Walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity

Here’s a fun thing I am doing virtually with Fitbit and the internet: attempting a long distance walk largely within my classroom.

Towards the end of last year, people in the Fitbit UK facebook group pointed me at a charity group in which a bunch of people attempt to walk the length of the UK – 605 miles.

The group doesn’t mind at all how you do the miles – walk, run or zimmer frame, its description says – so long as you post periodically how you are doing.

Fitbit send me a weekly summary email so all I do is take that, convert KM to miles and post each week. The mail comes through on a Monday, and last week’s put me well over 100 miles already this year, largely done at work. That puts me kind beyond Bristol and in Wales already and suggests I will have done the whole walk by around June / July.

Whoever runs it posts regular status updates to tell walkers what milestone they have reached, along with a lovely photo from somewhere in the UK.

ALEX FOSTER at 110/605 miles you are outside Swansea in Killay; The village of Killay evolved as a direct result of the south Wales coal industry. There were a good number of mines in Killay, the Clyne valley and in the neighbouring village of Dunvant dating back as far as the 14th century. The largest company, but also one of the latest, to mine coal in the district was the Killan Colliery Company, which began operations in 1899.

Someone not much further forward – 161 miles – has just passed St Lawrence’s church in Ludlow and there are a lot of people in the group at various milestones in Shropshire at the minute. The first few people have already completed the race and there’s a significant minority crossing the border into Scotland already.

Better still, your modest annual sub also pays for them to post you a real postcard from time to time from where you have supposedly got to – I got one at the end of January from the English Riviera.

If you’re interested in something like this, there is another Facebook group for virtual runs.


Fun things happen on snowy walk

When I get home these days, my Fitbit connects to my computer. On a good day, that then makes my phone go ping and say “You have nearly reached 10,000 steps! Just 2,000 more!”

2,000 steps is about a 20 minute walk, so that’s fairly achievable, and that phone ping is usually all the motivation I need to go for a quick walk to get me over the magic number as recommended by the NHS.

On Friday I got the ping quite late at night, after a slightly hairy drive home from ringing, and I was really reluctant about whether going out was a good idea.

I’m so glad I did.

Firstly I was out in the heaviest snow I have ever seen. Big, fat, Christmas card snowflakes falling at a million a minute.

Heavy snow 25/1/13

Secondly it gave me the chance to walk by Woodthorpe Park and take photos of an igloo I’d seen right by the railings on the Mansfield Road.

Heavy snow 25/1/13

My route then took me up Woodthorpe Drive, which is pretty steep and would tick off some more boxes on Fitbit’s “how many flights of stairs have you climbed today” measure. As I was doing this, I crossed over a bridge that was for a railway line that closed in the 1960s. In the park below, poking out of the bricked up tunnel, is a model train, along with a board recounting the railway history of the park. And third fun thing – for some reason known only to them, there was a group of lads, late teens, early twenties, gathered around the train smoking and drinking out of insulated travel mugs. What they were doing, only they know. They didn’t really seem dressed for the weather! They seemed to be having a good time, so I waved, and they waved back. Then… I made a theatrical show of making a snow ball out of snow gathered on the brick bridge and taking aim at one of them to squeals of No, mate, no, before deciding not to throw it, waving again, and continuing up the hill.

The weather was still coming in thick and fast, the pavements were now under 3″ of snow and even with my Yaktrax strapped to my feet, the snow was sticky and very hard to walk in. Cars were getting into trouble making it up the hill, snow was getting in my eyes and I was sorely tempted to stop off at the Bread and Bitter at the top of the hill. Having a pint halfway round your walk for health seems a little perverse, so I persevered on round the corner into the downhill stretch.

Heavy snow 25/1/13

When I got to Winchester Street, the fourth fun thing happened: one of the few cars to make it all the way up the hill was a 4×4 going at quite some speed – enough to make me look up from my feet to watch it go, only to see that running at full pelt behind it was an athletically built guy in marathon gear – trainers, shorts and t-shirt! (At this point I was in vest, shirt, hoodie, coat, thermal socks, and murderer gloves) What a strange time to go for a run.

I had a jolly leisure walk in the snow that all ended well. But it continued to chuck it down, and there were consequences. The night buses were all cancelled, and not long after, taxis were unable to get up the hillier parts of Nottingham. A friend who arrived home from London on the 2am train had to walk back to Sherwood and recounts the Mansfield Road as full of abandoned cars and buses in the wrong position on the road.

Anyway, must dash. It’s raining tonight rather than snowing, but my step count stands at 9,481 and we can easily fix this.