I walked over 3000 miles in 2016 and it was the best walking experience of my life.
This was not, as some may think, an epic expedition in foreign lands, it was simply a challenge that I set myself in mid-2015 and this is how I approached it.
As a keen walker I have always wanted to tackle a long distance walk such as the mighty Appalachian Trail which stretches for 2200 miles across the US. A trail that I have read about many, many times and over the years I have often dreamed of walking the route from Maine to Georgia. Television programmes such as explorer Levison Wood’s “Walking the Nile” also stoked the fire in me as well to take on one of these mammoth walks.
Unfortunately taking on a challenge such as those for someone with a family to support and the need to pay the bills, epic challenges like these are pretty much out of reach. However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t take on a similar down-scaled challenge where I could still do everything I needed to do and still have an adventure and that is when the 3000 mile challenge was born.
Preparation and planning
With the challenge set I began to look at what changes I had to make to sure that I could manage this amount of walking in my life and daily routine.
As my intention was to walk many miles each day I had to make sure that as a bloke in his early 40’s’ who works at a desk for 8 hours per day, that I was actually fit enough to take that on the challenge. I got a medical check up to make sure everything was ticking over ok and I wasn’t going to cause myself any issues. Apart from some extra weight (which would be easily shed through walking) and a blood pressure reading that was a little higher than normal (I have a stressful day job), I was fit enough to head off on my adventure.
Time management was a little trickier to sort out.
Fortunately I work for myself so I was able to reschedule my day to allow me sufficient time to get out walking 3 times each day and still maintain sufficient working hours and thanks to my wife, plenty of family time as well.
I also had to look at making sure I had the correct equipment to make sure that I was set for walking in all weather conditions throughout the year. This was possibly the easiest aspect of preparing for the walk.
Being an outdoors person I had already gathered together plenty of waterproofs, hats, gloves, boots etc and it was simple case of making sure that it was all in good order.
Boots and socks were the most important aspect and I settled on a combination that worked well together and had served me well on previous adventures.
I set myself some simple rules for this challenge. Only the miles I intentionally went out and walked would be counted. Miles I walked during each day connected to work and daily life (going to the supermarket etc) would not count towards the 3000 mile goal. I also wouldn’t allow myself to binge walk eg miss out a day and double the milage the next day or vice-versa.
The first miles
On the morning of 1st January 2016 I began my walk. I initially aimed for 10 miles every day but as I approached the end of February I realised that perhaps I need to be more flexible in this plan not only to allow for family and work commitments but also to give my body a chance to rest.
After a bit of experimenting I settled on a walking plan that was both flexible and efficient at gaining the miles. I set the miles walked during the week days to between 10-11 miles and for the weekends I allowed myself to walk as many or as little miles as I wished to but with a minimum of 3.5 miles set for each day.
I based my milage on a number of different walking routes I had found in the areas surrounding my home and office. The routes varied across hills and flats with some being mixed so I ensured I wouldn’t get bored and they also gave my body a good range of movement.
At the weekends I headed off to the Cairngorms, the Ochils and the Lomond Hills as well as trails like the Fife Coastal Path. It was important to me that I got to see as much of the country as possible and I am glad I did as many of the sights I was treated to were spectacular.
Health and well-being
As I got into my walking routine I began to change my diet to match my need for calories. I stopped consuming junk (crisps, sweets, cakes and fizzy juice) and instead ate more freshly prepared fruit and vegetables for main meals also ensuring that any snacks I ate were healthy options.
I also began to make sure that I was keeping myself well hydrated which is essential to keeping yourself in good walking shape as your body doesn’t have to work as hard to recover after a long day of walking. I opted for water rather than sugary sports drinks which often cause more problems than they solve.
Along the way I did fall foul to things like sickness, pulled muscles and blisters which were a pain to deal with but didn’t really hinder my activity too much apart from one occasion where I should of known better.
I decided at the 1300 mile mark that I would try a new pair of super duper walking socks that I had been given by a friend who had sworn that they were the best thing on earth for your feet. So I stuck them on and went for a 25 mile walk along the Fife Coastal Path.
Unfortunately the socks didn’t gel well with my trusty walking boots and gradually a giant blister began to form on my right foot (pictured right) and I soon knew about it when it burst. Thanks to training I had received many years ago I was able to strap it up and hobble back home
It took a few days before I could get the miles back up without it screaming out at me with every step but it healed quickly and got the miles back up. That was a sore lesson to learn but one from which I benefitted greatly.
I was also knocked out for little over a week with a virus which prevented me from getting more that 3 miles in each day. I found that getting in those limited miles helped me feel better even though it was hampering my schedule.
On the plus side my extra weight was dropping off, my blood pressure dropped and my ability to handle the stress and strains of work increased significantly. I was really enjoying myself and felt fantastic.
Walking through the seasons
As I walked I gradually learned that the key to remaining comfortable was to keep everything lightweight but at the same time remain dry, warm or cool and I carefully selected my clothing to match the weather conditions. Weather reports became daily reading and I found myself learning more and more about forecasting which was a great aid in avoiding being unprepared for the day ahead.
It was fascinating to see my regular trails change as we passed the through the seasons. The changing colours, smells and sounds were things I had really never paid attention to before and it is something I am more appreciative of now.
Wear and tear
Some of my kit lasted the 3000 miles but other items didn’t fair so well. I found that most walking socks have a life of around 500 miles and I bought new ones regularly to avoid blisters. At the 2000 mile point I had to buy a new pair of boots as the original pair had been worn down by the sheer amount of miles and different terrains they had been trudged through.
After 2500 miles my waterproof jacket began to leak and no matter what reproofing solution I used to rescue it, I had to eventually give up and buy a new one. My trusty cap, however, survived much to the dislike of many people (including my daughters!) who say it is a tatty mess and should be retired but to me it has become a trusty friend and I am reluctant to replace it.
The final mile
I reached the final 3000th mile on the rainy, windy and very dark evening of the 19th October 2017 after a 293 day epic adventure. I celebrated that evening with a well earned pizza and a beer joined by my wife and kids without whose support I would not have been able to complete this challenge.
The next day everyone thought I would stop walking and fall back to life as normal but when I woke up the next day I headed out again and carried on walking. At the end of 2017 I had logged well over 3500 miles and I enjoyed every single one.
Set yourself a challenge
Taking on your own walking challenge is a good way of not only improving your overall well-being but it really does change your view of what is possible.
You don’t have to opt for a huge number of miles you could start off with a goal of 10, 50 or 100 miles. The number of miles doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you are getting out there and working towards a goal that you once thought wouldn’t be possible.
I guarantee that you will not only find out a lot more about yourself and your abilities but you will also learn more the environment around you.
Go for it!
About the author – Sean Makin is the founder of Walk Fife and is one of the volunteer coordinators behind the website. Sean presents our regular podcast and can often be found walking the Fife Coastal path. You can follow Sean through his twitter account at @SDMakin