The idea of this trip, to paraphrase The Proclaimers, is: “I will walk 500 miles – and I will walk 16,000 more…” So, here goes: I’m going to walk around the world. . .
The journey will be in aid of three small but wonderful causes: The Alzheimer’s Society, The Puzzle Centre and Medical Detection Dogs (for more info please click on the Charities page).
16,500 miles (well, 16,299.809 to be precise) is the minimum required for a world walk according to the World Runners’ Association (WRA) – a select, super hardy posse of endurance athletes who have already run/walked the world – or are doing so. All of them big hearted, determined, inspiring – and, in the best possible way, mad as March hares.
Walking around the world sounds bonkers but it is actually quite doable. The plan is to stride off from the US-Mex border, where I lived and taught for a few years, and keep jiggling east in a continuous line across four continents – America, Europe, Africa and Australasia – from coast to coast (WRA rules). I will also cover a swathe of the fifth continent, Asia.
I hope to walk 20 miles a day with occasional pit stops. It will take, and this is very much a guesstimate, three and a half years, but might vary due to terrain, weather, visa rules, bunions and a host of other imponderables. I will travel light, carrying my belongings in a small hiking cart.
On a trip like this there needs to be discipline but also an element of winging it, adapting to any surprises the road springs up.
I will mostly camp but, if anything like my previous journeys, also stay in churches, police and fire stations, schools, unis, town halls, temples, monasteries, barns and, when appropriate, with generous families. I’ll also use hostels and the odd hotel, especially when I’m stinky.
Am I trying to break any records? Am I, pah! I’m a chubby 50-something with munchkin legs and a hernia: besides what I’m doing has been done much faster by at least half a dozen others, albeit using very diverse routes.
What sets these world walkers and runners apart is they are all serious athletes, endurance smashing legends: I am not an athlete of any sort, my only strengths: an optimistic nature, a mulish ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ obstinacy and feet as gnarly as the Gruffalo – this will have to do.
(Special thanks to Tom Denniss and Tony Mangan, both formidable endurance athletes, World Runners’ Association stalwarts, sources of invaluable visa tips and all round good eggs – and Rosie Swale Pope, Karl Bushby, Tom Turcich and Savannah for inspiration and blazing the way. Endurance legends all – God Speed to the lot of you)