Two years ago I fulfilled my most personal and enjoyable physical challenge when I walked the 86 miles of Hadrian’s Wall in 3.5 days over the Easter of 2008. Strictly speaking it was done two years and two weeks ago as Easter was earlier, but the fact that it is Easter now reminded me of the challenge. I didn’t complete it alone I had four walking companions and a driver. We just happened to complete the distance during the coldest Easter for 44 years.
The team that weekend were Glynn and Paul Daniels (martial arts buddies of mine), Haydon Aldersey (ex-Australian Army and Fire Brigade), my then girlfriend and still friend to this day, Manda Barlow, our driver Chris – a friend of Manda’s and me. It is actually 84 miles, but we got lost twice and added two miles to the route. How do you get lost following a 2000 year old wall? Because it isn’t entirely there; the best preserved section occurs between miles 30 to 70 (or thereabouts).
The idea of the walk had come to me whilst I was descending Mt Snowdon the year before during my completion of the Three Peaks Challenge. A lot of time and research went into the Hadrian’s Wall Challenge and our original plan had been to complete it in 3 days – lack of daylight and a really tough second day conspired against us. My thought was that a personal physical challenge keeps a person honest; no matter what you do in your day to day life nature will keep your feet on the ground. The commonly held view was that to do the challenge you should walk from east to west – in order of the Roman mile faults. My research had shown that the most active weather fronts cross England from west to east – in from the Atlantic – so I figured if it was going to be a wet challenge it was better to have the wind behind you rather than in your face. As it was we had snow instead of rain, but the wind was behind us for most of the way. On the Saturday morning we took off in a blizzard, although, thankfully, it didn’t last too long.
Walking for mile after mile gives you time to think and I had plenty on my mind at the time. It also shows character in a person. All of us as blokes had faced long distance challenges, Manda was alone in never having done anything like this before. We all became impressed with the little blonde character who kept trudging on, despite a rough time on the Saturday and leg pains on the Easter Monday finish section of 16.5 miles. We all agreed that however hard we had found the walk, and the rewards that came with it, this was Manda’s challenge. I know she is still affected by her effort and her pride in achieving it.
Every year I find a physical challenge – something to push me and as I said, keep my feet on the ground. I may have mentioned elsewhere that this year I want to take off 40 minutes off my Paras 10 time that I did last year and to become the most improved physique in the gym that I go to. They sound trivial challenges when I say them out loud, but they are part of who I am. The pain of the effort gives me pleasure and it is that which I seek. The lure of the computer and tv is strong, but the effort of physical exercise inspires me and ultimately adds to who I am.
Easter Sunday is about the story of the resurrection of Jesus. For me each day is a resurrection – a new day, new opportunity, new ideas and the chance to live again. Exercise is part of who I am, not all of who I am. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and being rewarded with love, happiness and inspiration. It sounds a bit Californian, but fun at the same time. Thanks for keep coming back to read these. See you next week.