Splodz Blogz | A Virtual Coast to Coast Hike

I have to admit I’ve been a little bit jealous of those who seem to have achieved great things or taken part in big challenges during lock down. I’m one of the many people who is still working full time – albeit from home – and my day job seems to have become even more stressful than normal (or maybe that’s just me feeling the pressure of change). I am grateful that I can still work, and very much appreciate that I can continue with my routine of spending a little bit of time outside every day within the government guidelines. My daily walks have been a lifeline for my body and mind, and I have been enjoying, genuinely loving, exploring the world from my own front door.

And so far those daily walks, since we went into lock down on 24 March, have taken me 147 miles in various circular routes from home. That’s the equivalent of walking almost across the width of England…

I should have been walking Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire in early June. My good hiking buddy Jenni (@MissJTulip) and I have been looking forward to the iconic East to West hike for months. We walked the West Highland Way together a couple of years ago, and have done umpteen shorter hikes together and with others including the two-day Lyke Wake Walk and three-day Brenig Way (blog post coming soon) with others. We’ve been talking about Wainwright’s Coast to Coast hike since we finished the West Highland Way, there is something about the idea of dipping my toes in the water on the east coast and taking myself the nearly-200-miles all the way over to the west coast for a paddle in a different ocean appeals to my sea loving self. Last year we decided it was time to stop talking about our next hike and to just get on with the doing.

We have unsurprisingly postponed our long-distance trail hike to next summer. It was the only sensible decision. Even though it might be possible to have such an adventure later this year, we both felt we were better moving it by a full 12-months in order to avoid any uncertainties over and above those caused by the virus and related politics at the moment. This is also the most likely way we’ll be able to do the hike the way we want to – with the help of a baggage transfer company and the hospitality of campsites with basic facilities and pubs with good food along the route. I can write about our decision not to carry our own camping gear this time some time if you’re interested, but in short, we really want to take the high routes where we can (weather permitting), and don’t want to be doing that with anything more than our day packs. 

Postponing our trek really got me down. In some ways it was just another thing in a long line of cancelled and postponed trips over the last couple of months – I’ve never had such a clear diary (or done so much cooking and DIY – read my weekly blogs for more about that). But I know as well as anyone else that there are several ways of looking at our current lot, and while I know I’m well within my rights to be upset about the lack of fun adventure at the moment, it’s not exactly helpful to me or anyone else.

In the spirit of being motivated to do something rather than wallow in the disappointment of a cancelled trip, I’ve been inspired by Rory Southworth (@RorySouthworth) and others who’ve been completing at home challenges, as well as a lovely friend and colleague who encouraged me to look beyond my funk and find my real self again, I’ve been totting up the miles walked on my daily lunchtime wander since it all (officially) started on 24 March. I thought it would be cool to walk my chosen long distance trail virtually, as a bit of fun to see how far I can actually go in my one daily outdoor exercise and to keep me motivated to get out every day. And yes, even in the rain, but no, not when I’m resting a twisted ankle, I learnt that lesson (read weekly blog episode 14).

After six weeks I’m nearly there! I’ve walked 147 miles, mainly in three-ish mile loops in my lunch breaks from home working, which means I’m having a bit of a break at Ingleby Cross in North Yorkshire before I head across the barren landscape of the North York Moors National Park for the final stretch over to the east coast. It’s been 43 days so far… When I do it for real I’ve got 14 days. Oh.

The best side effect to all this is how it’s helping me think ahead to when I actually get to walk the route for real. I’ve been studying the route on OS Maps (this is one version of it if you’ve not seen the Coast to Coast route before), reading my Trailblazer guide book (available here on Amazon – this is actually a more up to date version than the one I’m using, maybe I should upgrade!), and reading up on the history of the area I’ve been walking through each day thanks to Google. This hasn’t just kept my legs moving, but my mind working too.

Sincerely, this is only meant to be a silly behind the scenes challenge to help keep me motivated to get outside every day, with route planning and preparation being an excellent bonus. But maybe there’s something in it. Have you had a look to see how far you’re walking – or running, or cycling – each day at the moment? It soon adds up. Maybe we’ll have all walked the length of the Pacific Crest Trail by the time this is all over – okay, I admit I hope that isn’t true, please don’t let this go on for two years!!

Have you set yourself a little home-based challenge? Even a behind the scenes one you’ve not told anyone else about? Maybe you’re learning to knit or crochet so you’ve got handmade gifts to give friends at Christmas this year, practicing a musical instrument for a few minutes each day ready for a surprise concert or just because you’ve been meaning to for ages, or finally spending time learning Spanish ready for your next travel adventure? Perhaps you’re walking along every street within a two-mile radius of your house, climbing the equivalent height of the National Three Peaks on your back doorstep, or cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats on your turbo trainer this bank holiday weekend. I’ll stick to my virtual Coast to Coast hike, I’ve got less than 50 miles to go, give me a couple more weeks and I’ll be done.

There is so much pressure “to do” at the moment (worth a whole blog sometime), that certainly isn’t what I’m going for here. This isn’t a challenge to show off to others or make people think I’m doing so well under lock down everyone should bow down in awe, but rather a personal decision to do something to keep me sane and personally encouraged. Setting simple goals like this just go to show that you don’t have to go far to push yourself just that little bit more than normal, to keep your body and mind active in these times of unprecedented restriction and social distancing. My virtual Coast to Coast hike has already made sure I’ve continued to keep to my One Hour Outside aim, has been well within the government guidelines, and is keeping me healthy.

Part of me wishes I’d got even more motivated when I started my virtual Coast to Coast hike and posted screen shots of my location on the map at the end of every day over on my Instagram stories (@Splodz), with a little snippet about each place I’ve walked through, but I didn’t. If you’re interested in when I reach the virtual finish line over on the east coast, I’ll be sure to post something over there in celebration on that day. It won’t be long…  

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