I work as a driving instructor. (Take a look if you're interested). Sitting on my bum all day. I've always had an ambition to walk from Lands End to John O'Groats, but it was one of those things I was going to do "when I get the time" - i.e. never. At the beginning of April, I was chatting to Bernie, my colleague, while we were at the driving test centre.
"When are you going to do your walk, then?" she said.
"Well, you know, sometime..." I said.
"Why don't you go now - I could cover all your work,"
Then it dawned on me. I could do it. Right now. Why not?
I walk occasionally at the week-end, but tend to linger in the pub at lunchtime. I'm reasonably fit for a 47 year old, but walking over a thousand miles with a backpack was certainly going to be no picnic.
That evening, I tentatively broached the subject with Tina, my wife.
"Would you mind if you didn't see me in May and June?"
"And if I didn't earn any money?"
"And if I spent a little instead?"
To her eternal credit, Tina backed me all the way, and was almost as enthusiastic as I was.
I spent the next few days searching the net. I read harrowing accounts of blisters, wild foggy moors, fifty pound backpacks, failures after three days, torrential rain for weeks on end, and the occasional cheery account. Undeterred I started a list of things I'd need; it seemed to go on forever: tent, backpack, maps, books, compass, wet weather gear, sleeping bag, and boots were just scratching the surface.
I went to Blacks in Basingstoke, and got most of what I wanted. A trip to London with Tina got me sorted for a tent, and OS maps for Devon and Cornwall. Eleven - just to start with!
A train ticket to Penzance for Saturday 30th April cost me a fortune. Ken (a top mate) loaned me a backpack and compass, and a few maps.
I did a sixteen mile circular walk with Tina, in my new boots – it went well. The Saturday before I was due to leave, I walked to Winchester with Ken – and backpack. We made it – around twenty two miles. (And only two pints at lunchtime – I was already proving my resilience). One memorable moment occurred when we were both looking at the map, at a T junction of footpaths.
"So it's that way," says Ken.
"Yes," I said, confidently pointing at the map."let's go," Off went Ken, in one direction. I walked in the other! I can't say which of us was wrong but it wasn't Ken.
I tried to put to the back of my mind all the advice I'd read about preparing for Lejog: walk long week-ends in wild places, run, swim, and get fully fit. My plan was pathetic, but possible. The first week or two would be my training. I hoped to average about twenty miles a day, sticking roughly to the route recommended in Andrew McLoy's excellent, must have book: "The Land's End to John O'Groats Walk". I thought starting in the south would be easier, giving me a chance to toughen up before the hard bits, and besides, I had already found my map reading skills lacking – walking north at least meant the map was the right way up! I had the whole of May and June, plus a bit of July if I needed it.
I was ready!