The Inevitable Questions


Question Time and a Brew with Big Dave
The minute that you tell a person that you intend to leave your nice warm bed in your cosy house in the suburbs - to leave behind your wife and daughter that love you and put up with you - that you've booked out a chunk of your diary at chambers, much to the amazement of your thankfully supportive senior clerk - so that you can strap a heavy rucksack to your back and some worn leather boots to your feet - so that you can endure a 12 hour plus National Express journey to Inverness to then catch another bus to John O'Groats - so that you can spend one night in a B+B in the arse end of nowhere - before WALKING the whole way back south - sleeping each night in a bivvi tent - unsupported and carrying all your own gear - to pass your own cosy home in the suburbs - so that you can carry on walking until you have literally run out of land to walk at the Land's End...
there are bound to be some questions.
So here are some straightforward answers to some of the most common ones:

That's a bloody long way Dave!?
Not so much a question but a statement shrieked at me in horror.
Yes it is a long way... my route will be about 1100 miles long... but that is sort of the point.
It's a challenge; a real challenge. No one is going to get excited by a fat man in his 30s doing something comfortable that he'd probably do anyway at the weekend! Times are hard and I think if you're asking people to part with their hard earned cash to sponsor you, even if it is for charity, then you better make sure that you're doing something worth sponsoring!
Are you insane?   

Ha! Do I look insane? Don't answer that! Probably... but the challenge is not as insane as you might think! Reading other walker's accounts online I reckon there are probably about 5-6 walkers that do the complete journey from Lands End to John O'Groats every year. There are probably several more that don't make their walk public. 
What exactly is an End 2 End?
An End 2 End is a nickname for the Land's End to John O'Groats challenge. The most common direction of travel is north ending in John O'Groats but several people have done it in reverse. Land's End to John o' Groats is the traversal of the whole length Great Britain between its two extremities; in the southwest and northeast.

The straight-line distance from Land's End to John o' Groats is 603 miles (970 km) as determined from O.S. Grid References, but such a route passes over a series of stretches of water in the Irish Sea. The overall shortest route by road, using minor roads in numerous places and utilising modern bridges, has been reduced to around 814 miles (1,310 km) and takes most cyclists 10-14 days to complete. The record for running the route is 9 days... but who wants to walk on tarmac, dodging cars and lorries, for that sort of distance? So I'll be striking out across countryside at every opportunity. Off road walkers typically walk about 1,200 miles (1,900 km) and take 2-3 months for the expedition. I'm aiming for about 1,125 miles in 50 or so days.

There isn't an official John O'Groats to Lands End Trail that you can follow on a map. That said, for over a hundred years people have made the journey by creating their own routes and connecting existing footpaths and trails. If you make the journey heading north then it's referred to as a LEJOG and if you head in a southern direction it's called a JOGLE. So I'm off on a JOGLE.

No offence mate... but aren't you a bit heavy (aka chubby, lardy, tubby, fat, out of shape) for something like this?

Ha! The honest answer to that is probably a pretty solid "Yes" but conversely and coincidentally also a resounding "No!"

The planning for this walk hasn't been haggled together in the spur of the moment, but was tinkered with for nearly a year. It started out as a planned duo effort but sadly that idea fell by the wayside. Undeterred, we rejigged the walk into the unsupported solo challenge it is today.
If it had not been for my own ill health over the last 3 months (during which I've been mostly laid up at home) the promotional and fundraising side of things would have already been in full swing. It was always intended that I would be putting in 6-8 months of training prior to the start of the walk but I won't be able to realistically get back to training until early March. Nevertheless, that gives me 4 months to get training and we are currently working on dietary, weight-training, cardiovascular and hiking schedules, starting slowly but building steadily from March until July. So expect to see many posts updating my training progress, and hopefully some weight loss, in the coming months.

Realistically, can you achieve this? 1,000 miles in around 50 days?

Definitely! I have no doubt in my mind.

Obviously, there is an element of good fortune that you hope for in any expedition like this - avoiding injury and staying on top of foot and muscle care for starters. Although I've always been a bit of a lump I've never had a problem hiking. I've never attempted anything near this scale but up until 2013 I had holidayed up in the Highlands regularly going on 10-15 mile walks and I've climbed a couple of Grahams - nothing too taxing but I took all that in my stride.

I'm pretty strong and very stubborn so carrying a reasonably heavy pack for extended hours will not trouble me as much as it would others, although obviously I'll do everything I can to keep my pack weight to a minimum.
The walking record for the End 2 End is reckoned to be held by Malcolm Barnish, a soldier of the Royal Artillery, who completed the journey in 12 days and 3 hours in 1986. Unbelievable! I'm not even going to be out of Scotland in 12 days let alone finished!

To put the challenge into some sort of realistic context, in 2012 a 71 year old man named John Wilmut walked LEJOG for Christian Aid. It took him 68 days with 9 rest days. In fact several couples between 60-70 years old made the LEJOG journey in around 60-70 days. In 2012, Aaron Howlett, who had won Britain's Biggest Loser, walked the JOGLE and then walked back in 56 days!!! Amazing!  In 2010, Gary the Milkman did LEJOG in 43 days with 5 rest days. My point is... if I train for the four months I have and dropped a few stone 50 days is an achievable target.

Just in case terrible weather sweeps the UK I have of course factored in additional contingency days and could extend the walk into my planned recovery time by up to 10 days.

Why on earth are you doing this to yourself? Just... Why?!!! 

Honestly, I have several reasons.

The first and foremost, and the driving force behind this whole endeavour,  is also the most obvious and the most schmaltzy. Nevertheless, truthfully in recent times so many of my family members and even a few friends have either died from, been affected by, diagnosed with, or had a health scare concerning, Cancer. Cancer isn't going away anytime soon although fantastic research is being done every year. Macmillan help people to cope with and get through their experience of cancer whatever that may be.  Other treasured members of my family have been affected by multiple sclerosis, not only those diagnosed but their own immediate families as well. Hence, the inclusion of the MS Society. Finally, I've lost friends in the armed forces and I've had other friends return from their time on operations who clearly aren't getting the support that they should have been given and deserve.
I have spent so much time getting emotional and depressed by all that has been going on over the last decade that I felt, for my own sanity, I needed to do something positive about it. If you don't like something change it. If you can't change it, then change your attitude. So I set about changing my attitude by getting something done. 

Another reason for the End 2 End was that I spent a long time racking my brain for a way to raise money for the three separate charities that meant something to me on a deeply personal level without having to harass people repeatedly for donations. I'm sure most of you will agree with me that there are so many worthwhile charities out there, with so many decent and generous friends and family members doing amazing things for those charities, that you can't possibly donate to each and every endeavour. If you are anything like me you just don't have enough money at the end of the month to keep up. So, I wanted one event of sufficient scale that I could make one appeal, do one thing and hopefully reach my goal.

If I'm honest, I'm also motivated by a desire to know whether or not I can do it. The minute I thought this escapade up in a moment of whimsy there were doubts. My rebellious little brain just reared up and that was it. I was going to do this. It can be done... by me. AND if it's not all going to be toil. I'll be seeing first hand what this great land of ours has to offer, walking all three nations of Great Britain... who knows after this summer, once Scotland have had their vote on independence, it may never be possible to walk "Great Britain" or the mainland UK under that banner again.
And here's a final overly-sentimental reason for you... when my little girl grows up I want her to see me as a man who has done some things for the people and the issues he cares about. Not a fat lawyer sat in an arm chair talking a lot of talk. 

1 comment:

  1. What an absolutely inspirational man you are and I wish you all the best in finishing your quest!!! I suffer from MS personally and so thank you from the bottom of my heart and am so grateful that you can be the 'legs' of many of us who are unable to use our own!!! Take care!! xxxxxx