The first seven laps ran clockwise from the North Lodge on the red route (2,600 m), then the eighth and final lap branched off to the blue route at the High Bridge (1,800 m).
We walked to the park from the car, did a quick parody of stretching, and then, using a rubbish bin as our start/finish point, we started walking for real. Two hundred metres in, I was ready to call it off.
The first thing I noticed was the wind. It bit at my face and my ears as I rued the decision not to bring my hat. Then it nibbled at my hands as I rued the decision not to bring my gloves. John had a hat, and he was walking with his hands in his pockets. My legs felt heavy; the three fitful hours of sleep I managed to salvage from last night didn’t seem like enough; I wanted to stop and come back another time. If I’d been on my own, I probably would have done.
I decided to give it one lap (2,600m). Our lap times needed to be under 20 minutes each in order to collect the extra pledge from my best man. Two hundred metres from the start line I decided that if we were slower than that for the first lap I was going to stop and come back another time – I hoped we would be.
Through that opening lap, things improved. The blood ran down into my hands as my arms swung back and forth. The edge was getting taken off the cold wind as my body began to heat up from the exercise. Before I knew it, we were back at the bin, and more than two minutes ahead of schedule.
For all the physical challenge involved (and it is considerably harder than I‘d hoped it would be - 16,207 steps for me) it was the mental challenge to stay focused on what we were doing that was more absorbing. Our second and third laps were both sub-eighteen minutes too, but our fourth was nearly twenty seconds slower than our first. As a reaction, our fifth was the fastest of the walk, but after that, we cruised a little.
The slump in the fourth lap was almost entirely down to a loss of concentration. It was in that lap that John picked up the one and only warning of the walk for an illegal walking action – a reprimand he picked up (from me) because he lifted both feet off the ground in an attempt to show me how Will had been break-dancing with a belly dancer at the Lebanese restaurant on Friday night.
It was in the fourth lap too that we took more account of the wildlife all around us – the squirrels, the ducks, the birds, the dogs, the joggers, the walkers, the prams. If I’d had any worries about the accuracy of my measurements when deciding our course, they were quickly dismissed - any potential shortfall would have been comfortably made up by the number of diversionary manoeuvres we were forced to take to avoid the other park users.
In the end, we cruised home in a little over two hours and twenty minutes, comfortably beating the target for the extra pledge by almost a quarter of an hour. The walking itself was difficult, and I imagine I’ll feel the pain in my legs and feet more tomorrow than I do at the moment, but by far the biggest challenge of this event was keeping concentration. I can only imagine how much harder that’s going to be in the 50km version, which is unlikely to take less than six hours.
Huge thanks once again to John Adams whose idea it was to get this one done before Christmas, and without whom I would have returned to the car after 200 metres this morning.
Result of Athletics – 20km Walk:
Lap 1 (2,600m) – 17’49.8”
Lap 2 (2,600m) – 17’51.9”
Lap 3 (2,600m) – 17’55.8”
Lap 4 (2,600m) – 18’08.6”
Lap 5 (2,600m) – 17’42.4”
Lap 6 (2,600m) – 18’24.9”
Lap 7 (2,600m) – 18’31.9”
Lap 8 (1,800m) – 13’50.6”
Total (20,000m) – 2 hrs 20’16.4”
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Posted by John McClure at 9:42 pm