Ridgeway 40 one year on
Where oh where is my pedometer? The battery in my phone went flat after 15 miles, what with the GPS tracking and compass running on it, so I do not have a record of our impressive achievement this year. So much for technology.
Last year’s 40 mile walk at the beginning of May (part 1, part 2) left me with a very sore knee. By January I realised the pain was not going to go away by itself and made an appointment with a sports injury specialist (the first time in my life I did enough sport to cause me an injury, by the way). The specialist sent me to a physiotherapist, while expressing his doubts as to the sanity of my plan to do the 40 mile walk again in May. The physiotherapist gave me three different exercises to be done every day and pronounced me cured at the next appointment two weeks later. Two months later I did the Ridgeway 40 hike again without any knee problems whatsoever. Magic.
All the more so because this year the weather was dreadful. Apparently the worst ever in the 40+ year history of the walk. It was not raining the day before or in the morning as we queued for the coaches that were to take us to the start. The rain was saving its strength and started as we set off, driven to our faces by cold wind. It was waterproofs or hypothermia, no other option. It was the first time I wore proper hiking trousers and waterproofs on a hike (as opposed to jeans) and I was astonished to find how comfortable can one be in driving rain. I even took some photos along the way.
I was very sorry for the marshals. At least we walkers were moving. It took about 30 seconds to freeze to the bone – you just had to stop, take your hands from the pockets and have a drink the already-frozen marshal handed you. That did not bode well for the lunch break. In the end we did not really have any. We sought shelter at Wayland’s Smithy, so as to be able to stop and take out our sandwiches and then just continued walking.
I did not take any photos afterwards. As we neared checkpoint 6, some 27 miles into the walk, my friend and I flagged a little. But the warm tea and cakes made an incredible difference and from then on we were happily striding on, overtaking other walkers, munching on crisps and oatflake muffins and marvelling that we were still able to go. (Regarding food, last year we discovered that junk food is junk food even when one needs calories in a hurry, hence the healthy oatflake muffins this time. Crisps are an excellent source of salt, so for once they did not count as junk food.) People spend years in meditation to get an “outside view” on their body, so to speak. In my experience long distance walking works just as well: when you stop your mind messing with your body, that is, when you allow the body to determine its own walking speed and length of stride, and to take care of posture and the overall mechanics of walking without being bothered by the mind worrying it about every cramp and twinge, the body will be capable of walking far beyond what the mind would think and be comfortable in the process. It will even keep the effort constant, slow down when walking uphill and pick up speed on a flat stretch. Just keep the mind quiet.
We finished in daylight this time, in 13 hours 2 minutes, and even walked up those steps to get our certificates and badges without a second thought.