How I Hiked 100km
What this article covers
- My own journey through the ultra hike
- A down and dirty account of my experiences the good, the bad and the ugly
- I might slide in a joke or two or try too...
- Some very interesting facts
How to Hike 100k with little or no experience and or training
So in this article I talk about how I hiked 100km. The trials and tribulations. This is a no frills account of my own experience and my own witness of some alarming stats. I hope this doesn't put you off ever walking again but gain a fun and friendly incite into my own endeavours. You can choose to walk, jog or run the distance. You can also choose to sleep at night or just keep going. We chose to walk and we chose to sleep in the tent they provided.
The Story thus far
So let me start by building some back ground. Start in the past so to speak. About a year ago my partner and I were browsing through the internet planning our years worth of fun and adventures. She has always liked to challenge herself with an out of the comfort zone experience at least once a year. Myself, personally I like a challenge but don't really do it for the fun but more for the accolade or achievement.
Failure for me is not an option, I have always tried to my life as best as I can. I would class myself as relatively healthy and not relatively fit. More like sofa surfer than surfer dude. I'm not a huge fan of walking but I do like any that get my adrenaline juices flowing. "One Life Live It" is the only words I live by.
The year before we walked Hadrian's Wall together which was a 26 mile walk. We did 0 miles of training for it. In fact we had flown back from a family holiday the morning before the walk. I won't talk about that particular walk save a few facts for you to enjoy from it. We blasé'd the training thinking "ahh its only 26 miles how hard can it be?"
O how wrong we were.
We had so many aches and pains we jogged the last 6 miles. We were overtaking people that started half way through doing the half marathon. I remember walking past one couple of ramblers and they said "Wow! Those guys are so fit" and we responded "No were' not were are just in sooo much pain we just want to finish it!" We finished it.
N.B Its worth mentioning at this point that for Hadrian's Wall we walked for a Alzheimer's Research. It was their walk. We both raised the required amount and then some. This gave us an extra boost in wanting to finish the walk. However for the ultra walk, we weren't confident enough in our ability to do the same again, and we didn't want the added pressure of trying to complete it. I remember looking at the map and seeing how far it was and thinking "O My look at that!! I even remember seeing 60 miles home from a journey once on my sat nav and getting out of my vehicle... and just laughing in hysterics!
The Map of London to Brighton and their Stop points
So with the hindsight of Hadrian's Wall and clearly what not to do. We knew that walking this distance would require a bit of practising on our part. I drive professionally for a living and my partner teaches so we don't get much free time to train and when we do we just want to relax. We live in a small town with great access to plenty of green walks around us. About 6 weeks before the weekend of the walk we went for a 1.5 miles walk, which took us a few hours. We choose to walk our own route in rural country side. This was a mistake as there was no clear route for us to walk we needed to get we blocked by road, by forest or by whatever else you can think off. It took us a wee while to drive there so we ended up largely frustrated.
Our next training walk took place next weekend and we walked for hours to the middle of nowhere from our house. We had largely public foot paths. We found a nice pub to have some lunch in and walked back. Clear weather, some heat and a gentle cool breeze made this walk so enjoyable.
Luckily for us we live on the outskirts of the town. And a stones throw from the back garden is a selection of fields that go off to wherever. Our closet field looks like a rough parallelogram and has a circumference of 1.5 miles or 2.4 kilometres. So the following weekend we set out to our 'Training Field'. The field isn't flat but does have a nice little hill on one side. It does leave you out of breathe when you walk up it. We completed the field 3 times and then came home for a cup of tea and pit stop. We set out again and did another couple of laps and called it a day. This walk was by no means fun but essential. We probably walked about 10 miles in total. The next day I was stiff. To paint you a picture, I was like a cowboy that had just dismounted after 2 weeks riding. It was now slowly starting to dawn on me what I was letting myself in for. I comforted myself by saying things like, there will be other people there as well and i just needed plenty of sugar to keep me buzzing all the way through.
No training was done the next 2 weekends due various reasons none of which are more important than the training itself I might hastily add.
2 weeks before, panic is slowly creeping in. We promised each other a hefty 30 miler on the Saturday and 20 miles on the Sunday. We agreed to take the friends doggy (a beautiful Labrador) and walk to a particularly great fish pub at the half way point and walk back. This was around the time of the Royal wedding and the temperatures were hot to say the least. We had to stop every 20 minutes to water the dog. He was struggling and slowing us down to one up from a complete stop. We reached 4 miles in and called the doggies owner to come and collect him as we needed to put our foot down. Dog collected we marched on. The next stage of our walk took us through a quaint small town and then out to the back of beyond. However we soon realised that it was just a road we would be walking down to get to our stop and promise of fish and beer. We abandoned our campaign and returned to the quaint town and settled for an Indian. We returned home. Total walking distance of 15 miles.
We didn't manage to do any walking the next day or the following weekend.
The course in Stages and their respective Stops
Total Distance in KM
1: Start: Wivelsfield
2: Mid Point: Green Lane
3: Rest Stop Oaks Park
4: Mid-Point:New Henhaw
5: Rest Stop: Tulley's Farm
6: Mid-Point Ardingly
7: Rest Stop: Wivelsfield
8: Mid-Point: Plumpton College
9: Rest Stop: Falmer
10: Finish: Brighton
So its the morning of the walk. Neither of us slept well, and we need to be up early to get a train and tube to the start point. However, we are both filled with a sense of giddy confidence. Its probably adrenaline.
We pack our gear and bedding for the night.
We set off.
It isn't long before we hit our first hitch. Due to it being a bank holiday weekend those wacky guys that work on the trains have decided its the right time to pull a couple of delays while they work on the tracks. Our train is delayed by an hour. This puts us within touching distance of missing our start slot. A few swear words later and we are on the train heading in to London. Once we have reached the tube there are more delays. I tried calling the event staff to let them know we running a few minutes late. No signal.
It was this point we realise we have forgotten the air bed. It's too late to turn back now. I know that after a full days walking you are looking forward to as many comforts as you can get and not looking forward to sleeping could have a disastrous toll. Never mind we reassure each other we will figure something out.
Both my partner and I are great at finding quick fixes like this when life throws up these little challenges. I call it "life engineering" but I digress, let get to the meat and bones shall we?!
We arrive an hour late at starting point to the new start time of 9am. We drop off our gear for the night and only take a our packs, water bottles and walking poles. I am wearing trainers, they are Adidas Trekking Trainers and I cant recommend them enough. I will see if I can find a link in amazon for you. Despite all my aches and pains from Hadrian's Wall I didn't get any blisters. I have got camel like feet. I walk flat footed. To also prepare myself for the walk I purchased some hiking socks, walking poles and blister prevention measures.
What are blister prevention measures I hear you say? Well allow me to divulge. I got these from the pound shop so you know they are good. They are small rubber hula hoop (the crisp) shaped rubber bands. You place them over your toes and they space your toes out stopping the friction which can lead to blisters. Let see how we get on with these later on.
The weather forecast for the weekend is 25 degrees Celsius on the Saturday and then Thunderstorms on Sunday. So a complete contrast and added to our weight having to cater for both extremes.
Before we set off there's chance of a picture opportunity. I have posted it for you below.
Its the only words I live by...
"One Life Live It"
It begins continued...
We set off in the cool of the morning. Gathered like sheep we march along side the river Thames. The first few kilometres are swallowed with no real trouble at all. At 6km in I start to feel some discomfort in my right foot on my right toe. I choose to ignore the pain and carry on walking. Another kilometre later and the pain start throbbing like I can feel every step.
We make it the first stop at 12km and I whip my trainers off and sock. My face turns to anguish as I realise the rubber band that was designed not to give me a blister had doubled over when I put my sock on causing part of the little pinky to be on show and rub against the trainer due to it now being pushed way out. The blister isn't small. I took of the impeding item and launched them.
Not a great start I thought to myself. To get a blister at 6% of the way through now makes this even more of a challenge. My mental strength kicks in. I have been through worse I thought to myself*. I hobble around at the rest stop taking on board as many sugary snacks a I can eat. I stuff some small packets of Haribo into my pocket. I slide over to the medical tent my partner is there putting some talcum powder on her feet. It stops them from sweating which can lead to more blisters she reveals. I put some on and rub it in. Trainers back on and stomachs full we set out.
My foot is throbbing now and every step sends a shooting pain through my foot up my leg. I take the walking poles out from my back pack and continue to walk the mean streets of London with my poles out. It helps to relieve some of the pain by taking a small amount of pressure off of the toe.
A couple of guys over take me and one says to the other we have just done 17km and that's 25,000 steps. I almost take a step back in amazement but relies that would be futile. "Wow" I think to myself, little did I know how much that information can play tricks on you.
I don't speak to anyone, my head is down trying to ignore the pain and make it to the next stop where I can take the weight of of it for a while. Sometime later we make it to the next stop. Just around the corner I can see a huge banner saying 25km. "25km done", I thought, a quarter of the way already. I'm delighted. There's a few hundred people at this stop.
As I approach a guy with a microphone, booms out "Have you finished or have you just started?" I look up to see champagne and medals waiting for people who have finished there 25km. "Psshht" I thought to myself "I'm still going pal. It will take more than blister to stop me from seeing this through." I ignore him and make my inside the tent. Grab a cup of tea and some biscuits. I whip my shoes and sock off and to surprise my toe has swollen even bigger.
My partner hobbles in behind me she has already been to the medical tent and managed to get some special blister plasters and an ice pack. Her legs were starting to stiffen up from the mornings walk. That's a good idea I thought and I hobbled over to the paramedics to get some treatment. "Sorry we don't have any left.." "That's alright" I smile back and hobbled back to my chair. Now in no rush to move. I look around the marquee and I see all shapes and sizes of people from all walks of life.
I look up from my chair and see two middle aged women drinking champagne and wearing their medals. "WTF" I say to myself. We have only just started, how can you sit there with your medals on and drink champagne. I found it insulting. After I had consumed tomorrows recommended daily sugar intake we set off, still trying to remove the bitter taste of the champagne swiggers.
I couldn't shake the thought of those two women and they stayed with me for that stage. How could they celebrate what they had accomplished? Sat around people that were still going and had no signs of giving up yet? How dare they! I don't know at this point if this was a pain dealing mechanism or just me going through the motions.
Not long after we have set off, passers by are congratulating me for my effort. A passerby rolls down her window and blurts out . This is enough to lift my spirits again. Some hoodlum walks up to me and says "Stupid question mate, why are you walking with sticks?." I don't even stop to give him my answer. "I'm walking from London to Brighton and I've got a blister already." "Aaahh ok thanks" and we part company.
We are at the 33km I had been trying not to spot the markers of how far we had walked. I'd rather just not know. Some of them are obvious some of them aren't some might not have even been there. One thing is for certain though, the markers are not equidistant apart..
Up till this point in the walk I have been pretty much keeping myself to myself. We walked past the 45km sign and there were a couple of girls about the same age as us resting by the sign. "C'mon keep going" I blurted out. Not sure if it was aimed at them or to myself, now I wonder. The conversation had been struck.
My partner took one of the girls as they walked at a slower pace, and myself and the other went marching on. She had explained that they stopped every 5km just to take a break. I told her that I don't think the signs are the same distance apart and she said they had noticed it too. I then wondered if there had been some confusion in were they had been spread out in miles instead of kilometres or if they were actually set up as a crow flies. I shall take the mystery to the grave.
We soon realised that we're like minded and the conversation just flowed out from both of us. These two had experience of walking this distance before and weren't even stopping to sleep at night just plow on through. As we weighed up the pro's and con's. I told her about 25,000 steps at 17km and to google how many steps she would have walked when she had completed the 100k and got home. "No need" she said and flipped out her phone. We've just done 70,000 steps.
I don't know if I was more annoyed at knowing that information at the half way point or wowed by it. I needed to get something off my chest. The Champagne swiggers. I told Hannah my frustration, it felt good releasing something that I would normally keep bottled up inside. To my amazement she agreed with me. Its at that point, lets just say the penny dropped, that my mindset changed.
I then had my eyes opened and said to Hannah. "Do you know what, I don't know anything about them. I don't know anything about their back ground. At least they have done it and undoubtedly for a worthy cause." A smile made it's way across my face. The pain had gone and I was in a good mood. I was back to my old self again.
We all stopped together at the 50km for a photo opportunity. It was now only 4km to our final resting point for the day. A chance to get a decent meal and our head down for the night. The girls rested for 5 mins we couldn't, as our legs were starting to get cold and seize up so we carried on walking. I didn't much care for it the signs were close or far apart from each other 4 left was all it was. "I've got this" I thought to myself.
The last sign took us over an hour to walk. The thunder had started on the horizon.
We made it to Tulley's Farm.
Tulley's Farm was situated at 56km which gave me a mental edge as we are already over the half way mark. As soon as we arrived we ate. I grabbed our duvet and we went into the medical tent to see if anything could be done about our feet. It was now 1am and we were tired from a hard days walking. I asked the paramedics would someone be here in the morning as I would like to get my foot looked at or amputated! 5 pairs of beady eyes all looked up at me at once, one of the voices snarled yes there will be a couple of people here.
I grabbed a couple of blankets and foil towels from the medical centre. There were sports masseuses offering massages but after nearly another hour of waiting for one, we accepted defeat and went to go and find our tent. The tent was made which gave us little comfort to off set the rain. We had a roll mat each, we put our duvet on top of the roll mats to create a double bed. We had a blanket each and some tin foil. This foil towel great for keeping the heat in, but it doesn't half rustle. I was sleep before my head hit the pillow. We had 4 hours sleep. Amazingly I felt as right as rain the next morning. Whether it was the final decent or too much sugar I have no idea. I made my way into the medical tent to get some attention but there was no one there. Gutted, we grabbed a bite to eat and set off.
Somewhere between going to sleep and setting off I had misplaced my water bottle. I would have to go on with out it.
About 2km out I caught up with a large heavy set woman and what can only be described as a long suffering husband. It looked like she was taking her dog for a walk. She was wearing crocs (with socks) he had her boots strapped to the back of his back pack. They were holding hands. "Poor guy" I thought. As quickly as I had past judgement I was gone again.
We approached Ardingly our first stop and I thought i'm going to get some proper treatment for my blisters. My foot was starting to look like a bowl of fruit. As I waited for the medical profession (who was a lovely old boy) to stop starring into outer space. He asked me what my ailment was.
I looked around and a lady was getting her foot properly plastered and bandaged up. "I have got a couple of blisters". I took off my shoe and he immediately noticed one on my heel, is that all he said? Truth be told, I didn't even know I had that one. "No I have another one." I was hoping for some brave comment from him at this point or at least a look of shock. I pointed to my little toe. He said "You have got something on it... a plaster." "No... I replied that's just the blister." He gave me one plaster and told me to sit over there and do it myself.
At this point Husband and Strife made there way into the medical section. She didn't even wait to be seen she just sat straight down. "I have got a blood blister" she bellowed for all to hear. "Forget this" I left the plaster on the seat and departed.
I'm at 76km now and I know the next stop is at 80km. The sun was out and I was baking. My mouth was dryer than a desert. I need water and soon. I thought, I know I will time myself how long it takes me to walk this next km. Then I can see how long it will take to the next stop. 13 mins it took me from 76 to 77. "Ok great." I thought to myself. Lets do it again so I can get a better average time. 14 minutes. "Good" I thought. 2km left should have that done in the next 30 mins. It took me 13 minutes to walk from 78 to 79. Its at this point I know the end is in sight. I really need a break now. I'm so close I can almost taste it.
After walking for 20 minutes no break in sight. I Must be so close now. I walk for another 20 minutes still nothing. "Have I got lost?" I pull out my phone to check co-ordinates I'm on the right path but no where near the rest stop, in fact i'm not even half way.
Pure rage was what drove me to the stop.
I take an hour here, regaining my composure, taking the weight off and taking it all in. Great to see so many people still plodding on. This goes along way to make my pain at ease knowing everyone else is going through the same thing as I am.
I fell asleep for 20 minutes. When I woke I thought I need something for the pain. I thought last chance with the medical professionals. I walked in and asked one of the young nurses for a paracetamol (thinking that's the best I'm going to get and I don't want to be a burden, there are people in greater need than me)."Yep, I will just get you one" she said. She asked a Senior Nurse where they keep them, the Senior Nurse spun round and smiled at me. "What's it for?" "Just a couple of blisters" "Have you had them taken a look at." "No" I replied. I couldn't believe she was actually concerned about my health let alone having a conversation with me. She examined my foot, "Worst I've seen today" "Can I see your other foot?" "Nah that one's fine." I took the paracetamol and waited for a massage.
I hadn't had much luck with massages up till this point but I thought I might as well try one as I'm on a roll.
There was hardly a queue, I was seen within minutes. He scanned me up and down. "You look like a runner." "In a previous life" I joked. We hit it off. For the second time in 24 hours I had really connected with someone. Miracles do happen. He asked me where it was hurting I described my legs and back. "My quads are tired." Let me tell you this guys touch was so soft, either that or my nerves were shot. I told him a sad story about my blisters. He then told me that he likes to walk, jog and run the 100k's. He asked me why I was doing it and I told him. "In truth, I have let myself go over the years, this walk for me is way of saying enough is enough. A huge kick start if you will."
He gave me some top tips on gear, (See Profession Gear at the bottom of the article). I got up from the massage table my legs felt like they were brand new. I could move!
I rip roared my way through the final stages full of energy and vigor. I remember taking my final comfort break at 94 kilometres thinking "they have done this really well, anybody who makes it this far has to finish." I walked out to the water tank to get another cup of water. "A middle aged women head to toe in charity get up, went up to one of the officials and said "Just to let you know I'm stopping here and don't want to continue". "Your quitting? He replied, as shocked at the next man. I couldn't believe it. You've walked 94% of the way only to not make the full distance the last 6km. And what about the Charity (or charities) that you would be disappointing? What about yourself?
These thoughts stayed with me till I reached the finishing line. Amazingly not long after I finished was the blood blister lady with her pooch. I was in no condition to stand. But I stood up anyway and applauded. Thinking to myself "Well Done! You made it."
*I did a course with the army when I was 16 as part of an extra curricular activity through my school. It required a good deal of endurance, I was super fit at the time so I aced the course.
Would I do it again? Probably not. The main lessons I learned from this exercise, if I were to do it again. Do more training, get the Drymax socks and talk to everyone you meet.
Did it motivate me to get out of my rut? Damn straight and I have set my sights on a tough mudder. My goal now is to reach my physical peak while I am still young and able to do it.
I Would encourage people to do it. If only to take away the valuable lessons that I did. And what a feeling of accomplishment. For me its a Life Achievement and one I will always hold on to. I would also say this challenge didn't require a lot of endurance, I never exerted myself. But what it did require is a high pain threshold. You need to be really mentally strong when you are stepping on all sorts of aches and pains and to just to keep going for no apparent reason.
Both of my Medals are being held under lock and key by my Wonderful Grandmother.
Thanks for reading :D
Time Completed 28hrs and some change
© 2018 Leo J Wicks