I'm the only person ever to walk a 3500 mile route in Wales but be assured, as soon as someone else does it, they will be faster than me. I'm not the fastest, or the best, I'm not breaking any records but I have had the capacity and tenacity to take my plump body step after step until I have walked thousands of miles.
If you're thinking of doing something similar, here are some things you might like to know -
Perhaps you can handle the enormity of what you are setting out to do - weeks of walking, hundreds of miles. I couldn't. Walking 3500 miles is cartoon numbers, I couldn't comprehend what I was setting out to do and a part of me still can't visualise it. The only thing I could do in the planning without sending a bubble of panic rising into my chest, cutting short my breathing was to think IF. IF I was going to walk 3500 miles what would I need. IF I was going to leave my home and go walking, what would I do.
Don't worry that you haven't done enough training. You can walk without any preparation or a high level of fitness, anyone can walk out of their front door and set off to walk a thousand miles, you will just be slow to start and gain fitness along the way. The more you prepare, the easier it will be, you will experience lower levels of pain and a lower likelihood of serious, walk-ending injury.
I'm not going to tell you what to take, there are plenty of lists available elsewhere, only that you do not need everything you will pack at the beginning when you're freaking out and thinking of how to survive in the desert and in a snowstorm all at once.
Get together all the things you think you will need - the knife, the waterproof trousers, the book, the suncream, the washing up liquid, the pack of safety pins, the spare tent pole.
Pack it all into an incredibly heavy rucksack, take out as much as you can, set off and a week later, take stuff out again. Post things home, post things ahead, just don't carry anything unneccessary.
I don't carry a stove, for most of last summer I didn't carry a tent, just slept under the stars - a little morning dew is worth the weight off your shoulders. I did, however, carry a book. However minimal you think you can get, it's always possible to drop more pieces of kit.
Beware of 'just in case'. What you are putting in your bag will weigh upon your shoulders for every single step, forcing your muscles to work harder, putting more stress on your ankles, your knees your hips, costing more energy, making you hungrier. Is it worth carrying something that you only need once a month? Weigh it up - literally.
I don't pop blisters, just tape them over with micropore and leave them alone. Mine all reabsorbed and disappeared. After the first week I didn't have any more blisters.
I wear two pairs of socks, one thinner liner and a thicker woollen outer. Change them every day, it will help stop your boots smelling. (Your boots will still end up smelling, nothing will stop your boots from smelling abysmal)
Take regular breaks while walking your daily miles, put your feet up wherever possible. Take your shoes and socks off, wiggle your toes, rub your soles and calves. Do this even if you're just stopping for ten minutes, it will help blood circulation and relieve the tension caused from keeping your feet in the same enclosed position for hours on end.
Stretch whenever you can; at the beginning, middle and end of each session. You can walk for long distances with tight muscles but it will only transfer the strain of impact onto your joints.
Take baths as often as you can get them. Same for steak dinners, foot massages and having your rucksack carried forward for you.
Your body will hurt. Especially in the first couple of weeks. Your feet will swell and throb, your shoulders will burn with the weight of your bag, your joints will creak, random parts of your body will shoot with pain and then quieten again.
Stick with it. Don't give up. You are asking your body to do something incredible and I promise you it will harden and become capable.
The things you carry but don't wash - rucksack, food bag, waterproofs, sleeping mat - will slowly start to smell. Everything you can wash will still become smelly by the end of the walking day. By the end of the walk you'll probably smell like a mixture of wet dog and wet socks.
If you walk for long enough you will find you have stopped caring.
The people you meet have the potential to provide some of your most unexpected and interesting moments, don't just walk but make time for conversation and interesting distractions.
Never think to yourself, when you are so so tired after 20 miles of walking and you just want to lie down and become unconscious as quickly as possible, never think to yourself that this lump under your chosen sleeping spot will not matter and you can curl up around it. You will not sleep properly, it will be come incredibly uncomfortable within an hour and you will wake up the following morning with stabbing back pain. Be a camping princess, always pick a smooth, level sleeping place.
I once met a woman in tears almost at the top of Snowdon, she was on her way to the end of a 24 hour, 3 mountain challenge - she'd had no sleep and not enough to eat. She was shivering, her brain shutting down, unable to take action to keep herself safe. I encouraged her to eat, put a jumper on and left her. Twenty minutes later she caught me up, refreshed and revitalised - always keep enough food and make sure you eat regularly. Learn the effects of sugar on your body and balance it with slow-release carbohydrates to ensure a steady supply of energy through the day.
Looking after yourself is hard. Looking after yourself when you have been walking alone for ten hours and you are exhausted, probably low on blood sugar and unable to make decisions is really difficult. Talk to yourself, prioritise, help yourself to take action, bring your struggling brain into focus and form the sequence of things you need to do to make yourself warm, safe, fed, rested, relaxed and ready to do exactly the same thing the next day. Keeping your brain able to do these things is what will make your walk possible - just as much as the amount of power in your legs.
You cannot throw yourself at this journey - a walk of hundreds of miles cannot be pushed until the end. This is too big, let the target dwarf you, you cannot force this journey to be over quickly with your strength of will - this is too big for rushing, you will break your body trying.
Settle in to this, accept that the amount of time you spend achieving this will stretch and slow down, you have to live in this journey, not speed up and miss it.
Walking hundreds of miles is hard. Walking hundreds of miles to a schedule is stressful and demanding.
Get rid of schedules and targets, they just add pressure. If you must have one, make it flexible.
Only one person can be the fastest, you are probably not that person. Just walk, it doesn't matter how good you are, just the fact that you are pushing your body to walk hundreds of miles is enough. Do it in your own time.
All your ideas, your expectations, your targets, your plans, your competition with yourself, your competition with others. Drop them. Just walk, get as far as you can every day, keep yourself warm, keep yourself safe, keep yourself rested, get up the next day and do the same again.
Let go of fear and expectations. Just go for it. This is what your body evolved to do.
(Have I missed anything? Ask questions in the comments. )