Nick’s first 100-mile walk

MY FIRST HUNDRED AND …..

….. with only 8 days to go, the nerves have begun to work overtime. I know what I’ll do, I’ll send Martin Burnell an email saying I didn’t make the Marlborough Challenge last weekend as I was too focussed on the upcoming hundred and was still pondering on what to include in the breakfast stop bag! I thought that I’d cleverly disguised my touch of the pre-hundred heebie-jeebies in putting the words together but oh, no … Martin’s perceptive mind saw through them and probably the best bit of advice I could have received came back to hit the PC screen – “CALM DOWN … IT’S ONLY A WALK!!” Yep, in bold capitals just so I didn’t miss it!!

Everyone's smiling, so you can tell it's near the startI decided in early summer 2006 that the Mid Wales hundred would be my ideal first attempt at the LDWA flagship event having spent a good few holidays in that wonderful part of the world but also knowing that the terrain and the notorious wet weather of Wales would add to the challenge. Having recently returned to long distance walking with our grown-up teenage children now no longer so dependent on their Dad for weekend entertainment and trips to the zoo, I realised that if this was to be a successful challenge I would need to build up my mileage over the coming year by entering some of the longer events. A look through Strider soon identified some suitable events which were within relatively easy travelling distance and so entry forms were sent off for the Dorset Doddle and The Three Forests Way, 32 mile and 60 mile events respectively. These two events were thoroughly enjoyed and apart from it being clear that I needed to sort out a remedy to avoid blisters, if indeed such a remedy has ever existed, things took off from there. I was back enjoying long distance walking and the great companionship of the Thames Valley group.

Over the following months, whenever conversation on either a challenge event or a social walk turned to the hundred as it so often does, I was always keen to hear the experiences and the many and varied tips and bits of advice from those veterans of the event. There have been many conflicting views about the pros and cons of wearing trainers instead of boots, advice on taking it steady at the start when the adrenalin is flowing and to avoid hitting those first miles at a fast pace. One of the great things about the LDWA is that there is a desire on these ultra events for people to succeed with help, advice and support never far away and I was keen to take on board as much of this experience as I possibly could. To some extent I found that what works for one person doesn’t always work for another and it is really a matter of trial and error. I found that some bits of kit just didn’t work for me and much to my wife’s horror, another bag from Fox’s in Amersham or Black’s came through the door in the hope that its contents would provide some magic for me in completing the Mid Wales hundred.

About 80 miles gone, and not far to the Thames Valley Group's check-pointAnd so with the warm-up events including the Dorset Giant and the Oxon 40 having been successfully completed and with the kit decided upon and ready it was off to Llandrindod Wells with much hope and anticipation. The night before leaving Martin called me and we agreed to meet up in Llanrindod Wells for dinner the night before the start. We had found what must have been the one pub in the village and it was packed and rocking with LDWA folk eating, drinking and talking the hundred. The atmosphere was buzzing and I don’t think the pub had seen a night of the like before!

Being a first hundred, I knew that despite having done a good few long and challenging events in the months leading up to it, it would be good to walk with someone who’s an old hand at this lark. I was very glad when Martin suggested that we walk together as I knew his positive, upbeat attitude, even when the going gets tough, would help to spur me on to the finish … and it did! The event and the experience was more that I’d hoped for even with the driving rain and wind going over the top of Elan Valley where at the bottom in the village we were greeted by Pat, Ivan and Mike after some 80 odd miles! From there it was just a Sunday social walk to the finish but the last three miles saw us straddling over stile after stile steeplechase fashion, spending what seemed to be an age looking for a bridge in the last field leading to the road home … and a finish in just under 37 and a half hours, every minute of which I will forever cherish.

. . . and a few steps closer . . .The 2007 hundred was a fantastic event: the checkpoint food, the marshals and supporters, the route were all wonderful and whilst I hope that the Mid Wales 100 will be the first of a good few more for me, it will always have a special place in my heart.

My sincere thanks to Martin for rescuing me after falling into the undergrowth being weighted down by my rucksack and not otherwise being able to surface, words of wisdom and particularly, patience at those checkpoints where I changed socks! You were a great companion and I only hope that I can do the same for someone else out on their first hundred sometime soon.

The hundred … “IT’S ONLY A WALK!!”

Nick Vanson