Where it started

A list going round on Facebook, February 2016: "which of these items have you experienced" etc. Some yes, some no, some didn't interest me. However, it put some ideas into my head, and I figured it was time I followed some of my friends in committing them to (virtual) paper. And then trying some of them out. The first challenge was undertaken on 1 March 2016, and I have no intention of ever completing the list: the more I tick off, the more I'll add.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

An amazing weekend

I'd decided quite a while ago that 'walking a marathon' would be on my list, and blogged about it here more recently (while watching the London Marathon). As such, some increased distances (over my regular 3-4 miles and maximum of around 5-6 miles) were definitely on the cards.

I've been an increasing enthusiast for the work of Karl Whitfield at Mother Nature's Diet for about eighteen months. He's an inspiring, enthusiastic, passionate advocate of healthy living, with an approach that's a superb combination of commonsense, motivation, his own experience, humour, inspiration and integrity. I 'found' him and his group on Facebook back in November 2014, as I was entering the final phase of my weight loss journey and the beginning of my improvement / maintenance / learning curve (you know, that one that lasts for the rest of your life).

Karl provides huge volumes of information, loads of support, advice and encouragement, seminars and webinars, and many more chances for learning and sharing. Among all these possibilities, every so often he arranges a 'walk and talk' day, and this is the first one I've been able to attend. This one was a walk of around 12 miles in wonderful hills, through fields and villages and beside rivers.

At some distance from my home in Norfolk (which, let's face it, most places are), this one was based near his own location in Wiltshire. So I combined the trip with a long-overdue visit to fellow professional organiser Clare, who lives in Oxfordshire, and was delighted when she agreed to join in with the mad weekend - even when it became clear that we'd be spending a night under canvas (this being another item on the life list).

Fourteen of us met by the duck-pond in the picture-postcard village of Biddestone on an improbably glorious May morning. Most were folks I'd met before on previous MND events, a few were new friends, and the 'talking' bit was as delightful as it always is. Here we all are before setting off.

Along the riverside we went, through fields full of buttercups, greeting cows and horses, between rows of nettles (tough on those who were wearing shorts!), over stiles and small bridges. There were also stunning avenues filled with beautiful, pungent wild garlic.

We paused for slower walkers to catch up; Karl obsessively counting every so often to ensure we were all still safely in the group. We stopped for group photographs every so often, including on 'the beach' - a fabulous corner of the stream.

Then, at roughly halfway, we stopped for lunch. We took our boots off to walk in the grass for the last few hundred yards, enjoying the feel of the grass under our bare feet, and sat by the stream (feet in for some of us!) before gathering round with our lunches. Getting going again was a bit of an effort!

After lunch there were more hills than in the earlier parts, including some pretty steep climbs; a particularly narrow path between more nettles (which Clare managed to do a spectacular prat-fall [her words] into, when she took her eyes off the path to look at the view). Most of us took a trip into some caves - fascinating and eerie. And we saw some of the local red kites circling.

Finally, after approximately 5 hours and ten minutes of walking (I paused the Runkeeper app for any major stops for breath or lunch), and a clocked distance of 12.25 miles, we returned to the green at Biddestone. The last couple of miles were quite an effort for all except the fittest of us, and the feet were sore; but the sense of achievement was tremendous - not to mention the camaraderie. We'd all learned, exchanged hugs and support and motivation, made and renewed friendships, and had the most amazing time.

So: I'm well on my way to my target of 'walk a marathon'. This walk was just a little under the distance of a half-marathon; my aim is to do a sponsored 25 km (15 mile) walk across the bridges of London, from Putney to London Bridge, in September; and then incrementally to increase my 'longest distance' so that I'm ready for the full 26+ miles at some point in 2017. Given that my previous longest distance EVER (except that 24 mile sponsored walk when I was just eleven years old) was around six miles, I'm pretty pleased with progress so far!

Thank you to the lovely Karl and all other members of the MND family for such a special day.

Full album here.

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