The long walks of the Moonwalk training weren’t always easy. In fact there were times when I really didn’t feel like walking at all. Mostly though I overcame this obstacle and got out pounding the pavements despite the inner voice saying stay at home. Sometimes it took a supreme effort of will to get out and keep going. Training for a marathon, even if it’s a walking marathon, is a tough lonely business. The last walk of January 2013 was one of those times.
27 January 2013
As I ate my granola I was feeling strangely negative about the long walk.
“Don’t go, have a weekend off,” Commando said.
It sounded tempting but I knew I’d feel bad if I didn’t go. The sun was shining but my mood didn’t improve and I grumbled in my head as I walked. “Whose idea was this bloody Moonwalk anyway? What sane person decides to walk twenty six point two miles, or the hundreds and hundreds of training miles? Obviously I’m mad and should be committed imediatately. At least I wouldn’t have to do all this bloody walking.” It went on pretty much like this until I got to Chalk Hill.
Chalk Hill is more of an extreme sport than a hill. This time I was doing it the sensible way, downwards. You’d think it would be easier. Actually it’s still tough, not in a heart pounding, calves screaming way, more in a struggle not to break into a run ending with the inevitable forward roll to the bottom way. When you walk up hill, your muscles are shortening whilst exerting force, when you walk down hill, they’re actually lengthening while also exerting force. This is a far less natural action and more likely to cause injuries. It takes a great deal of effort to walk in a controlled way down a steep hill.
Safely at the bottom I made for the river where I’d promised myself a sweet. I’d been looking forward to it since I set off so I got them out as soon as I saw the pub. The packet led me to believe they were toffees with a sort of chocolatey indside. They actually looked more like Rolos. Oh well, I thought, chocolate on the outside toffee on the inside, not as chewy but still quite nice. In my eagerness to get the first one in my mouth I fumbled and it ended up hitting the deck. Then, when I bit into the second/first one, it turned out there was no toffee of any description. Basically it was just a little lozenge of chocolate. Not a happy bunny.
Feeling miffed about the chocolate sans toffee, I walked towards Mansbridge. Avoiding the huge puddle in the middle of the path involved a squelchy, slippery detour and some more grumbling. Popping another sweet into my mouth I carried on towards the airport where I promised myself one more. On a long walk the promise of treats keeps me going, so, as I walked I thought about treats for the Moonwalk. Definitley toffees with chocolate inside, they were number one on the list, maybe some wine gums, things that can be sucked and take a long time to eat are favourite, that way the treat lasts longer.
With the airport behind me and the last of the chocolate dissolved on my tongue I started obsessing about my next treat, a skinny latte at the Swan Centre. When I mentioned stopping for a latte to Commando this morning he said, “Surely stopping is cheating? You won’t be able to stop on the Moonwalk will you?”
What a spoil sport, I wasn’t planning to stop any longer than it took to grab a take away latte. The thought of it propelled me along the long, boring road towards Eastleigh.
The good thing about this route is the Swan Centre. Apart from Costa there are toilets, a pretty essential ingredient to a very long walk, well, that or a nice quiet wooded area. There are also shops for stocking up on blister plasters, lip balm and sweets. Unfortunately the shopping centre was mega crowded with Saturday shoppers and there was a huge queue at Costa. In the end I decided I’d go to the loo and pick up a coffee on my return when, hopefully, the crowds would be a bit thinner.
Heading for Twyford Road, I had another chocolate lozenge in lieu of a treat. When I came to the park with the Bandstand, I had another, feeling a little sulky at the lack of caffiene coursing through my veins as expected at this point of my journey. So far the sky had been blue but there were a few clouds gathering as I crossed the park. The little railway bridge transported me back to training for my first Moonwalk. Back then I walked the same route each week, adding a mile each time. Each week was a little adventure, never quite knowing what the new mile would bring.
At the end of Twyford Road there’s Allbrook Hill, a steep hill leading towards Twyford Down. As it happened, I was coming pretty close to seven miles by this time so I decided to go in the opposite direction, towards Chandlers Ford to avoid the down and up again of the hill. It was only about two tenths of a mile with huge pylons to my left and woods to my right before I turned round. There was more than a hint of mackerel to the sky by then, it might rain but at least I’d passed the halfway mark. There’s always a bit of a buzz about halfway, knowing the worst is over and there are now more miles behind than in front.
For the first time there was no inner grumbling. I ate the last of the sweets I’d been eating pretty steadily after my coffee disappointment and looked forward to my latte. Despite the chocolates I was hungry. My bteakfast granola was in the distant past and a packet of chocolate without toffee is no substitute for lunch. There was a brief fantasy about ordering lunch in the quaint thatch roofed Ham Farm Harvester on Twyford road. What do they serve in a Harvester? I have no idea but I probably could have eaten some of it right about then.
In the end I grabbed a chicken salad wholemeal sandwich in the Tesco Express. Probably not the best walking food but needs must. I savoured it slowly, bite, chew, march, bite, chew… It was fairly average but it gave me a bit of extra energy. Not long after I finished it I came to the railway bridge again and I was off Twford Road and almost back in Eastleigh. There was a stupid woman on a bicycle just after I passed the church with the tower that makes me think of Rapunzel. She was weaving about all over the pavement, I had to pin myself up against the wall to avoid being run over. Hint for cyclists, if it’s a pavement, it’s for PEDESTRIANS, they HAVE RIGHT OF WAY!! It’s not as if I’m so small they can’t see me in plenty of time to slow down and take evasive action after all.
Back across the park with the bandstand, still a little bit cross, I avoided a gaggle of young boys on bikes and skate boards and crossed the odd round mosaic heading towards the Swan Centre and COFFEE! Ok, I know I’d not long had a sandwich and I didn’t actually need any more calories to keep me going but come on, cut me some slack, I’d been dreaming of this coffee since I set out. I popped into the loos first. Not that I actually wanted to go but, as the Queen Mother once said, “If you see a toilet, use it!” and that advice I take very seriously. It didn’t take long before I was marching out of the Swan Centre sipping and smiling and making ahhhh noises to myself.
Just after the car park I came to a junction with queue of traffic. Sometimes cars that can’t go anywhere until the traffic starts moving take pity and wave you across, sometimes they try to pretend they haven’t seen you. This time a driver, a rather chunky man in a very chunky four by four, took pity on me. I smiled, mouthed thank you and stepped into the road. He started moving forwards! I jumped back onto the pavement, swearing rather loudly at him as I did so. Why would you wave someone across in front of you and then try to mow them down? I felt like kicking his car. I’m not a violent person you understand but I almost spilled my coffee.
Now I only had about five miles before home. As I approached the airport the sun was low in the sky and it had really clouded over. A little private plane came in to land and, as I passed the gap in the buildings, I could see it being unloaded. There were piles of grubby snow at the edge of the runway where they’d cleared it. My next treat was fast approaching. I had a packet of wine gums in my bumbag and I’d allow myself to open them once I got back to Mansbridge.
Just before the roundabout that leads to Mansbridge Road I got the wine gums out of my pocket and looked at them, building anticipation. Once I crossed the road I saw the gate leading to the cutaway I keep thinking about taking. It was tempting. Dithering a bit, I looking down the path. It seemed nice and dry, should I risk it? In the end I told myself I could turn back if things got boggy and went through the gate. The path was wide and firm, although the woods to the side were boggy and waterlogged. I looked at them suspiciously, wondering what I’d find further on.
The bare branches of the trees silouetted against the setting sun were gnarled and contorted quite beautifully. One tree was a mass of abandoned birds nests, like hairy clumps and behind it there were houses. I could hear running water. There was a brook running behind the trees and ahead an attractive little wooden bridge, arched with painted blue railings, a real Pooh Sticks Bridge. Of course I had to cross it, just to see where it led. There’s no resisting a Pooh Sticks Bridge. Pity I didn’t have a stick.
It led to some houses and, looking at the map, I was all of a dither which way to go to get back on the Mansbridge road and the White Swan. A cheery elderly man walking his dog stopped and, releasing I was lost, asked where I was heading. “Well, my dear, this is all Mansbridge but the White Swan is back the way you came. If you go this way,” he pointed ahead, “past the university, you’ll come to Woodmill and you can get to it that way.”
He was directing me to Wessex Lane, I’d walked that way before but wasn’t sure if it would mess up my distance. There was nothing for it but to go on though so I did. Now, looking at the map from the comfort of my sofa, I think, if I hadn’t been distracted by the Pooh Sticks Bridge and had taken a fork in the path just after it, I’d have come out exactly where I wanted to be. Oh well, live and learn.
So I passed the University and on past Woodmill. The water was bubbling and boiling as it came through the mill. A row of seagulls on the roof looked like odd ornaments. The sun was thinking about setting and a mass of seagulls were having a worm digging party in the glistening mud. I smiled to myself, glad I’d come out, glad it was nearly over. Then I saw a sight that actually made me rub my eyes! A man was riding a penny farthing along the cycle path. A penny farthing! It was like going back in time for a minute there. Of course I had to take photos, no one would believe me if I didn’t. He smiled and honked his horn as he passed. How bizarre! There were children on the jetty, feeding the swans, I wondered if they’d seen it too?
From The Triangle it’s a mile to home and I had exactly a mile left to complete the fourteen, how’s that for timing? When I walked through the door I’d walked exactly fourteen point one five miles in just over four hours sixteen minutes. Not a brilliant pace I know but there was a lot of stopping when I didn’t also stop the WalkJogRun and a little bit of getting lost. Still, it’s the distance that counts, isn’t it?