Most of my long walks take place in late April / early May. There are good reasons for that, not least that this is the best time of the year for ‘good’ weather. Good weather for walking that is. It’s typically the driest period of the year and generally not too hot.
The other reason is that it’s far enough from Christmas for me to get fit for the challenge of doing consecutive long walks. From about October onwards my weekend walking mileage tends to drop off. The weather is often poor, the ground wetter and muddier and the daylight hours dwindle rapidly. As a result my fitness drops off rapidly and over Christmas I tend to pile the weight on, which has an added impact on fitness and the sort of walks I can comfortably achieve in a day.
January 2nd sees the start of my annual fitness drive. I tend to cut back on the food intake, I start to walk more during the week and I push myself harder on the weekend walks. The end of April deadline is normally booked at this point and it’s a compelling factor to achieve the needed fitness. If I’m not fit I’m not going to enjoy the walk.
This year, that preparation has gone out of the window. Anyone who reads my Walking Diary will have heard me whinging about my foot, which I injured in early February. This has resulted in a severely restricted fitness regime.
Everything started well. In January, between the 2nd and 23rd there was only one day when I didn’t walk at least five miles! In those 21 days I covered 120 miles, most of them done at my 4mph training pace. I was then ill for a week and a bit with the flu and wasn’t able to do very much other than sit on the sofa feeling rotten.
The first week in February saw me back on the path though, averaging more than five miles a day again. Until disaster struck! On February 7th, while on the homeward stretch of a local five mile circuit I got a really bad pain in my foot and ended up hobbling the final mile back home. I found out a week later that I’d damaged a tendon and was advised not to walk on it for about two months – or until it feels better.
That was almost two months ago. Since then I’ve done no walking other than what is absolutely necessary to do my job and basic daily activities. I’ve been testing it occasionally with a walk to the post box and each time it’s felt slightly better.
In lieu of the walking, I began doing some static strength exercises, which were incredibly difficult to begin with, but as time has progressed I can feel they are doing some good. I can hold the positions described in the book for a little longer and this is going to help towards my leg strength and hill fitness – I hope!
This left me with a dilemma. On the one hand, do I use the remaining weeks before the walk to train properly and risk aggravating the injury – resulting in me having to cancel the walk. Or do I not train, give the foot another four weeks of rest and then not be fit at all for the walk, at which point I could also find that the foot isn’t up to the walk anyway and I have to abandon the walk after starting.
In fairness, the choice isn’t really all that difficult. I can’t turn up to Portpatrick in four weeks’ time without having tested the foot to see if it’s up to the rigours of long days and many miles, but I can’t shift the nagging doubt that if I test it too much it will fail me and I’ll be back to square one, with another two or possibly three months of walking lost.
The thought of postponing the walk never even occurred to me until my wife voiced the option the other day. I could, in theory, delay walking until later in the year. I wouldn’t lose much in the way of deposits – I’ve only paid out about £90 in B&B deposits and I would probably recover some of that if I gave enough notice. But the thought of not walking is not really something I want to consider. The Southern Upland Way is a walk for early summer or autumn, either before the midge or after the midge.
So the decision has been made; to use the remaining weeks until the walk starts to build up the training miles slowly. I will be starting on Wednesday 27th March (today as I write this – and the snow is falling in huge flakes). I’ve decided to walk a 1/2 mile loop around our house for as many circuits as I feel the foot can take. I will perhaps try and do 2 miles. I then have the Bank Holiday weekend to build up the mileage if the foot feels good enough.
The Easter weekend is make or break really. If the foot stands up to the test then the walk is on and I can concentrate on getting some miles under my belt. If it doesn’t pass the test then the walk is off! At least for this season.