Giving up is easy, living with it is hard

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This weekend I did something that I have never done before and to be honest with you and myself when I started out I didn’t believed that I wouldn’t be able to actually do it.

In January this year I went on a walk in Devon. It was hard work. I was ill prepared and after being pushed down a hill by one of my fellow walkers (Lisa S shall remain anonymous) I was covered in mud. At the half way point at about 7-8 miles I had to call it a day and give in to the pain, as my body gave up the ghost. I caught a cab back. Yeah so?

So when the same group of people suggested that we all go walking in the Peak District I was up for it, not sure I could do it but I wanted to enjoy the fun I have with these friends. It’s not just about the walking. Comments like “we have to find a halfway point for Gary” or “if Gary can’t make it he’d always get dinner ready” left me in no doubt what they thought of my walking prowess. Actually I love them more for knowing it was going to be tough on me but still allowing me to join in. Well I’m sure they had a point. Actually I know they did. So I had agreed to go on a walking weekend knowing I may have to sit in the pub by myself for most of the time. I was ready!

It is worth giving you an idea of the qualifications of my fellow walkers.

Peter Gold – a regular ultra-marathon runner and volunteer for Dartmoor Search and Rescue
Sarah Knight – recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro
Lisa Scales – runs 6-10 miles most mornings at 5am and has the energy of a nuclear reactor
Neil Morrison – goes on some serious walking holidays every year and has done for years

………….and then there is me. My usual exercise is the walking down platform 4 at Paddington Station. The walk in Jan was the longest I’d walked as an adult. Get it?

We were staying at The Royal Oak in Hurdlow. This turned out to be an excellent choice in so many ways. The focus of Friday evening was relaxation after a tough week, catch up, have a few laughs as well as plan our route for the Saturday – Peter was supposed to have done it in advance but had only the evening before flown in from the US – and as it turned out to eats load. The portions were enormous.

So Saturday morning comes around and “Oh My God” my head so hurts. I can’t move, let alone get up, let alone go for a walk. I want sleep.

A bacon, egg, sausage butty sorts me out a little. So at 0950 we are ready to go. I won’t go into the panic of the lost car keys – I’ll leave that to someone else!

With the sun out a cool breeze and no clouds in the sky and pack leader Peter out in front, map in hand off we set. Uphill first. I wanted to throw up! One foot in front of another, my head was pounding and I do not like it at all. I thought about giving it 15 mins and then turning back for bed if I hadn’t got any better. Yet within those 15 minutes I couldn’t even remember that I had been feeling bad. What hangover?

I’m sure I heard one of them say “quick run” – we’d only done 200 metres. I hated them for a moment

The first part of the walk was along a very narrow road through some fantastic country. Up one steep hill, (come on, of course I’m going to remember it!!) and then down the other side and up again before turning off into a farm. From here on we walked across farmland, through farm yards, cow pastures, and across countless frikkin styles. It was a good feeling to be overtaking loads of people out for their DoE merit badges. Okay, I know they were kids who’d camped the night before. But I am pretty sure (not 100% however) that they hadn’t consumed as much Magners as we had. So I think the field was level. East dust suckers!

After almost 3 hours of walking we arrive for lunch at Hartington and well-earned refuel. Although with the number of flies we each devoured along the way I’m not sure we were that hungry. A few carbs, maybe? eh?

So after about 45 mins water bottles refilled, off we go again. This was very hard. Just the sitting down for a few minutes I had allowed the stiffness to settle in. Each step was hard sore work, thankfully a slight up-hill climb to work my legs, ankles and hips. All loosened up except my hip-flexors, especially on my right side. This part of the walk was lovely and flat through a valley, along a river. An easy path. A really enjoyable walk.

The only problem with a valley is that you do have to climb out of it. And boy did we? The climb was truly nasty, about 1km, climbing nearly 400 feet over loose stones, a rocky path, where every step was a climb, every foot fall a potential trip and a very painful fall. The way I felt, if I went down I would not be able to get back up. Something was likely to be scraped, snapped and bloodied or even worse; I could have lost my sunnies! They cost me £140

This uphill slog was nasty, very very nasty but with the help of Lisa I got to the top and over the last style of the walk to meet up with the others. Once small climb up a slight bank left and then the last section of the walk.

We stopped for a quick break and started out for the last 2 miles of trek in excellent but tired spirits and got back to the Royal Oak at about 1700.

To recap – we had covered nearly 30km (something over 18 miles) in approx. 6 hours of walking. We all did it. We all felt it.

I had walked further than I had ever walked before. It was not a particularly hard walk; it wasnt a time trial or a mountain, yet it was tough for me. I could’ve given up two or three times along the route, I didn’t want to, I didn’t need to. I wanted to finish, I didnt’ need to but I really wanted to. I would not have been able to do this without Lisa, Neil, Sarah and our excellent route planner and map reader Peter. Each of my friends knew I was struggling, each of them made sure to keep me company and each of them made the walk so much more pleasurable. We kept together as a team, walking the pace of the weakest member of the team. Yet to be fair I don’t think that walking a pace of over 3 miles per hour for 18 miles is too shabby.

I did something and achieved something I’d never done before, but I did it with my friends which made it all the more special.

Now I can’t move!

Seriously it hurts but I’d do it with these folks again. Just not yet!

Thank you all. You are all special.

  1. Well done Gary. A great read.

    A stiff drink and lie down on a hard floor should see you right.

    I think its the 3 Peaks Challenge for you next time sir. Up for it? (*he says ducking to avoid the projectiles flying towards his head*)


    • Thanks Ben

  2. Well done Gary. I wish I was there.

    • Thanks Stephen

  3. I walk not because I want to get from A to B, but because I want to enjoy the journey. That means looking at the view, enjoying the exercise and enjoying the people.

    This isn’t the Hare and the Tortoise.

    This is walking with friends.

    Anyone who doesn’t understand that needs to take a look at themselves. You were amazing dude and I am so proud of what you achieved.


    • Thanks Neil. The walk wasn’t about me achieving anything special, all i did was put one foot in front of the other, same as you and the others and enjoy the company, the fresh air and the countryside. I was rather pleased to have done it all and yes it dawned on me a bit later – actually it hit me quiet hard.

      Wouldn’t have wanted to do it without you guys in the first place. So thinking that way it is basically your fault i hurt so much, right?

  4. Lovely story, as Neil says, it’s all about the journey and you’ve written a lovely story about exactly that. Good work!

    • Thanks Doug. it was great fun

  5. Well done Garry,

    Sounds like a fantastic time! I haven’t walked that far since I was in school and we used to do sponsored walks every year. I remember doing 15 miles and having mad blisters. It was all about the time with friends though – that’s what I remember most 🙂 It would be wonderful to recapture that.

    The pain just proves to you it really happened and forces you to remember what a great day you had. Soak it up.

    Katharine. xx

    • Thanks Katharine – we had a great time, tiring but fun all the same. if you fancy a local walk one weekend just give me a shout 🙂 xx

    • Sarah Knight
    • May 23rd, 2011

    Such an amazing achievement Gary, so happy to share the experience with you – you were nothing short of remarkable. I think most people would have thrown the towel in at the point where we joined the Tissington Trail. Next stop London Marathon?!!
    A great weekend with great friends….I loved every second. xx

    • London Mara – i think not! daft bat! it never once crossed my mind to stop, was having too much fun, well except for THAT hill, but once to the top, it was over and didnt then matter did it?

      Loved the whole weekend, would go walking with you guys any time – down hill next time tho eh? xx

  6. 10 years ago, I would have been one of those little DofE’ers that you marched past! But I also found that I didn’t do DofE for the walking, I did it for the company of my friends that I did it with – sometimes, several hours would just melt away when you were having a chat and suddenly, you were halfway to your campsite! I have repressed all memories of the massive cliffs we climbed and so all I remember now is the fun of it all – well done and hope you nurse your wounds well as I did. I still can’t smell ‘deep heat’ without thinking of the Lake District..

  7. I tired to read this the other day and couldn’t.
    I’m happy i have now.
    Honest to god well done.
    Walking isn’t everyones bag and people look at walkers and think I could do that and you knwo what its not so straight forward.
    I have my 10K walk coming up but as a keen walker anyway should be easy right?
    we shall see

    • Lance Pearson
    • May 26th, 2011

    Hi Gary,
    This is a great story; it goes to show what a group of friends can achieve together and how they pull each other along! I am sure that you were not the only one feeling rough before you set off; the others probably just hid it well.

    My daughter Sarah (12) is one of the best hurdlers in Scottish Athletics and we go to events most weekends. So I know the difference some encouragement, enthusiasm and belief can make to a person!!

    Keep walking and keep writing – The Scottish Highlands (and some nice malts) await you.
    Cheers, Lance

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