24 weeks before the BIG race and I have realised I need to do some marathon training, but before I start any running I need to improve my fitness and the easiest and cheapest way to do this is by walking. I decided to sign up for the A-Z annual walking event which this year would take place in the Yorkshire Dales. The aim of the walk is to complete the Yorkshire Three Peaks in less than 12 hours and cover 24 miles and 3 rather large hills. It promises to be tough not only physically but also mentally too. But I am looking at it as part of my training for the marathon rather than a challenge in itself. Whether this is the right way to approach this I am not sure, but I am conscious that the last time I did an A-Z walking event which was to climb Snowdon, I had a panic attack near the top when we were walking along a ridge so I am trying to be realistic about what I can achieve! I am lucky that the people I will be walking with are very supportive and experienced map readers!
So to train for this challenge I decided to throw myself into to the training walks organised by Andy Everall one of our cartographers at A-Z.
Bewl Water & Bedgebury Forest, Kent
As you can see from the attached photos the route was very muddy (I HATE mud) and very draining to walk through. My sense of balance is also awful so within the first 30 minutes I had fallen over and had to spend the rest of the walk with a muddy bum.
I also may have dislocated some of my colleague’s arms as they tried to help me climb over styles and trough muddy puddles (the size of small lakes!) We took a couple of wrong turns due to way markers not being visible and in total we did 17.2 miles. I was very tried at the end of the walk, I don’t think I took enough food or ate the right food and I didn’t drink enough as I was conscious there was no toilet on the route. I drove home feeling tired but also extremely chuffed I had walked that distance without any real training before. By the time I got home I was very stiff and made the mistake of shuffling to the sofa and not moving for the rest of the day. This caused my legs to seize up and even though I had a bath which I hoped would help, by the evening I was in a lot of pain. My legs felt like they were on fire! This was due to tiny tears in the muscles in my legs caused by all the walking. I read after (LOVE Google) that this is quite common if you don’t properly warm down after exercise. I did a bit of research about it and what I should have done is walked around for a bit when I got home and not sat down. I should also have eaten some protein or carbohydrates within an hour of finishing the walk to help repair the tiny tears in my muscles. It took a couple of days for my muscles to stop aching but I was happy that my knees, hips and feet felt completely fine. I am totally flat footed so if I don’t wear the correct footwear I can cause injury easily to these areas, this was one of the main reasons I got my feet properly measured for my running shoes and made sure they were motion control shoes which gives me the support I need.
The Devil’s Dyke, West Sussex/Surrey border
One week later I went on the next walk which was an 11 mile walk on the West Sussex/Surrey boarder along The Devil’s Dyke. Walking conditions could not have been more different to the previous walk. The weather was lovely and dry. I really enjoyed the walk and decided to use walking poles to help me when climbing up and down the steep inclines.
My fitness levels were definitely improving as although I was out of breath when we were climbing the hills my recovery time was pretty good. This again increased my confidence that I could achieve my goal of running more of the marathon than I had the previous two times I had taken part in. I also decided to buy a fitness tracker which I know will motivate me to keep my exercise levels up and also monitor how far I am running.
Leith Hill & Holmbury Hill, Dorking
The third walk took place on Leith Hill and Holmbury Hill near Dorking, two weeks later. This walk was especially tough not only because it was 16.5 miles but also because certain parts of the hills are VERY steep.
My trusty poles were again in use and helped me tackle these tough bits. The weather was lovely but quite humid so I made sure to take a lot of water with me (2 x 750ml bottles) which I drank all of. I have realised that it is important to eat and drink often; this helps you to keep your energy levels up and stop dehydration but also improves your mental wellbeing. Completing a marathon is not just about fitness it is also about being able to mentally push through those moments when you feel you can’t carry on. At the end of the walk I made sure I kept active when I got home, and by active I mean I made dinner for my 3 children and did the washing up. By not just sitting down I found that my recovery time was improving.
I felt that good the next day that I decided to do another walk around our local water reserve, Bewl Water. The 13 miles walk was on the hottest day of the year so far so again I made sure I took lots of water and some protein bars to keep my energy up. The walk flew by, probably because of the people I was walking with but also because my fitness is now improving. I was VERY tired by the end, but on a complete high because I had walked nearly 30 miles in two days!
The A-Z Maps 3 peaks challenge is on Saturday (21st May). I will update in my next marathon training blog how it goes!!!