Saturday, 24 August 2013

Training Walk Two - London to Reigate with an awful hangover

Training walk number two was a lot less fun than the first. Three weeks had passed since the Derwent Valley but I had not even touched my rucksack to unpack, let alone put it on my shoulders.

I had planned to go and see some friends down in Reigate on July 21st and after doing some research I discovered that the distance on foot from Clapham Junction to their house was 19 miles – so it made for a perfect opportunity. Of course, that was before my best laid plans got somewhat sabotaged.

On the Saturday I had agreed to meet an old school friend. We only see each other a few times a year and generally it’s quite civilised; dinner and drinks, that sort of thing. Meeting him at 2pm however, when there was a Test Match going on and a beautifully sunny day outside meant things were only going one way.

By 9pm we had been joined by two other friends, including Jules who now had a free weekend as he no longer needed to train for the hike and his wife had made other plans. The BBQ was in full swing and the ales were flowing. Two hours later and we were in the Grand Union on Brixton Road, and by 3am we’d piled back to mine with a load more booze and some rather hideous looking energy drinks that my flatmate later observed would probably kill him.

At some time between 3-4am I set my alarm and proceeded to write out the directions for the following day in a totally illegible scrawl. I had also failed to pick up any provisions so was grateful that my flatmate had a couple of trek bars lying around.

I roused the people in my living room from their jaeger-fuelled comas and kicked them out before slinging on my pack – without any breakfast - and embarking on my walk just after 8am. My reasoning for doing the walk after such blatantly terrible preparation was that there will surely be days in September when I will not want to get up and get moving because I’ll feel awful, but I will have to. This was the closest I could get to simulating that feeling.

You notice strange things on a Sunday morning when passing through parts of London - the amount of sick on the street being one of them. Needless to say this did not particularly help my all too fragile state. I was also reminded how horrible certain parts of Wimbledon are; the area around the dog track for example, is truly hideous. From there it was onto Sutton, a place I’d only previously heard being announced on train platforms, and eventually I would join the A217, which I think may be the longest road in the world.

Emily, who I was on my way to visit, texted me at about 10:30am asking me if I’d given in to the call of McDonalds yet…I had not, and reminding me that to get on a bus would be cheating. Meanwhile, after discovering what I was up to, my friend Hillsy sent me the following message:

“There is no diagnosis for that sort of behaviour. Your initials are WTF from now on. Sensational Sunday for you will involve sun stroke, exhaustion, dehydration, blisters, scrott rot, heat rash, scurvy, chapped lips, disorientation and potential death. But the sun will be on your face, the wind on your back and you will be a legend. Walk on my friend, walk on.”

I read that as I sat on a bench outside a cattery (inside the only noise I could hear was that of a singular barking dog…which I didn’t think boded too well for the cats) eating a now crumpled chicken sandwich that was doubling up as breakfast and lunch. I wasn’t sure to be inspired or to give up.

Despite a wrong turn somewhere on the North Downs Way which led me in a full circle back to where I started, adding at least another mile to my journey and having the more significant impact of pissing me off no end, I made it to Reigate shortly before 3pm and was rewarded with what appeared to be an engaging smile from a seriously attractive young lady as she drove passed. Of course, I imagine it was more like a screech of horror given the total state I was in – something Emily kindly pointed out to me when I arrived at her door.

I had managed around 20 miles in a fraction less than seven hours. I was pale, my feet hurt like hell and I had weird spots of heat rash above both ankles. I had a cold shower and then realised that there were quite a lot of people at the house all keen for several Sunday beers and yet another BBQ. Of course, it would be rude to say no.

I actually felt fine the next day, which was a bit of a shock. My feet were still sore and I knew I was going to have to do something about my footwear, but other that that I was in fairly optimistic mood. The next challenge was an overnight hike to try and best replicate the first two days of the journey itself. That was two weeks away and before then I needed to order an awful lot of kit.

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