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27 miles in up to 31 degree heat – yesterday’s practice trek for Woodlarks.

Tom Winnifrith
Monday 2 July 2018

It is now less than four weeks until myself and Brokerman Dan try to walk from Horse Hill to Woodlarks to raise money for this charity which I have backed for 16 years and which does amazing work as you can see HERE.  Dan is far fitter than I am and sent late night texts on Friday saying that he had  managed a 21 mile walk but was a wreck and needed a lighter rucksack. I know it is hot up in Manchester what with all those fires on the Moors but I think he is kidding me. It is all psychology. My plan was to do 26 miles on Sunday.

I set an alarm for 4.30 AM and hoped to be walking by 5.15. But the bed was jolly comfortable and when I did rouse myself I looked on my computer to approve Sunday articles for ShareProphets. I procrastinated but, looking at the donations page HERE, I was struck by how generous so many folks had been and determined not to let them down I called a cab. At 6.23 AM I started walking on the Bristol Bath Railway walk – along the old line – from its start near Temple Meads in the City Centre.

It was the route I had taken a week earlier with my friend Lucian Miers but with no-one to talk to as a distraction and almost no cyclo-nazis to dodge I made cracking time. By just after eight I had managed seven miles in record speed and despite being on a gradual climb and I was at the (not yet open) cafe where eight days earlier Lucian and I had stopped for a a 10.30 AM break and, in his case, a bacon sarnie and a fag.

My rucksack was heavier than last week, containing my laptop in case I fancied a spot of blogging, some bread and two litres of water. It was time for my first drink. Despite being double socked my left foot had started to rub and that pain grew as I headed on past Bitton where steam trains were running on the private railway, something Joshua would have loved.  I crossed the Avon three times and by 11 AM had reached almost thirteen and a half miles. My foot was hurting and I fear – wrongly as it turned out – that a blister would result. It was – according to my phone 30 degrees and I was my backpack grew steadily lighter as I took on fluids.

I really did think, several times as I headed back from near bath towards Bristol, that I might call the Mrs and get a lift home but I just set myself a target of the next stop to reconsider.  It was hard going and my pace slowed such that I was frequently overtaken by 70 year old joggers and three year olds on cycles. But slowly I retraced my route. The three bridges over the Avon, the start of the steam railway tracks, Bitton, the end of the railway tracks and then Lucian’s cafe.

At that point, still seven miles out I did feel a bit feint. As a diabetic I should have hat my testing kit but did not but just to be sure I bought a sugary snack and a coke and refiled one of my two empty water bottles. Like an idiot I then left that full bottle at the cafe; something I realised only as I finished the coke, five miles away from the line. But the snack gave me a whole new lease of life, the pace picked up and the last few miles were, very gently, downhill.  I raced ahead and despite missing water in the last stretch finished the course in nine hours and thirty one minutes. If I add in 400 yards at the start from where V cars dropped me off at the wrong place, two detours to answer a call of nature and a wander around Bitton station looking at the trains, I managed, near as damn it, 27 miles.

I could have gone on. I am in no doubt that, given another two hours, I could have made it to 32 miles. But there was no need, doing a marathon in this heat was good enough. By the time the taxi dropped me off at home I was stiff as a board and last night I slept like a log. But today? I am fully recovered. I could walk again but shall not as 75 year old coach Brian Basham says I must rest my muscles.  None the less my recovery times are improving as e very week goes by. So my next session is a short mid week walk, six miles on Tuesday, most of it gradient work at the gym.

I cannot help but feel a bit smug. Two weeks ago I struggled badly to do 15 miles. Last week I struggled to do 24. This week 27 was less of a struggle. Slowly but surely I am getting there. But gosh it is painful. The determination is partly one of pride but also not to let down all those folks who have sponsored myself and Dan. We have now raised £9,849.16 ( or £11,740.21 with gift aid) which will make a massive difference to a charity which had an income last year of just £126,000 and does truly amazing work.

If you have sponsored us already we both thank you. If not please would you donate now. Just a tenner from everyone who reads this piece would get us well over our £20,000 target so please take a few minutes and donate now HERE.

PS. Completing this trek and managing type 2 diabetes shows that it can be done and makes me all the more angry when folks like Diane Abbott use the condition as an excuse for their manifest failings.

If you enjoyed reading this article from Tom Winnifrith, why not help us cover our running costs with a donation?
About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
[email protected]
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