended destination but I know now I'm not walking at google's prescribed walking pace. I also know much of it is now uphill. Think I might not make it for dawn.
So: No rain. No sleet. No thunder. No lightning. No hail. No chance of getting lost as I'm back in familiar territory. No trees falling over. No being eaten by a marauding rottweiler.
And then I woke up a herd of something. I think deer but as I didn't see them on the other side of the fence line I can't be sure. Twas a heart-pounding moment trying to figure out where the galloping hooves were. And finally, my first contact with a fellow human being: someone, who sounded just lovely, asked me if I was okay. I told him I was. He went on his merry way, only to do a u-turn a short way ahead.
I guess he forgot something. Still, it was now a race been dawn and pace. Everything was hurting and I wanted to get to the finish line before sunrise so I committed to no further breaks. Just a steady, slow march at a snail's pace, with the sky slowly brightening.
Finish line: 05:04. Exactly at dawn. 31 kilometres traipsed and not even abducted by aliens.