2021 LDWA 100 – Miles 51 to 60

This is the story of my completing the LDWA 100, something which I didn’t actually always think I’d be able to do. Unlike the previous training walks, I’m going to tell this story in a different way, which is just my feelings about each section of the walk. I usually take hundreds of photos during walks, but when walking 100 miles there are different priorities. My friend Nathan also walked with me for the first 60 miles, but these are my experiences rather than his. These posts are more introspective than usual and there will be an index to these ten ‘stories’ on this page.

This section of the walk was one that we thought would be easier than it was, as we’d hoped to be buoyed up by the return to Norwich at the 60-mile mark for a brief rest. I took no photos during this ten mile stretch, partly because it was dark and partly because there were times that I started to think about giving up for the first time.

At the 50 mile KFC stop, we had decided to shift our plans away from walking Wherryman’s Way and instead walking along the quiet roads in the area. We did this as it was simply quicker to walk on road, it wasn’t navigationally challenging and it meant that we had Richard and his support car nearby at all times. And perhaps that was a mistake. Instead of going with our checkpoints every five miles or so where we met our support team, we didn’t have a target over than Norwich. So, it all started to drag. Three miles might not sound far, but it’s still an hour of walking in the dark, and is there any point in doing that?

By 53 miles, I was silently questioning why I was doing this walk. I had gone past my longest ever walk milestone (the 52.5 mile Shotley 50 in 2017) and was reminded that I wasn’t that engaged with walking. The hopes that Nathan and I had that we could inspire each other with our best chat just started to fall away a little. I think it’s fair to say that Nathan was also coming to the same conclusion that he was questioning the point of the walk as well. From what I’ve heard from others, this is not a rare occurrence amongst walkers.

The first night is a dangerous time on the 100 mile event, as it’s when the body wants to be in bed and the end point is some distance off. Actually, it’s a long way off. We slowed a little and I think both separately started to be mentally depleted by this whole challenge, which was worsened by the dual disaster of a broken head-torch and Richard’s car breaking down at the same time. Nathan suggested that perhaps this was just a sign, and actually, I started to think he was right. He actually normally is on quite a few things, but we won’t dwell on that.

I had been told that this was a mental challenge rather than a physical challenge, so I think I lied to both of us by saying we must push on just a bit more and try and see if we could make progress and walk through this. I didn’t much want to continue though, I wanted to go to bed. I was very near to suggesting to Nathan that we abandon the walk, tell everyone that we’d got to 55 miles and could enter next year’s event (which we probably wouldn’t have done) and should spend Sunday in the pub drinking stouts and other decadent beers. We could claim that we had walked a long way, get some praise and then move on, perhaps switching our future endurance events to playing pitch n putt before going drinking.

We stopped for a while and sat in Richard’s car, and full thanks to Liam for getting out of bed at about 01:30 to fix Richard’s car and restore our vision. Liam is, to be honest, incredible. Hopefully he won’t read that, friends don’t need too much praise in life. I felt slightly unwell for a few seconds, and that worried me. I switched to Liam’s more comfortable car and told myself I could have a 15 minute sleep, although I didn’t need it (well, I did, but it didn’t feel like the right time).

The element that dragged me on was that I knew I could get into Norwich, however annoying it was, so I wanted to just see how far I could get. Maybe a miracle would allow me to get into Norwich, sleep, and then carry on. But, I don’t have great willpower, and so if Nathan felt he wanted to stop, I was pretty destined to give up as well. However, between us, we did both manage to get into Norwich, and that’s when Nathan called it a day as his feet were starting to blister. And, in my mind, with Nathan stopping, I told myself I’d try and carry on the next day, but I was prepared to stop.

As for Nathan, I think his walk was incredible. He’s gone from not being involved in long distance walking a year ago to walking further than most members of the LDWA have ever walked, a tremendous 60 miles. There’s a danger that anyone thinks 60 miles is a failure as the walk is 100 miles, but, if we’re being honest, we’d only intended to walk 60 miles a few weeks ago. The extra bit to 100 miles was only ever something of a pipe dream. We told people that, but I’m not sure how much they realised we were seriously looking at only doing 60 miles for a long time.

In the first part of this series of posts about the walk, I mentioned about I was unsure why I was doing the walk. As we reached the home stretch, I was of course disappointed that we wouldn’t both finish the 100. There was the thought that if we could finish the 100, then we could meet other challenges. Not walking related ones, not even health related ones, but any of those random ideas we’ve come up with about projects we could do and run (no pun intended) successfully.

It’s nonsense though, because 60 miles was enough. We’d done that, that was enough evidence we could achieve things, perhaps it just meant we were sensible enough to know when to stop. What it meant though was that if I wanted to go on the next day, I’d have to do it alone. As I went to bed that night (for all of an hour) I was already writing the blog posts in my mind of why I’d quit. I knew some people would be disappointed, not that I hadn’t finished, but they’d be disappointed for me. Fortunately, I fell asleep quickly, without pondering this whole thing too much.