Ok, so I wasn’t technically a shirker – I was someone who threw myself into all sorts of challenges – but I definitely wasn’t a walker in any sense of the word. But now, walking plays a massive and important part in my life. How on earth did that happen?
It was the beginning of 2017. I was in a rather unhappy place in my life, dominated by a failing relationship. I needed a distraction, a charity challenge to focus on. I started at ‘I could go and climb Kilimanjaro’. Realised that was quite tough (and you have to do fresh air poos). I scaled it back to the UK Three Peaks. Realised that was also quite tough for someone who had never climbed a mountain, and involved more hours in cars than it did outside. Then, I stumbled across the Lake District 4 Peaks challenge – the four highest peaks in the Lakes in one weekend. This was the one.
After roping in my best friend to do it with me, we embarked on some training…i.e. walking. We walked, we chatted, I cried occasionally. It was cathartic. I started talking about my relationship. I made some big life decisions…this felt like THERAPY! It was getting me fit both physically and mentally. Someone mentioned to me something called the #walk1000miles challenge. A free challenge to set yourself a target of walking 1000 miles in a year run by Country Walking magazine. I signed up.
Five months later and our Lake District challenge was upon us. It was tough but amazing. I realised that a couple of jaunts up Box Hill in Surrey hadn’t really adequately prepared me for 4 mountains in 48 hours. But we did it. And I was hooked! It was in the Lakes that I met Emily and tentatively asked her if she wanted to meet for some more walks when we were back in London. The answer was yes, and it was the birth of our South London walking adventures.
I was quite vocal about my walking on social media. I documented my progress on my 1000 mile challenge. I photographed the amazing places we were walking and the beautiful scenery we were experiencing. And then people I knew from various parts of my life started coming along – Lucy from choir, people from work, even failed Internet dates! It was fun, it was interesting, and we bonded as a group – it is amazing how well you get to know people when you walk with them for 6 hours at a time. I loved exploring and planning routes and new places to go. It became our regular weekend activity and started permeating into my life in other ways. Commute on the tube? No thanks, I’ll walk the 6 miles home. I also started meeting up with some other people on the Walk1000 miles challenge. We went for walking weekends away. I made lots of new friends.
Fast forward to today and many many miles and several walking holidays later, I am a completely different person to the one who took my first steps with trepidation in 2017. I met my partner through walk1000miles, I moved to Norfolk last year to be with him. I work from home but now have a dog to accompany me on my miles. I walk nearly every day and miss it if I can’t for any reason. I miss my South London walking buddies but they’ve been to visit (and walk) in Norfolk and we are going away together (to walk) in April. I own gaiters and poles and a variety of different footwear for different terrain. I am a WALKER! And I love it!