Four members of Explore staff are currently in Training to take part in the Oxfam Trailwalker UK challenge - walking 100km across the South Downs in just 30 hours - without a break. One of the team, Sean Hughes, tells us about their training so far and why they decided to undertake the challenge...
It is now under 2 months until Tim, Lucy, Jo and me walk 100 kilometres across the South Downs.
When I first agreed to take on this challenge I thought: “100 kilometres? Pah, no problem, that’s just walking 1 kilometre over and over again. That’ll be no problem. Anyway, it’s on the South Downs, so it’ll be downhill from Petersfield to the coast.”
I was wrong on every point.
So far the longest walk we have done as a team is about 35 kilometres. The first 10 kilometres really is just like walking 1 kilometre over and over again. After that your body starts to object.
At 20 kilometres your body starts to REALLY object. At 30 kilometres my body was (quite literally) starting to fail. A muscle that I don’t think I have ever used before (on the back of my thigh) intermittently started going into spasm. Other members of the team found hips seizing. Lips were (I’m not exaggerating) a shade of blue due to the cold. And I wont go into the gruesome details of the ruptured blisters on feet.
So, I am now not even contemplating the pain we will have to go through at 50 kilometres, 70 kilometres…
As for the South ‘Downs’? Presumably this is a name given by some marketing board so that it doesn’t deter ramblers from walking there. Really they are the South Ups. You start by walking up a steep incline – and you admire the views across the beautiful countryside. And you think – this is fine, nice level walk to the coast.
Actually you walk off the top of the nice beautiful ridge, into a valley. And then, you walk up the next hill that appears to be vertical. Those hills that have the decency to be only a ‘steep’ gradient go on for miles and miles. Until you become convinced that at some stage someone will come along and tell you that you should have oxygen to walk at this altitude.
The day after training walks, it is difficult to move. Knees ache from the impact of walking downhill. Walking at all is a chore, walking at pace is impossible. I have had blisters on my feet constantly for the past 8 weeks.
I hope I’ve made our training sound like a real sob story. Of course, it isn’t. Because, I’m choosing to do this walk, and after each training session, I get in a car and drive home. I get a glass of water from the tap. I put some Compeed on my blisters. I have a hot bath to soothe my aches. If my thigh muscle doesn’t get better – I’ll drive to the doctor and be seen that day.
When someone in Africa walks miles to get water, they don’t get in a car to go home. They carry that water miles home. If their feet are blistered the wounds go untreated. If they need a doctor? There may not be a doctor for them to see.
This is why we are doing the walk, to raise money for a charity that helps people like this all around the world. They provide services where they are needed. Clean water to refugees in Uganda. Providing shelter and sanitation to those affected by the cyclone in 2008 in Burma. Helping impoverished farmers in Mexico get a fair price for their crop.
Please give whatever you can afford.
This isn’t about the terrifying/stupid (delete as appropriate) walk we are doing. This is about supporting people around the world who need our help. People who don’t have the luxury to train for walks at the weekend.
Read more about the team's walk on the Explore website