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IT'S BEEN A MONTH OF BIG MILES AND BIG SMILES
Hello again friends, and thank you for reading the newsletter – whose unpredictability we keep telling ourselves is part of its charm. At any rate, this instalment's a meaty one as the milestones have been falling at an ever-greater rate, and the challenge continues to make the most wonderful of differences to lives – from an inch off a waist here to a relationship restored there; pain banished against expectation to spirits lifted across the nation. Who thought when we started we'd all be part of something so brilliant? (Because the stories in this newsletter will leave you in no doubt of that.)
There's a new issue of the magazine just out too (and lots of you are in it!), plus there's a chance to win £500 of Craghoppers gear in exchange for one of those 'footsies' everyone seems to be taking all of a sudden. Tell you what, you can order your copy with free overnight delivery in a couple of clicks. We'll wait to start while you nip off.
PS - That's CW photographer Tom photo-bombing my welcome pic, resulting in a grin I've been told is smarmy, creepy and / or distressing. I apologise.
TRUE STORIES SPECIAL!
inspiring and encouraging #WALK1000MILES has changed things for some of its participants, from small ways to huge ones.
DAVE HARRIS: “I WAS GOING TO GIVE UP”
IT'S AN EVERYDAY STORY OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF MORALE. BUT FOR 59-YEAR-OLD DAVE IT WAS A LESSON IN THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS.
How old are you, what do you do and where are you from?
I am 59 years old from Gillingham, Kent. I work for an air conditioning company, office based.
What brought you to the challenge and how were you enjoying it?
Back in January I saw the challenge in CW magazine. My previous best year was last year where I clocked up 801 miles, other years have always been around the 600 / 700 mark. I thought I only need do an extra 200 miles and i'm there, I thought to myself, that's achievable. All previous years mileages were boots on. So I decided to keep it the same for this year, just to make it a real challenge for myself.
What mileage were you on and what differences had you noticed as a result of walking more?
Presently I am over 100 miles up on the same period last year. I find that this year I am walking further. When planning my walks I am looking at the maps and seeing if I can stretch the walk by adding a bit extra, an extra mile here and there on my route. I find now it easier to do that extra bit whereas in the start I was struggling, my legs and feet hurt, but not any more as it now comes natural and I still have energy left at the end.
But what happened, and can you describe your feelings about pulling out?
One day after an awesome walk with friends I totted up my total and wondered how many miles I had to do per week to achieve my target. This shocked me, I was further away than I anticipated. I needed to walk 22 miles every week until the end of the year. Evening walks are out of the question due to the distance I have to travel home from work each night. That only leaves me weekends and holidays. This depressed me, so I decided that I cannot meet the challenge, why should I continue, there is always next year. But I would stay and watch everyone else achieve their goals. This made me happy as I got excited when other passed the magic number.
What happened to change your mind?
I posted on the Facebook page that I was bowing out of the challenge as I had no chance of getting there. The response I got from so many people blew my mind. I was expecting a few 'never mind, always next year' comments. But no, everyone was telling me don't give, carry on, you can do it. They were all messages which touched my heart. Each message was a personal message giving support and encouragement, telling me that 1000 miles is not the be all / end all. If I beat my previous best I was a winner. I was told no matter what I finish on I am a winner. The messages flooded in. I have never known such love and friendship from people I had never met, only talked to on facebook. How could I not change my mind. The challenge is back on.
What comments or interactions with other group members do you remember particularly influencing you?
Everyone who wrote on my thread were offering excuses for me to stay. Not just excuses, but also solutions. Make your own target was one comment. Beat your best ever was another. So many options, such encouragement. This is not a race to see who can pass the finish line and everyone's a winner as I was told many times.
What’s the plan now?
It's still going to be a boots on challenge. I may not pass 1000 miles to become a double Proclaimer and get my Blue Peter badge. But now I am just going to plod on and get as many miles as I can. I will pass my personal best of 801 miles this year. This is for sure. This year I will get as close to 1000 as I can. That will then be my target for next year. If I can beat that then 1000 miles will be easier. I will be fitter and healthier, all for the sake of doing something I enjoy.
How would you describe the group to someone who wasn’t on Facebook and couldn’t see the point of it?
I would say, just come and have a look. There are some stunning photos on there of places people have walked. These inspire me and hopefully you too hopefully you to visit these places. I can honestly say that this is the friendliest, happiest place to spend time. If you have a question you will get an answer, no matter how silly you think it is. This is a place to make friends and share great experiences of the great outdoors. One visit, and I guarantee you will be hooked, you will come back a second time, and then before you know, you are one of us.....
“I’ve walked away from a breakdown”
Orienteering Rach's vibrant presence has become a familiar and welcome one in the Facebook group. But when it comes to the woman we know and love, she's pretty much self-made.
How old are you, what do you do and where are you from?
49. Retired from paid employment but undertake three voluntary roles at Southmead Hospital, predominantly helping patients/visitors. Also volunteer at a second-hand bookshop which is bliss for a bookworm like me. Born in Bristol and lived here all my life.
What mileage are you on?
1,080 since Jan 1st 2016 (I count everything).
How did you get into walking, and what kind of walker are you?
My earliest memories are of walking the North Devon coastal paths on family holidays and walking to school from the age of 4. In 1981 I was one of the first girls to join the Army Cadet Force and I have fond memories of an annual camp based at Okehampton, tramping over the wet and wild moorland on navigation exercises, enjoying the feeling of being out in all weathers. As I got into my 20s life became somewhat dull but I recall going to North Wales with my Mum and doing some walking along the coast but left my Mum to walk Snowdon on her own!
My darling Mum died just before my 30th birthday. For many months after I existed, going to work, paying the bills, feeling numb. In early 1998 I decided that I couldn’t stay in for the rest of my life and, taking the plunge, went on a walk organised by a local walking group. I walked over ten miles that day in the Mendips. The day after I could barely move. I decided to get fit by increasing how far I walked every day, walking to the next bus stop and then the one after that. By the time I did my second walk with the Group over Sugar Loaf in the Welsh Mountains I was hooked. I had some great weekends away in Youth Hostels and met the wonderful man who would become my husband.
I walk for the pleasure of being out in the natural world with an open mind and an interest in where my footsteps will take me.
How long ago was your breakdown, and what was that like?
My breakdown came in March 2009. Like many of us know life has a way of throwing us off course and in the months preceding I had experienced family estrangement, the pressure of studying for a degree and my husband undergoing a serious operation to remove a large tumour from his pleural cavity. This was very fortunately benign but was a tremendous worry for a long time. I have suffered with anxiety and depression all my life and that day in March 2009 was the day my mind and my body said no more. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t even go outside. Wave after rolling wave of panic, thinking I was having a heart attack, I was afraid to move from the sofa in case I collapsed. It was an incredibly frightening time and in the midst of it I thought I’d never be able to do anything ever again. With the support of my husband and the help of a good counselor life began again albeit slowly. I remember stepping out of the house and stumbling the 100 meters to my local park, each step feeling like I was ploughing through sticky tar, panicked that I would faint. The world seemed so huge and I couldn’t find my place. But as the days and weeks became months I got mentally and physically stronger, enjoying being outside, hearing the sparrows in the hedgerows, watching the neighbourhood dogs bound after balls, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin.
It took a long to time feel myself again and there are still times when the anxiety/depression flares up. But I recognise the signs and slow down. Strange though it may seem, the breakdown ended up being the catalyst to living a more contented life.
Where in your personal journey were you when you came across this challenge?
I came across this challenge in June 2016 via a suggested groups prompt from Facebook. This seemed extremely coincidental as at the start of the year I had decided out of personal interest to log my weekly mileage.
What did it contribute to your journey toward health and happiness?
It is incredibly inspiring to be part of this challenge and to see how others in the challenge are doing. The wonderful photographs and stories are motivational in themselves and I love the camaraderie in the Facebook group and how supportive everyone is of each other and the milestones reached. Being a part of this challenge has certainly added to my happiness.
Where do you think you would be without walking?
Probably twice the weight, eating junk food, watching rubbish TV and probably mentally, physically and spiritually deficient! Oh and I probably wouldn’t have started orienteering which I am obsessed about but that’s another story…
Can you describe as if to an “outsider” the cumulative effect of little-and-often walking on your body/mind/spirit?
Simply being out in the fresh air, noting the changing of the seasons, being aware of the subtle changes there are in my local patch, being alive to the natural world brings a calmness and richness to my mind. The simple act of walking helps me to meditate on issues that might be bothering me and very often I find a solution to a problem when simply allowing my feet to take me along the path. Being awake to what nature has to offer allows me to keep walking, to increase the mileage, but slowly as walking is to be enjoyed, never a chore or something that must be done. The miles add up and before you know it you’ve reached 100, 500, 1000.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Breakfast, strong black coffee and finishing the Guardian Cryptic Crossword in under half an hour! Followed by a walk in the hills of the Lake District (where my husband proposed). It’s a sunny day, not too warm, a gentle breeze blowing, the sound of lambs bleating, skylarks singing with the sheer joy of being alive, being in and part of our beautiful country, keeping my senses alive to what the natural world has to offer.
Is there anything else we should know about you?
I sing with a choir and have had some wonderful experiences including singing on the pitch at the Memorial Ground before the start of the Rugby League World Cup match between the USA and The Cook Islands; singing at the Roundhouse in London with folk singer Sam Lee and musician Kathryn Tickell; performing the premiere of jazz saxophonist Andy Shepherd’s piece entitled The Divine Paradox of Human Beings in Paradise and soon to go into rehearsal for a contemporary work which will involve singing the movement of the stars whilst clad in a silver cape in a tunnel on the Bristol to Bath cycle path!
Christine Henry: “I met a cousin I never knew I had”
It was an ordinary evening of Facebook group browsing when Christine came across a name that felt familiar...
Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got into walking and came to the challenge...
I'm 60, born in Sheffield and live on the Wirral now. I'm retired now but was a nurse. I started walking in 1999 when I was 43. I was going through a divorce and it kept me sane through a very difficult time. Before that I had never been an 'outdoorsy' sort of person but I got to love walking and now do it to keep fit and so I don't put weight on. I wish I had started walking when I was younger as there are so many places I would like to go to.
This is the 3rd year I have done the challenge. In 2014 I struggled to finish my 1000th mile on Christmas Eve. In 2015 I finished a few days earlier but I am now on mile 860, which is a real record for me. I am so loving reading everyone's posts in the group, and there are so many ideas of places to visit. This year hubby and I are walking the Offa's Dyke path in stages. We're wondering whether to take on another long distance path next year and will certainly take part in the challenge.
And how did this unexpected story unfold?
This all started on July 12th when I posted on the challenge's Facebook group and Diane Spink commented. I realised she had my Mum's maiden name (which is quite unusual) and lives in Sheffield, where my Mum came from. After exchanging a few details it turned out that Diane's husband Melvyn is my Mum's cousin. They lost touch about 60 years ago. Diane, Melvyn and I met up for a meal and spent ages squinting at old photographs and reminiscing. It was amazing! Really strange that my Grandma was his Aunty Emma and we were both able to describe her front room in minute detail, right down to having to go across the yard and down the steps to the outside toilet!
We've kept in touch on facebook since then and plan to walk together soon!
Kate Lowe: “I had just lost a lung”
A health shock that would rock all our worlds; a recovery that defies expectations...
How old are you, what do you do and where are you from?
I'm a 41 year old from Horsforth in Leeds with a 10 year old called Maisie and a 6 year old called Jake...oh and a husband called Col and 13 month old black lab called Oscar. I work part-time as a primary school teacher and will be teaching reception next year.
How did you come to be diagnosed with your tumour?
In 2012 I went to the doctors as I had a wheeze. I was referred for a chest x-ray which was clear and to Ear Nose and Throat which didn't show anything. The wheeze continued, was accompanied by a cough when I did strenuous exercise (I did the Great North Run, Redcar Half Marathon (both 2012), Yorkshire Marathon (2014) and Leeds Half Marathon (May 2015) but running was becoming more difficult, I was a little breathless and I was coughing more. I also started coughing up a little blood every now and again (sorry...probably too much info) so I went back to the doctors in September 2015. I hadn't really been between as my symptoms came and went and were niggles but not continuous.
I had another x-ray which was clear but my doctor referred me as she wanted to rule everything out. I was seen in November 2015, I think and had a CT scan which showed what they thought to be a carcinoid tumour in my left lung (a rare Neuroendocrine tumour).
This was confirmed on 8th December which was a shock as I was healthy, young (relatively), had never smoked, didn't drink much. Luckily my Mum came with me to the appointment. It was there I found out that it would need to be removed. I then had a PET scan to confirm how active the tumour was (quite in my case, unusually so) and spread (no spread was picked up outside the lung). I feel lucky that I exercised. Otherwise, I think my initial symptoms of wheezing and breathlessness could have been put down to being a bit unfit!
What did you do immediately following the diagnosis, and how did you feel?
I got a lift from my Mum back to school as I was too shocked to drive. It was the night of our carol concert in school and I lead music so I went back to school, told a couple of those closest and the headteacher (who sent an email to all staff on my behalf so I didn't have to tell everyone). I did the concert, shed a few tears during the beautiful singing (in the dark) and got a lift to collect my car afterwards (at my Godparents house near the hospital) and drove home to tell my husband. I felt a bit sick, shocked and numb. It was the last thing I expected to hear and I didn't feel like I expected to with cancer.
And those closest to you?
Shocked but determined I think mainly sums up how my Mum, Dad and Husband felt, as well as my sister. It was just so unexpected. However, the focus became attending and preparing for appointments. I said all the way through that I was glad it was me and not family members like the children, Col, parents as I knew I could cope. I had some pretty dark night time walks with the dog that December and January. It was hard for everyone to get their heads round but seemed worse when I was walking and had time to think. However, I now think that walking, even at that stage, was important in me coming to terms with information and what had happened. We also had amazing support from the medical staff and Macmillan nurses at that stage so that helped by providing lots of info. We found out on 23rd December that they might take my whole lung rather than part of it and I remember sobbing in the appointment saying I was quite attached to my left lung! I also had the most terrible tonsillitis over Christmas which did not help me process the impending op. It did distract me though! It was hard telling the kids I had to have an operation. I told them I had a blockage in my lung that had to be removed which they took quite well though got a bit worried that I wouldn't wake up, particularly Maisie. My Mum stayed for 5 weeks which was an amazing help. I didn't tell them it was cancer and haven't because naming it didn't seem to help. I also had an amazing group of friends who listened to me in the darkest times.
How you come to #walk1000miles?
When I was in hospital Mum brought me a copy of CW as I had always loved walking. We had done the Dales Way before children, walked in Scotland, Madeira, New Zealand, Isle of Man, Canada and other places. We had been on a family holiday with friends to the Dolomites in Summer 2015. Walking had taken a bit of a backseat until the kids had their walking legs but I still loved it and walked a lot with the dog. I was
also told to walk a lot before my op (at least an hour a day) to help with recovery). I'm afraid to say I wasn't very receptive to Mum providing me with a copy of CW in hospital (I have a bit of a stubborn streak and wasn't really up to all the reading – that I now love when I get my subscription copy) so I skimmed it but that was it. When I got out of hospital I think I must have bought another copy and decided to subscribe (Mum bought it as my birthday present). I was told to walk as much as possible after the op to help with my recovery and decided to use #walk1000miles to help me and give me a focus. A little later I thought I could put my walking to even more good use and decided to raise money for Leeds Cancer Centre where I had received my treatment and support.
I started recording on 17th Feb with a grand walk of 0.1 miles to the bottom of the road and back and that was all I could manage. Mum came with me for walks at first as I wasn't meant to be alone.
Can you describe your feelings the day you woke up after your operation?
I was a bit out of it to be honest - lots and lots of drugs. I remembered that the advice from the medical team at our patient meeting had been to try and breathe for yourself straight away so I did that despite the oxygen mask. I kept doing that when in hospital, on High Dependency and when on ward. I was relieved to have woken up, glad the op was over but very sore.
What on earth must it have been like doing your first walk for the challenge? Were you scared?
I had 2 first walks really. They get you up and walking as soon as possible to help with recovery and prevent blood clots/infection etc. I went for a few steps the day after the op supported by the Enhanced Recovery Nurse as I had a lot of drips, drains, oxygen. I then tried to walk every hour. I had my op on Tuesday and went home Friday lunchtime. My friend Rachel took me and that walk from the ward to her car was
very difficult. I was focused on getting to the chairs in the lobby to sit down but was breathless and weak. I made it though....as I said I'm pretty determined. My first proper outdoor walk was to the bottom of the road and back - the 0.1 mile above. It was hard, especially back up the hill. I was scared as it was hard to catch my breath sometimes. I just knew I had to put one foot in front of the other and keep increasing the distance.
Can you describe how it feels to be a one-lunged walker?
It feels very different to be a one-lunged walker now than I did in the first few months. I have just passed 6 months post op. At first I really struggled to walk anything other than slowly but you are encouraged to increase pace to build up the remaining lung. Hills were especially challenging and I couldn't walk the distance or incline I could before. It always felt like I was doing the next level of exercise
up...so a slow walk felt like a moderate pace, a quick walk felt like a jog. However, all the walking has really helped and I get much less breathless now, including on some fairly steep hills around us. I know I have to walk for my health, and sanity. It really
helped to have a focus in the #walk1000 challenge as everything else was tricky. Walking was something I could focus on getting better at and could see the small changes in terms of distance or how I felt.
How has your health progressed since starting the challenge?
I feel better now than I have done for years. I am less tired, feel fit, have lost about a stone in weight, have a sense of perspective about what has happened. I concentrate on walking in the here and now and appreciating what I can see, hear, experience. I feel lucky that the tumour was discovered and to be alive. I now look back and realise that those health niggles had been affecting me, even though I did some
running challenges. I feel like the me from before 2012! I have also been participating in a research project to look at how yoga helps with recovery from lung cancer surgery so this has helped with breathing when walking too.
How do the doctors feel about your recovery?
I recovered well from surgery and was discharged after 6 weeks. I still have to see the oncology team and will do for monitoring, probably for the next 10 years as there were microscopic cells in some of my lymph nodes. This is about prevention for return.
Your life has been changed through something outside your control; how much has walking felt like taking back control, and how big a difference has it made?
Walking has definitely felt like taking back control. It is something I can do to help my recovery physically, mentally and emotionally. It gives me space to think, deal with what was such as shock. It is a great thing that has come out of something terrible. I get up and I walk. I need to go somewhere and I walk. I want to have fun and I walk. I loved walking before but now I need to walk. I truly believe that walking has given me a focus for recovery and has helped develop my lung capacity. It also makes me a nicer person as I am much nicer to know after I have exercised. Going on a walk is also such lovely family time. The kids are great walkers, albeit sometimes needing incentives and we have time for chats that we wouldn't do at home.
What mileage are you on as we speak?
I'm on 839.9.
How are you, and those close to you, feeling now about the future?
I'm really well. I feel fantastic. I feel positive about the future and enjoy life, trying not to sweat the small stuff. Something life changing like cancer makes you appreciate everyday and not worry so much about the minutiae of life. I have wobbles - I really want to be here to see my children grow up but walking helps me get things into perspective, and talking helps to. You can probably tell by now I like a chat and am a great believer in airing problems and talking them through rather than bottling them up. The Facebook group has been great for airing my thoughts, seeing other people's challenges and experiences and getting a lovely picture of 'life'. The kids generally feel that everything has been dealt with now my lung is removed and that is how I want it. I want them to have a childhood with as little worry as possible about something that may or may not happen. I think family and friends are positive about the future because I am. I'm sure they worry around the time of check ups etc and Grandma said that Feb had been the worst month of her life... and she is very stoic... but generally we have acknowledged what happened and will deal with whatever comes up!
Alice Webley: "I'm so much happier"
'walking is the 'single biggest thing that helps me feel positive and this challenge and the support of this group keeps me going'
How old are you, what do you do and where are you from?
I am 32, I work in an office creating e-Learning and I currently live in Bristol with my husband and cat, but grew up in the Lake District from the age of 9. I like my job but I often get very frustrated at being cooped up in an office 5 days a week!
How long have you suffered from mental health issues and what led to it do you think?
I've suffered with depression and anxiety, and have done for around 15 years to differing degrees. I'd always been a shy, slightly anxious person but when I first went to university, things didn't go quite as I'd planned and I fell into a bad depression. I had a 6 month break then re-started university on a different course, living in a different hall of residence, and life was much better. But depression never truly leaves and I've been up and down over the years since then.
What was life like when you were at your lowest?
When I feel at my lowest, I simply don't want to do anything except hide from the world and eat junk food. I get snappy with my husband and I feel exhausted all the time. At worst, I can feel like there is no point existing. Having a mix of depression and anxiety is very difficult because they are quite opposing. You feel too exhausted to do anything but then very worried because you haven't done anything. It can be quite paralysing when it's at its worst.
How and when do you come to get involved in this challenge?
Even before my family moved to the Lake District, we used to go on holiday there so I have been walking in the mountains from the age of 5! Living in the Lake District meant I did a lot of walking and I loved it. I moved to Bristol in 2008 and over the last eight years I've done less and less walking. This year I've come to realise how much I miss walking, and on June 3rd I was grocery shopping and saw Country Walking magazine and on the spur of the moment decided to buy it. I read about the challenge, thought it sounded fantastic and immediately signed up to #walk500miles, then joined the Facebook group.
What other things are you doing as part of your recovery?
Currently I am having a mixture of therapies, and as part of that I write down at least three things before I go to sleep that have made me feel positive that day. Walking always makes it on to the list, whether I've done something as short as 1.5 miles during my lunch break at work, or I've done a longer weekend walk. Often the support of the Facebook group makes it on to that list as well, and even though I've never met anyone in the group, it feels like a big, supportive family. Being able to share my experiences and photos with people I know are genuinely interested is a big boost. The challenge has really helped me progress with my therapy as it encourages positive thinking in so many different ways.
How much of a difference has walking made proportionally?
I think it's made a huge difference to me. It makes me feel calmer and more positive, but it also gives me something that's 'mine'. I usually walk alone, which I really enjoy as it's my 'thinking' time and I often make good decisions or come up with good ideas when out walking.
Can you describe how walking makes you feel?
To answer this I'll give you an example. A few weeks ago I woke up feeling very low. I was tired from a bad night's sleep, my knee was hurting (which triggers anxiety as I worried I'd have to stop walking), and a friend had let me down for plans that weekend. I went to work and felt flat and miserable. I couldn't focus, I ate junk food and just wanted to go home and hide on the sofa. The 'rational' part of me knew that going for a walk at lunchtime would be best, but the other part of me knew that was the last thing I wanted to do (that's the depression kicking in). At lunchtime, the sun was shining and I was just about managed to persuade myself to go out. I walked for 2 miles in the fields near work and I felt a million times better. I felt calmer, more positive, much happier and proud that I'd actually gone out and walked. I made alternative plans for the weekend, was able to focus on my work better and be more productive, and I went for a walk after work too. At the end of that second walk, I felt very relaxed and happy. My day ended in the polar opposite mood to how it had started, and that change was mainly down to walking!
What is it about walking, and this challenge, that has made it effective for you do you think?
I love walking and always have, but not living in the Lake District always created a bit of a mental barrier to walking, which I know sounds silly, but is the reason I haven't done much over the last eight years. Reading the magazine and interacting in the Facebook group have made me realise that there are so many places near me that are beautiful to walk even though they are not mountains, and simple as it sounds, that was a massive realisation. And although I love walking, depression can hinder you from actually getting out and doing it, but the challenge gives me a focus and gives me an extra reason to get out and actually go for a walk, even if that walk is only 1.5 miles.
How different a person are you from the one we would see without walking?
So much happier. Walking clears my head and helps me find the positives in life. It's important for me to have a real hobby and something I can do in my free time, instead of just sitting around feeling a bit miserable. I am happiest when I'm in nature and walking gives me that opportunity every day. Without walking I am not quite the real me.
If you had just three words to describe yourself 'back then' and three words to describe yourself now what would they be?
'Back then' I would describe myself as low, sedentary and negative. Now I would describe myself as optimistic, brighter and active.
What mileage are you on?
I'm currently on 157 miles, which I know is way behind a lot of other people. I'm only counting 'intentional' walks, so I don't count things like walking to and from work, or walking around the shops. I work 5 days a week but from the start of May to the end of September I often work at weekends too, so sometimes I have a few weeks with loads of mileage, and other weeks I'll do barely anything. I'd like to be a lot further on with the challenge but it is what it is, and I'll just keep walking and see where I am at the end of the year!
Will you be back in 2017?
Definitely! I'm not sure I will reach 500 miles this year, but I'm going to keep trying until midnight on 31st December! Next year I plan to do #walk1000miles and really push myself. I can't wait!
Sarah Lee: “I see time itself in a different way”
Spend more time walking and somehow there's more time for everything else too...
But the surprising elements for me involve real enjoyment and discovery. I set my alarm at weekends and I'm out of the house earlier than I would be to go to work, I see time itself in a different way - I have a spare hour so I can walk to the shop instead of going in the car, there are lots of footpaths across fields from my doorstep that I never knew existed and now walk regularly, I have discovered a common love of walking with my Dad and in particular my brother which has been a real aspect that has been wonderful for me, spending so much time him doing something we both love. In addition the added bonus of the amazing Facebook group has a been totally unexpected spin off. I couldn't imagine being without it, the positivity & support is overwhelming.
It will definitely be a life changer & I didn't expect that, I will carry walking as long as I am physically able, there is no stopping me now.
How old are you, what do you do and where are you from?
I'm 47 and a Payroll Admin Assistant for Leicestershire Police from Enderby in Leicester.
How did you get into walking and the challenge?
I've always walked the short distance to and from work and gone out at lunchtime for some fresh air, but I spotted the 1000 mile challenge at the tail end of last year in your magazine and wondered if it was possible, could I do that? After sadly losing a friend at Christmas whilst in the amazing hospice LOROS and reaching my first year anniversary volunteering at a local Rescue Centre Leicester Animal Aid I wanted to raise funds for both and decided to link it with the 1000 mile challenge.
How much more walking are you doing than before?
For about the last 25 years I have lived about a mile from my place of work but as part of this challenge I'm not actually counting this towards my total for the three days I currently work. At a rough calculation I'm doing an average of 80-85 miles a month extra to what I would normally do. Wow another surprise for me!
How would you say walking helped you get over the death of your friend?
My solo walks are definitely a time I think about her a lot and gives me the peace with no distractions to do that. I have actually cried whilst walking sometimes which sounds sad but has actually been quite therapeutic. If I have a spare hour for a local walk I usually find myself making a visit to the cemetery which makes it feel like she's part of my challenge and I marked my 450 milestone here. If I'm struggling with motivation her voice is the one in my head telling me to get up, get out there and get on with it!
How has walking more affected other relationships?
I have always been close to my Dad and he only lives 30 minute walk from me (previously that would read 10 min drive!). I remember him taking my brother and I to Bradgate Park as kids and for a short time we both worked at Alliance & Leicester HQ and met at lunchtime for a walk around the grounds. At Christmas time he developed chest pains and after a doctor's visit he ended up having a quadruple bypass in February. He was determined to get back to his active life and we went for small walks together as he built up his fitness using my mileage count and speed as a guide to his improvement.
With my brother James we were close as kids but you inevitable grow apart as you get older and your lives alter as you don't have as much time together as you did before. James took note that I had taken on a walking challenge and saw my posts on Facebook. Unknown to me he was in fact walking everyday before work and then getting up early at weekends to go off on his own locally. A text one weekend said 'fancy a walk round my way?' and we haven't looked back. He loves the fact he has someone who can keep up with him and is willing to be ready to go at 7am! It's definitely made us closer, I see a lot more of him, we talk constantly, he's willing to go for a good long walk, I've got him walking in new areas to him and we've discovered new ones together and we always finish at a cafe for a sausage sarnie!
It's great that I have someone who has equal capabilities to me as a change to just walking on my own and it's an added bonus that it happens to be my brother.
What did you expect to gain from the challenge and in what ways has it over-delivered?
I expected it to improve my fitness and health, maybe losing a bit of weight in the process. I didn't expect it to have also improved my posture and to be so eager to get out so often because it's making me feel so good. Instead of sat over a cuppa chatting I've also had a few friends suggesting going out for a walk with me as a way of catching up.
I am much more mindful of the here and now and it lifts my spirits and helps me clear my mind of anything stressing me. It's made me see time itself differently.
I'll give you example from last week. It was 10.10am I needed to go to a shop 10-15 mins drive away and had to be home by 11.25am at the latest. I would have previously jumped in the car as I would have decided I didn't have time to do anything else. I worked out it would take me about 30 mins to walk each way and if I was quick in the shop and didn't mess about I could be home in time, so on went my walking shoes. And keeping one eye on the watch I actually extended my walk slightly on the way home and got back for 11.20am.
Anne Winter: "I was going to run away"
When someone put a copy of Country Walking through Anne's door, they didn't know how much of a difference they were about to make...
What should we know about you Anne?
I will be 60 in January, I am a front of house Receptionist in an office block in Bristol City Centre and I live in Yate, Bristol.
How did you get involved with the challenge?
I started the in June, after reading the magazine from cover to cover, which just dropped through my door, I didn't order it or pay for it... somehow it seemed like a sign! Sounds daft, but I was preparing to run awa... just me and the dog... not to commit suicide or anything like that... just run away and hide for a while. But instead I signed up for the 500 mile challenge, dug out my Fitbit thingy and put the dog's lead on. It gave me something to focus on, and get my teeth into. I'm on 193 miles as I write this.
How were you before you started?
I was very down, although I work, and have a Husband and family all grown up and left home, I was extremely lonely, and down in the dumps. My husband works 12 hour shifts which leaves me alone a lot of the time, and I felt that I didn't matter.
That's why I contemplated running away to hide. But instead I got my teeth into walking....every step counted, and I looked forward to filling in my chart every night, I worked out I was doing 5 miles a day just walking around, so I try to do an extra 2 or 3 miles a day walking the dog in the week, and at week-ends find a nice walk we can do together. I've found walks I didn't know existed. Then I signed up for the Facebook group, and I felt that I had loads of friends instantly, everyone welcomes you when you start, and supports you when you feel low, and rejoices in your triumphs when you're on a high. It really is wonderful.
How much has the challenge changed things for you?
I feel so different, still lonely sometimes, but put your boots on and grab the dog and go for a walk, someone will say hello and perhaps stop for a chat. I also feel more motivated, as I'm trying to achieve the 500 by the time the clocks go back. And I'm happy!!!! I've also got lots of friends, okay not personally but on in the group – you only have to make a comment and someone somewhere is awake and will answer you, give advice or praise you. It has really really changed me. I have lost 7lbs and have a nice trim Labrador. I will be the first to sign up for 1000 next year, and hopefully be able to achieve it.
If it hadn't been for that magazine dropping through my door, who knows what or where I may have been. I had already started to get things together to disappear, which I have now got rid of. There have been lots of tears writing this, admitting how I felt. Country Walking is inspirational and I don't think you realise what you have created here with #walk1000miles. It's marvellous!
“THE DOCTORS ARE ASTONISHED”
In the new issue: read Sally's story: how walking turned around the health, happiness – and whole family – of one extraordinary woman
I've learned to love life again. It's totally changed my outlook. I wake up and I can’t wait to get up! I think if I had to use only one word, it would have to be evangelistic! I want everyone to feel as good as I now feel! And it's absolutely astonishing that so much has changed in such a relatively short period of time. I no longer fear the future and what it may bring, because I've changed that – through walking!
Love walking alone? So does Jenny. Here's why
So that's the reason she so often refuses the offer of company on our office lunch-hour walks. And by george, she's right: if you're doing a repetitive or uninspiring walk just to keep the miles ticking over, why not feed your mind for half an hour rather than have it wander aimlessly? These are the podcasts that are entertaining and informing her the most so far...
For an outdoors fix: The Dirtbag Diaries
Gorgeous tales of the life on the trail American style – standout episodes include Paul's Boots and The Remotest. http://dirtbagdiaries.com/
For how to live your best life: TED Radio Hour
Top picks from hundreds of inspiring talks from the TED stage, with a new theme each week hosted by Guy Raz. Recent themes include Slowing Down, the Act of Listening and the Fountain of Youth. http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/
For fascinating stories: This American Life
The grandaddy of great storytelling podcasts with amazing tales of American life each week hosted by Ira Glass. Get going with classic episodes (on the favourites tab) like The Giant Pool of Money and Switched at Birth. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/
For insights into the darker side of life: Criminal
Phoebe Judge unearths gripping tales of true-life crime – always fascinating, sometimes disturbing. Start with something less macabre like the curse of the petrified forest in the episode Triassic Park. http://thisiscriminal.com/
For curious minds: Radiolab
From the Wood Wide Web to playing God to ice-skating, Radiolab delves into any topic that piques the hosts' interest and the results are always brilliant. Their first spin off, More Perfect, is a unique insight into the workings of the US Supreme Court – I didn't realise I was interested in this, but I could not turn it off. http://www.radiolab.org/
Plus: Invisibilia, Freakonomics Radio, Outside podcast, She Explores, StartUp, Strangers, Burn your Passport, Reply All, Sampler, Revisionist History, Science vs, Serial, Wait wait…Don't Tell Me – the list goes on and on!
PS - Confused? How to download and listen to podcasts.
countdown time! The most popular posts in the facebook group in the last 6 weeks!
And just for fun, the most-appreciated contributors to the group since the last newsletter
20 Keith Thake (down three!)
19 Michael Machin (new entry!)
18 Liz Perry (slips three!)
17 Kate Hall Slides three!
16 Jill Cutler (Up three!)
15 Fayona Bareham (new entry!)
14 Julia Frampton (new entry!)
13 Janice Godbehere (new entry!)
12 Simon Moorhouse (new entry!)
11 Sarah Brown (non-mover!)
10 Sally Oakley-Qajar (down seven!)
9 Lu Smit (up four!)
8 Orienteering Rach
7 Mandy Jones (slides 5!)
6 Michael Caleigh (new entry!)
5 Colin Hattersley (climbs two!)
4 Caroline Green (non-mover!)
3 Becky Wells (up three!)
2 Frances Ipson (up three!)
1 Susan Miller (Who else?)
THANK YOU ALL FOR MAKING THIS THE BEST GROUP ON THE INTERNET!
Some of our favourite recent pics from the group
Click to enlarge...
One last thing then: the five funniest quotes from Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods
- “Black bears rarely attack. But here's the thing. Sometimes they do. All bears are agile, cunning and immensely strong, and they are always hungry. If they want to kill you and eat you, they can, and pretty much whenever they want. That doesn't happen often, but – and here is the absolutely salient point – once would be enough.”
- “What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die, of course. Literally shit myself lifeless. I would blow my sphincter out my backside like one of those unrolling paper streamers you get at children's parties – I daresay it would even give a merry toot.”
- “Hunters will tell you that a moose is a wily and ferocious forest creature. Nonsense. A moose is a cow drawn by a three-year-old.”
- “I turned to my own bunk and examined it with a kind of appalled fascination. If the mattress stains were anything to go by, a previous user had not so much suffered from incontinence as rejoiced in it."
- “Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret."
Still still here? Go on then...
An exclusive look at CW's missing dog Millie choosing the new Millie!
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