Thursday, 23 December 2010

A new project

For some time now, I have been itching for a new project; something that would stretch me both physically and mentally. The big problem is that, having walked over 6,200 miles in a year, any project would have to be truly ginormous.

One of the biggest regrets I have about my Coastwalk was that I did not manage to walk for 100 days without a rest day - in the end my best was 91 days, from October 1st to December 31st. After that, charity obligations and general wear and tear on my body caused me to take regular rest days.

I know I can cover long distances over time, and therefore something like Land's End to John O'Groats holds no real appeal, especially as I did it twice during my coastal walk. A round of the Munros would be another challenge, but I would rather savour those and tackle them over time. Besides, every man and his dog is doing a round, and I want to do something more individual.

I had an idea whilst I was soaking in the bath a while ago; it was the sort of brainwave that most ordinary (i.e. not insane) people would immediately ignore. It is an idea that will challenge me both physically and mentally, and will have severe logistical problems.

The concept is simple, and can be summarised in a few rules:
  1. To walk for 100 days
  2. To walks a continuous route and not a series of small circles.
  3. To walk every day
  4. To complete at least one mile every hour of the day.

The idea comes from Captain Robert Barclay Allardice who, in 1809, walked one mile every hour for 1,000 hours, or 42 days. More information on him can be found at the celebrated pedestrian website. Walther Thom's book, 'Pedestrianism', can be read on Google Books. The feat has been done many times since, including for Flora before the London Marathon in 2003.


It sounds simple, but the killer is that fourth rule. If I walk at three miles an hour, then I would only be able to get 80 minutes sleep at any one time. For instance, I would be able to walk from 12.00 to 12.20, then sleep from 12.20 to 13.40, and walk from 13.40 to 14.00. Naturally enough, the amount of time spent asleep would be less than this. The faster I walk, the more I can sleep.

My plan would more than double the task, as well as adding extra complexities.

Sleep deprivation is the obvious problem. Whereas Captain Allardice walked continually around Newmarket Heath; I would be walking on roads and in the countryside. This would bring in obvious safety problems, including where I could safely lay my head for a kip. There would not necessarily be any shelter, so I would have to have some form of rapidly-erected shelter. Repeating a  circular route, as others have done, allows you to have somewhere permanently set up to sleep.

Say I need four hours (240 minutes) of sleep every 24-hours; that would mean I could spend the night in the following splits:
23.00 to 23.20 walk
23.20 to 00.40 sleep  80 minutes
00.40 to 01.20 walk
01.20 to 02.40 sleep 80 minutes
02.40 to 03.20 walk
03.20 to 04.40 sleep 80 minutes

Thus giving me 240 minutes sleep, and having walked six miles in that time. If I need more sleep then the routine could be extended.

Sleep will cause other problems. My schedule would be unalterable, which would mean that I would have to sleep wherever I am at the required times, or otherwise wait until time allows. Another obvious problem is how to ensure that I wake up in time to do the next mile; easy if I have support, almost impossible if I try the walk on my own. If I do this to set some form of record, then I would need to get verification of my sleep times and distances.

Many of these problems could be fixed by having a support vehicle, but then the driver(s) would face similar sleep problems.

For these reasons, this is really a non-starter. There is just too much that could go wrong to believe that there is a realistic chance of success. The physical and mental stress would be tremendous the longer the walk goes on.

It is, however, a non-starter that keep on popping into my mind. Which, given my history for trying mad schemes, is worrying...

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

It is, indeed, a bonkers idea.