I’ve gone and done something extremely silly. I know, I know; it’s not like Ken, you’re thinking. But I have.
Last year Thing I and Wifey foolishly decided to attempt the well-known Cumbrian event called ‘The Keswick to Barrow Walk’. This is – put simply – a walk from…ahem…Keswick to…well, Barrow basically.
Sounds nice right? Well it is. When the sun is shining it’s lovely walking around this amazing lake district area. We really are very lucky to live in such a beautiful area. Everyone that takes part has to raise a minimum of £80 for a nominated charity from an official list of accepted local charities too so it’s all for a good cause too.
However, despite looking close together on a map of the UK, Keswick and Barrow are actually 43 miles apart and it takes 12 hours (if you’re fit) to walk it – more hours if you’re less fit or old or, like me, both. It’s incredibly gruelling and people tend to have toenails drop off, or huge chunks of skin and other nasties like that as a result of attempting the distance. I can attest that those that take part don’t walk normal for days afterwards (if they can walk at all). Many drop off along the way and your pace is measured at stations positioned regularly along the track. If you take too long to reach a certain one they will pull you from the event even if you think you can carry on. They do this simply because trying to find tired and lost people in the dark isn’t much fun for anyone – especially the person who is lost and tired.
I was immensely proud of both girls last year but especially my 14-year-old Thing I. My son and I met up with them about ten miles from the end and she was suffering really, really badly. We tried to persuade her to give up (it was still an amazing achievement to do over 30 miles) and she was very tempted; but she carried on to the end. I’ve never known her show such courage.
14 hours after starting the walk at sunrise (and long after the sun had set) both girls passed the finishing line, in agony and with tears, but proud victors.
This year, as a joke, I was asked if I fancied doing the K2B.
“Go on then,” I said, also half jokingly. But then I thought: Heck why not? Hence, my first statement of doing something silly.
Yep, this year, yours truly will be attempting this epic escapade. ‘Team FP’ – consisting of myself, one of my best mates and our two ‘significant others’ (Wifey being the only experienced member of the team) will be setting off at the break of dawn on Saturday 12 May in order to raise money for the Independent Community Autism Activity Network (I CAAN). As it happens, our son, Thing II, has just been diagnosed with autism so this charity stands for something which has touched our lives. It wasn’t planned like that but it’s cool that it worked out that way.
Now I’m no spring chicken no more, let’s face it, and even when you’re young and healthy you need to put in some decent training walks. I love walking (in good weather and preferably in a museum and with a beer at the end 😀 ) but even I wasn’t going to be able to manage that many miles without working up to it. So for the last two months we’ve all been doing our walks – in fair weather and foul (and occasionally fowl too this being rural Cumbria after all) – getting ourselves ready.
Rumour has it that at least one of my team did as much as eight whole miles and declared themselves fit and ready to do the thing for real in May. It wasn’t me, I can assure you. I have struggled with every increase. Starting at eight miles, then ten, fourteen and, just last weekend, reaching an epic 26 miles. At the end of each one I can tell you I. Felt. Like. Death. My feet, legs and hips have discovered new heights of pain I didn’t know were possible. But I found the crippling length of the previous walk pretty easy to do by comparison with each succeeding walk – so I guess that means I am getting better at it even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Now that I’ve reached the 26 mile mark, which is well over the distance they recommend to make sure you’re ready to handle the day for real, I feel more relaxed and assured. I have a genuine fear that something will go wrong and I won’t make it to the end. At the fourteen mile walk I really did think there would be no way I was going to be able to do this. A consistent problem is a pain in my left hip which I can keep subdued with painkillers on the road but not eradicate entirely. My feet however take it in turns to come up with new ways to strain themselves and cripple me. Last weekend I thought I was going to be left crippled and lame in Kells (and locals will tell you, you don’t want to be stranded in Kells, believe me!) because something went wrong with my left foot. But somehow, I lurched on like Dr Frankenstein’s assistant and made it the final 5-6 miles home.
However, I have a month to go yet and no permanent damage has occurred so far so, touch wood, I think I’m going to be able to manage all 43 miles. With the training well in hand the only thing left to do is get sponsorship – and that, of course, is where you come in. If you feel so inclined, I’d be delighted if you can spare a moment to click on the link and send a few pennies and pounds our way. The K2B organisers are superb at organising the event but their website skills are none too good so don’t be put off by the basic layout. I hope some of you will take the time to navigate your way through and spare a pound or two. Doesn’t need to be much – the price of a coffee you could drink on the 12 May while watching me lumber on asking God to kill me along the way perhaps?
Here’s some pictures and videos from my training walks to give you some idea what it will be like in May and also to show you just how beautiful Cumbria can be.
Educationalist, Writer and journalist D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Ken has two new books coming out over summer – don’t miss them!
Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media.
D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org