Wow. I realised I haven’t written for 20 days. I can’t believe it.
It’s been busy and stressful, trying to sort everything out before I leave Southampton and it took me about a week to fully recover from the Macmillan Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike challenge, mainly mentally.
Although I’ve done my best I still feel terrible for only reaching mile 20 and not finishing it and I’d love to go back and try again.
I won’t get into details on what happened on the day, you can get a taste below (the whole story in the description) but I thought I’d share what I learnt to help future hikers who decide to take the challenge.
I wish I prepared better. Physically I was OK, the first half was tough but I managed, I’m not too unfit, I could have finished it but I wish I had done a walk as long as the hike just to test my shoes. Had I known my hiking boots would burn my feet when I hit the road and I’d been in pain for over two hours I would have either worn another pair or brought an extra pair of comfy trainers for the second half. I’ve changed socks once but didn’t seem to help.
I wish I’d had a look of the route beforehand. No need to explain much, but I had no idea how scary the first half would be with those steep hills.
I could have taken fewer snacks with me to reduce the weight of my backpack. It feels heavier and heavier the longer you walk.
I should have put blister pads on from the beginning and not wait until half way when me feet were already sore.
I wouldn’t have made it to 20 miles without my waterproof and walking poles. Especially the walking poles. I’d still be on the top of those hills, paralysed in fear.
Maybe if I stuck with others I would have gone further. Staying on my own, alone with my thoughts and in pain was probably the wrong decision. The only thought in my mind for those two hours I was in unbearable pain was how disappointed I was in myself I couldn’t take up this pain, when thousands of people suffering or who died from cancer, like my aunt, experience pain ten times worse every single day for months or years. ‘How lame, you are so weak, you can’t even walk 26 miles. You are quitting??Pathetic.’
As I’m writing this a lady going through chemo wearing a cold cap to save her hair comes up on the ITV news. She looks tired but so positive. I remember reading about this infamous cap and how horrible it is, giving you headaches, as if the chemo side effects are not bad enough and half of the time it doesn’t even work. My shame for not finishing it’s still there.
Finally I wish was prepared for the mental, emotional challenge, which was in times more overwhelming than the physical. I had no idea that everything would trigger me crying for three days after the hike.
Two days later on the Monday, my feet were still a bit sore and I got my period three days early, which didn’t help with the pain but I could have gone to work. I would have been sore but I could have gone. Mentally though, I wouldn’t manage.
Partially, it is a natural reaction, your body is not used to such a physical challenge and although self induced, you are exposing your self to trauma. You are in pain but is self-inflicted. The brain does not know how to handle it.
If you are struggling with anxiety and depression and you can feel everything more intense than the average person, after such a challenge, the intensity reaches new heights.
I wish I was honest about it, I wish I’d admitted the main reason I couldn’t go to work was that I couldn’t control my feelings. Instead I let people tease me I couldn’t handle the soreness. I’m ashamed I did not ticked ‘mental health’ when I filled in my sickness absence form.
So be prepared and take a book a day or two off afterwards.
But what it’s done, it’s done. I can’t change what happened. All I can do is learn from it and as Mark who is fighting cancer for the second time and did the hike said:
“…don’t feel ashamed, take it from me, this happens to us all the time, you hit a barrier and you fall down. You get back up and crack on, that’s what you must do.”
Despite my disappointment, it’s been an amazing experience I shared with lovely friends, I met incredible humans and I feel blessed I was part of the Jurassic Coast Mighty Hike 2019 raising money for such an incredible cause, Macmillan Cancer Support, a day I’ll never forget.
If I’m around next September, I’ll definitely give it another go.