Sunday, 22 September 2013

Lessons from the River

It has been two weeks since I finished my walk along the Thames, and so I wanted to write a final blog just to wrap up the whole thing.

As always coming back to work and the normal London life makes any break from the daily grind seem a lifetime ago all too quickly. There are still reminders though. My body is almost back to normal but I am still putting ice on my right shin, and the toenail on my second toe (the little Piggy who was supposed to stay home...ironically) came off in the shower this morning, which really was revolting. Despite that I’ve been walking back into work from Thursday last week, and even made it to the gym on Friday, so all promising signs.

I almost certainly won’t be running the Royal Parks Half Marathon on October 6th however. I saw a physio last weekend and he told me I’d be insane to do so. Shooting Stars have said they’ll defer my place for a year, so I’ll most likely take that up. They have also confirmed my place in the London Marathon for 2014, so that’s another reason not to push myself too hard and risk further injury. I'll be keeping the same sponsorship page open.

So how do I feel about the walk itself? I’m really happy with it. I’m pleased that I managed to plan a route, choose my stops and reach every single target. I even exceeded one on day five when I pushed an extra two miles on from where I planned to stop. I didn’t really know how I’d hold up when I began, and while physically I was pretty wrecked by the end (and would never have made it without my good friends nurofen and co-codamol) I was amazed at how well I held up mentally.

I’d expected the mental side to be really tough. The fact it wasn't speaks volumes for all the support I had along the way, especially from those who joined me, giving me distractions at times when it would have been easy to slide into negativity. 

One of the things I learned about myself was on day three when, after the horrors of arriving in the dark the night before and setting out on my own for the first time in an extraordinary amount of pain, I realised after an hour that I was really enjoying myself. It occurred to me then that actually I am generally quite a positive person. Funnily enough Sharpey would say the same thing to me a few days later when I stayed at his place. I’d never really thought of myself as a positive person before, especially given how shitty things were the week or two before the walk began, so now I know that I can take a step back when things are tough and remember it’s not as bad as it might seem.

When I saw the physio and explained what I’d done and the injuries I had, he asked me why I didn’t just stop and I must have given him the blankest look in history. Quitting never seriously occurred to me, and that is a surprise looking back. I’m a bit annoyed that I hopped in a car twice at the end of a day and had to be returned to the same spot the following morning, but I knew it was necessary at that stage. We all have limits and I think the ability to recognise those and react accordingly is pretty important.

What am I going to take from all this? That anything is possible with the right attitude. So often in the past I’ve come up with reasons not to do things – largely doubting my ability to actually do whatever it might be. Sure life can be scary, but I’m always amazed at what we’re capable of and I will continue to look for ways to challenge myself and finding the fulfilment that comes with “daring greatly” - regardless of whether or not I succeed in whatever the endeavour may be. If anyone else feels suitably inspired to do the same, then good for you.

To conclude I’ve decided to write up a few things that stick out from the experience, messages that for one reason or another stood out along the way, highlights, low points, amusing texts – that sort of thing. I hope you enjoy:

1.       Sponsorship from random dude on day two and random woman on day four
2.       Checking my messages at the end of each day
3.       Finishing

Low points
1.       Being lost on the way into Abingdon in the dark
2.       Realising day 4 was five miles longer than I though and that I wouldn’t reach camp in time.
3.       Shepperton Lock in the rain.

Best Day:
Day three: Abingdon – Pangbourne. Great weather and just a very satisfying day.

Worst Day:
Day six: Chertsey – Putney. Rain, wrong turn, not mentally ready. Apologies to Zoe and Katie for being so miserable that day!

Most amusing episode:

Best Challenge:
Craig Short: "I will donate a further 10 great British pounds if you post a photo of you doing a forward roll."

Favourite quotes sent through:
T.S. Eliot: “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go”
Friedrich Nietzsche: “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”
Steven Wright: “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time”

Most amusing / offensive sponsorship messages (there were so many to choose from, I picked out a Top 5 – in no particular order - but could easily have picked about 50).
1.     Nat Morris: “Your mobility looks hindered - did you really walk all that way or were you gang banged by Russian Sailors?” 
2.     Miles & Kate Nathan: “Well done, I thought I'd wait to the very end before committing to donating. Hedging my bets! In all seriousness mate well done, you're an inspiration to us all."
3.     The Proclaimers: “Me & my twin walked 500 miles. And then we walked 500 more. Good effort for this training jolly - let us know if you want to step up to elite status.”
4.     Blade: “Good luck mate, great cause as well. I am not buying 5 copies of this book though!!"
5.     Gandhi: “I love Alan Curr so put another dime in the jukebox, baby.”

Most amusing / offensive text messages* (again, many to choose from but these stood out):
1.     Dave Kirtley: “No evidence to suggest an ice bath has any more benefit than just a cold bath. That’s from the Head of sport science at Liverpool FC. Compression socks help though.”
2.     G-Man: “You’ll get more satisfaction when you look back on this challenge for the fact it’s been a killer. Enjoy the pain and the fact it’s you on your own pushing it to the edge. That’s what it’s all about and not everyone gets there, or gets it.”
3.     General: “Push on through fella, don’t think about the Bum chafe/Gooch rub/Sting ring...Your legs may be saying kill us now!! You must say – Shut up legs. Do what I tell you!! It’s epic mental efforts like this that are the measure of legends. You’re inside the ring! Push hard and drove it to the bridge...Massive Kudos!”
4.     Hills: “Perspective mon frère. Abi says shoulder on. I think she means soldier. She also says fuck you but I think she is talking to me. So fuck me, which is unlikely as I’m texting you. Good point.”
5.     Emily Carter: “Stay positive. Five miles is nothing to you, you can eat five miles for breakfast, fuck it, you can sweat five miles when you’re taking a shit!!”
*messages from Abi Hill and Rhonda Williams (among others) were not deemed suitable for publication due to extreme profanity (yes, even worse than what's above), but were definitely up there with the best. 

Finally - thank you one more time to everyone for all your support. You are amazing. 
At time of writing I've raised a little more than £2800 plus Gift Aid of around £600, which has blown me away.

1 comment:

  1. I love your summary of text messages!
    Well done on this trip.