In January 2023 I decided to have a bit of a mid life crisis and put on my list for this year to complete a marathon distance walk.
Doesn’t sound too bad I hear you say. Well the one we signed up for was in 4 weeks time!
Now I consider myself a bit of a walker. We have a big dog that needs walking everyday and when we holiday in the UK it’s mostly a week of walking all day, every day. However even I knew that a marathon distance was a big jump up, with very little training time. But Im stubborn and I’d decided this is what I was doing. Thankfully my wife and a good friend agreed to do it with me. The 3 of us had previously completed a 25km charity walk in London last year without any real issues (apart from a hip niggle from me) so how bad could it be?
Run up to the marathon walk
We just about managed to fit in 2 training walks before the event. A 15km walk around our local village. Something to remember is that multiple loops of a 5km route are not that inspiring, especially if the weather is a bit duff like in January in the UK.
Our 2nd walk was a much longer 32km walk, again locally and on pavements. We decided not to train off road for 2 reasons, the weather had been wet so the ground was not the best for walking on, and our actual marathon walk would be around London so on pavements anyway.
Towards the end of the 32km training walk is when we realised that walking a marathon distance was going to hurt! Our dogs were definitely barking (feet hurt!) and there were definitely some blister prone areas. Cue the slight panic and the ‘Oh my God what have we signed up for?!’ moments. But we decided we were probably as prepared as we could be with our time frame. We had tested all our kit - clothes, shoes, bags (full of what we would need to carry with us) so there wasnt much else we could do.
Now our night before the walk preparation could have been better as we ended up walking quite far around London to go and see Cirque du Soleil (fantastic show and worth seeing) but that had already put some mileage on the feet and given us a late night.
The walk itself
The morning of the walk up bright and early for the tube ride and walk from Covent Garden to the Oval which was our starting point. Cuppa tea and a biscuit before heading off and we were ready for our 9am start time. Surprisingly I felt quite confident as we set off that this might not be as bad as I thought. The weather was cold but bright and dry. The atmosphere was buzzing. We were ready!
That feeling lasted until not too long after our first rest stop where for the first time ever in these walking shoes I felt a pinchy pre blister situation happening on my little toe. In fact we were all starting to suffer with a few blister and pre blister situations. So a stop to tape up and blister plaster and we were on our way again.
The mid point lunch stop was a welcome sight. Not only was I starving by then (despite numerous snacks) I really wanted a few minutes without my shoes on and a chance to change socks.
I cant say things improved from then. Our lack of distance training was probably starting to show and things were definitely starting to hurt. Between us we had blisters, foot pain, hip/glute pains, and it was getting colder and darker. Not going to lie, the last half and especially the last 8km, were a mind over matter situation.
It is quite amazing how much you can push yourself to just keep going and putting one foot in front of the other. We were still keeping quite a good pace even with all this and were passing other participants who were in our situation, some in even worse states.
I would love to say that when we passed that finish line I had a great sense of achievement, however all I could think was ‘thank god thats over’ and ‘where is the nearest chair’. The blisters on the balls of my feet had got to actual pain levels by the end.
‘Wait’, I hear you say, ‘a podiatrist getting blisters on a walk?’ Yes it does happen, however Im pretty sure I know where I went wrong. At the last rest stop with 8km to go my feet were hurting so I loosened off the laces on my walking shoes, possibly a bit too much. Oh well, live and learn. And who doesn’t like popping blisters.
So where was my sense of elation at having completed this epic mid life crisis event. Well as the days have passed I have started to feel the pride in the accomplishment. I do feel good that was I able to complete the distance relatively unscathed. Now I can look back on the bits I really enjoyed about it and forget about the less pleasant bits. After all, not everyone can walk a marathon.
Would I do another one, or even a half or full ultra marathon distance (50km and 100km)? Im currently on a firm NO. I can see me possibly being talked into another marathon but I think I would need a lot more training and a slightly more scenic setting. However Im totally up for doing more 25km walks and exploring more places.
What have I learnt
1 - If you are thinking about doing a marathon, or any distance walk, make sure you get enough training in. Unless you are consistently walking 20km + when you do your general walking you need to train that endurance.
2 - Make sure you test out all your kit on a training walk. Thankfully we did this and everything, including how many layers of clothing we needed, worked out just fine. The blisters from the shoes was an aberration and doesn’t count for me.
3 - It is always easier with company. Try and have someone you can train and do the walk with. You need the support towards the end. Also music helps when you need a distraction and something to keep the tempo up.
4 - Snacks and hydration are essential. I did OK on the snacks but I didnt drink enough and that probably didnt help the aches and pains.
5 - Take the next day off. I was pretty crippled and stiff the next day and not good for much. We did go out and do a 20 minute walk which was painful but possibly helped in the long run.
So if you are contemplating a long distance walk, or have already signed up for one, and want your feet checking over then please eat in touch and make an appointment in clinic.