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London to Brighton Trek – 500 Miles

Yes. The big(gish) day had arrived. The 50Km training walk – putting to the test all of our equipment, learning, camaraderie and fitness. It would be a good opportunity to explore the team dynamic, including relative walking paces.

500 Miles

When I woke up (when I woke up),

Well I knew I was gonna be

I was gonna be the man who wakes up with a hangover (yeah I know)

When I went out (when I went out)

Well I knew I was gonna be

I was gonna be the man who walks in the rain next to you…

And so it goes.

 

Stream with bluebells

A 06:30 alarm call was uncomfortably early for a Sunday, the weather was a mizzly (miserable drizzle) and my head was far from clear. BBQing the day before had called for Staropramen and I’d embraced the Aussie spirit of al fresco cooking in the summer sunshine.

At 8am Andy and I met at Bramley Business Centre on the old Guildford to Horsham railway line with the plan to walk from there to Christ’s Hospital, and back again – a distance of about 23Km each way.

The Gallop

After a brief pause while we (fruitlessly) waited for DC to swing into the car park, we set off onto the path at something akin to a canter. As we sped-walked, it was clear to me that Andy had upped his walking game, or I was lethargic. Either way, we ate up the miles to Cranleigh, before settling into a more realistic pace.

The choice of route was mixed blessing – being heavily sheltered by the trees to the side and above. It was great, as it kept the worst of the rain at bay, but it meant that we were walking for hour after hour along a narrow, usually straight green tunnel. Occasional glimpses of the fields beyond the path showed horizontal rain.

We maintained a steady pace, and were routine with our intake of food and drink, maintaining a good rhythm of eating and drinking every 30 minutes or so. This was a good learning from previous walks.

At the 24Km mark, we reached Christ’s Hospital and took stock of our feet. It wasn’t terrible news, but it wasn’t great either. We were both sporting the starts of blisters, so tended these. A learning point here is to stop when the first sign of discomfort appears – not to wait.

We ate lunch, and set-off for home. As we reached the 30Km and 5 hour mark – a record for Andy and just short of mine – we celebrated our achievement. It then occurred to us that in a couple of weeks, on the BIG day, at this point we’ll have another 73Km and 19 hours to go. We banished that thought to the naughty-step and hunkered down against the rain.

Hysteria

Andy experimented with ProPlus at the 35Km mark, while I chugged a Coke and then a double-espresso in a can. Shortly after this, a kind of euphoria set in, most of which for me centred around my now comically swollen hands, and feet that felt like they were club feet. I felt like Professor Klump, with bits of me unhelpfully expanding as they saw fit. I tucked my thumbs into my rucksack chest strap, and did a passable impersonation of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

From the 46Km mark, it became a matter of gritted determination, powered by Spotify and my Cardio playlist. Whatever happened, I was finishing the walk with the distance beginning with a “5”.

A total walk of 50.2Km in 8 hours and 8 minutes, which has a nice ring to it.

Lots of learnings. A big pat on the back for maintaining nutrition until the 40Km mark. A stern word to myself for letting this go from 40Km onwards. A definite need for at least 2 spare iPhone batteries…

With the walk fast approaching, it was time for a final planning session to thrash out the last details.