twenty six miles the struggle for the finish – first published 26 april 2013

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After the excitement and emotion of finally reaching my goal and seeing Winchester Cathedral there was still the small matter of the long walk home. These would be the really hard miles and now there was no voice telling me to turn back because it was too late for that. It was simply a case of putting on foot in front of the other and walking through the pain. There was also the small problem of rain…

26 April 2013

The last part of a really long walk is always the hardest and the day after is always a haze of tiredness. So I’d had my chips, well ten of them, and I was on the way back to Five Bridges road, coming up to fifteen miles into the walk. The rain had stopped while I was in the odd little bus shelter, it didn’t last very long. I hadn’t seen the last of it though.

As I walked back down Five Bridges Road, the chips, that seemed like such a good idea, lay very heavy in my stomach. Note to self, chips are not a good walking snack. At the other end I decided to stop off because I needed the loo and there are some good bushes. This was when I accidentally stopped WalkJogRun instead of pausing it. I was so cross with myself but there was nothing I could do but make a mental note of the mileage, fifteen point three five, and restart it. From then on it was mental calculations every time I looked at my distance and I had no idea of my time. If this sounds familiar it’s because it’s not the first time this has happened.

The walk back up to the Church Lane footpath was fairly uneventfully. The men were still cleaning the pavement and they stopped again as I passed by. The donkeys were still by the fence and I said hello to them again. As I knew I wouldn’t be passing that way for a long time I stopped for a while to have a little look at the gravestones in St Mary’s Church. They are very old and most of the writing has long since worn away or been covered by lichen and moss but on a couple I could make out a few words and dates and it seems most are from the late 1700’s.

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What stories there must be in that graveyard and what a pity they’ve been lost to time and the elements. One grave has a tree, now cut down, growing between the headstone and the foot stone. Many are leaning at strange angles. In the middle there is a huge tree with a wooden bench around the trunk, next to it an old lawn roller. Some graves are almost under the tree although I imagine it wasn’t there when they were originally dug. Now they are in the shade of it  where I stood for a while looking out at the other headstones seemingly bleached white in the light of the sun. It was a peaceful place with an eerie kind of beauty.

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As I left the churchyard I spotted some white honesty flowers by the hedge. I’ve not seen white honesty before and I didn’t notice it when I was walking the other way. Funny how things look so different when you’re going in the other direction. There was a short stop on the benches to get my second chocolate milkshake out of my bag and stretch my legs out. My calves were beginning to get a little tight by this point, probably because the walk up Church Lane is all on a slight incline. Unfortunately I managed to stop the WalkJogRun again instead of pausing it. Once again I restarted and now the calculations became even more complicated, sixteen and a half miles walked, nine and a half to go, if you don’t count the extra point two.

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Worryingly a large bank of cloud seemed to be coming in from the direction I was walking. The chances of getting home without getting wet didn’t look good. At the other end of the lane the white calves were right up by the fence, one tiny one, the size of a large dog, stood and looked at me accusingly. So that’s beef off the menu too then.

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Between Honeysuckle Cottage and the quaint School I stopped to take a photo of a tree I’d seen on the way out. Going the other way I’d been too intent on getting to the footpath but I’d made a note to have a closer look on the way back. The wonderfully knarled and contorted trunk had caught my attention at first but when I looked closer I could see one branch had become entangled in the wire fence as it grew and had twisted itself around, pulling the fence down as it got heavier.

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The rain held off as I made my way back long Highbridge Road and the cars were kind to me today so there was little in the way of verge hopping. I did stop once to snap a picture of a crowd of bluebells growing on a bank. I had to clamber into the ditch to get it and narrowly missed getting entangled in some brambles but I think it was worth it especially as I spotted a wood anemone too, the yellow anthers standing out against delicate white petals.

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Allbrook Hill was a struggle and my right knee began to ache. I’m pretty sure this is because I lead with my right leg so I tried as best I could to lead with my left to even things up. This knee aching thing is a new development over the last few long walks and it’s a bit of a worry, something I need to keep an eye on. By the time I got to Ham Farm the clouds were really gathering so I tried to keep my speed up. At over twenty miles this wasn’t easy, my legs were beginning to tire, especially after the hill and my knee was really hurting. The Swan Centre was a welcome sight, just five miles left to go and a latte to give me a boost. In actual fact I decided to go for a frappachino because I was quite hot and somehow a hot cup of coffee didn’t seem all that appealing.

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The frappachino turned out to be a good idea, it lasted longer than a coffee. Sipping it slowly I went back past the airport, as I waited to cross the road a woman shouted out of a car that she was doing the Moonwalk too and good luck to me. That gave me a real boost and I made it over the blue bridge before I finished my drink. I dumped the empty cup in a wheelie bin conveniently left out for the dust men by one of the houses in Wessex Lane. Then the rain started.

This was no small shower, it was a downpour, the rain I’d been expecting all day. On went the hat and the jacket was velcroed closed. Luckily the trees going across the green bridge and along the footpath sheltered me a bit and, by the time I got out the other side, it was over as quickly as it began. The dark clouds were still there though as I crossed Riverside Park, trying to keep my pace up as best I could although by then, twenty four miles in, it was hard and I was limping. The sunbeams coming through dark clouds looked like something you’d see painted on the ceiling of a chapel, beautiful but threatening.
My right knee, that had started to hurt after Allbrook Hill, was really painful by this time and, knowing I had walked more than the thirteen point one before I turned, I began to take short cuts across the grass in an attempt to get home sooner. The path following the river is a winding affair and by taking the straightest route I could I probably cut a tenth of a mile or so. Not much but every little helps, especially as more rain was certainly on the way.

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When I saw the slope going up from park to road I knew I had just one mile left but I groaned inwardly at the thought of the calf and knee punishing climb to the top. The temptation was to take the last mile slowly, my legs told me I should, but the imminent threat of rain told me not to so I pushed as hard as I could. At this point I had no idea of my overall time and, frankly, right then, I didn’t much care, it was all about finishing and getting indoors before the rain started again. The last half mile was a real struggle, my knee was hurting, I was tired and hungry. Just when I was at my lowest one of the nuns from the nearby Buddhist centre walked up the road towards me. She smiled and said a cheery hello as we passed. That smile gave me the final boost I needed to keep going as fast as I could.

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I made it just in time. When I added up the three WalkJogRun totals I’d walked twenty six and three quarter miles. The best was to come though, when I added up the three times, I’d done it in under seven hours, six point eight nine eight to be exact which Commando tells me is six hours fifty four minutes. My time for the twenty six mile Moonwalk training first time round was seven and three quarter hours, I’d knocked off almost an hour! That really made my day.

So that was it, the final long walk. Despite a terrible forecast that almost stopped me going out, the weather was kind to me. According to Sirona’s friend there was heavy hail in Winchester not long after I left so I guess I had a lucky escape. My knee was fine after a little stretch out but I found one blister on my little toe. Why does that keep happening? I didn’t even know about it until I get home but it was fairly uncomfortable when I put on my party shoes to go to Sirona’s hen do. We were going to Prezzo’s for a meal and then on to The London, a nearby pub, for drinking and dancing. The meal was fun, fairy wings, bunny ears and lots of jokey hen night acoucoutrements (straws shaped like penises and the like). By the end of the meal though the tiredness was really kicking in and when Commando rang to say he was on his way back from visiting his dad at the farm I asked him to pick me up on his way. It was either that or end up asleep under a table in the pub.

The drive home was a bit like a dream. When I got in I suddenly realised I hadn’t paid! For goodness sake! What an idiot! I had to text Sirona to check she had enough money and apologise profusely. Luckily she did and I will walk over to Eastleigh to pay her back on Monday. I still can’t believe I did that though. They must all think I’m either a cheapskate or a complete moron.

At the very beginning I was reluctant to sign up for another Moonwalk. Only a lot of arm twisting by Mr Bumble and Mel C persuaded me. Apart from a couple of bad weather walks and a painful knee though, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the training. It remains to be seen if I’ll enjoy the race. Two weeks from now I’ll let you know.

 

Published by

Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

2 thoughts on “twenty six miles the struggle for the finish – first published 26 april 2013”

  1. Well done! Yes, the last part of any walk (even a short one) is definitely the hardest. Eldest daughter tells me this is because your unconscious mind has already decided the walk is over – she’s a psychologist. Love graveyards too. And the twisted tree bringing down the fence. Great photos.

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