Yesterday, we three undertook the Stroud Five Valley’s walk – 21 miles, with a lot of going up and down steep hills. It’s a demanding annual event raising money for Meningitis research and the rebuilding of lives shattered by the illness. I’ve done it before – once, about twenty years ago. Tom hadn’t done it, and with my lad being 12, it represented a huge physical challenge for him.
There were a lot of people walking that route. It’s a very different experience to be out with such numbers of walkers, all sharing the same intent and journey. There were many conversations with strangers, and a sense of camaraderie pervaded the whole event.
We walked through some gorgeous Cotswold countryside, with the beech trees just starting to turn. The route took us through Lyn Chadwick’s sculpture park – not usually available for public viewing, and a remarkable experience. We also had an incredibly close encounter with a deer, which ran past us, just a few feet away. I found a small lizard sunbathing on a rock, which was also lovely. With that many people on the move I’d not expected to see much wildlife, so these were happy surprises. There were lots of fungi too, and many glorious views along the way.
Today I am sore and weary. The last four miles were really hard going for all of us, and it took a long time. I have epic blisters, but am on the whole in better shape than I expected to be. James has already raised nearly £300 in sponsorship, which is brilliant (www.justgiving.com/tigerfish should you feel so moved). We spent a lot of last night considering what lessons could be learned and how to do better next year. (Buy chips on route, put halts in different places to improve speed on the flat, and better prepare us for the section we found toughest.) It hurt, and it was hard, and there were several times when I had no idea how I was going to get to the end… but we did, and I have no doubt that we’ll try it again next year.
A life without challenges, without epic adventures, trials and victories, would not be much of a life. On the whole, the cost in pain is well worth paying for that fuller, richer, more alive, more intense experience of being alive. A challenge faced, a challenge overcome. I don’t have a great relationship with my body, and I spent some of the walk deeply envious of the beautiful graceful gazelle people who were running a route it took my every effort to walk, but at least I can walk, and I’m grateful for that. My body held up better than I expected, which is reassuring. If the epic blisters, which I had no awareness of whilst moving, are anything to go by, my pain thresholds are nothing to be ashamed of either, and that brings me a perspective on other things. All in all, it was well worth the effort.