Stay Home ; Stay Safe
Just last week I wrote that I would be pausing my 20 20 challenge to ensure I met the government guidelines during the Covid 19 outbreak. Yet, here I am a week later writing about completing Walk 4.
After my last blog, several people got in touch encouraging me to consider completing a walk at home. I received links to numerous other charity fundraisers, completing half marathons and marathons in back gardens and on balconies – even one man continuously climbing his stairs to complete the equivalent height of climbing Everest. I was feeling a bit of a wimp by comparison.
I started by trying to build up time on our Elliptical Cross Trainer – a sensible option for virtually completing the 20 miles safely at home. However, I couldn’t get beyond 20 minutes before dizziness set in. This was an issue I had suffered from last year as my eyes constantly try to refocus whilst keeping up with my blind spot. The up and down motion of the cross trainer was aggravating this and therefore ruled this option out.
I’m fortunate to have a large garden, and over the last week, I’d been thinking more and more that completing 20 miles around the garden was possible. I started switching my Apps on when wandering around the garden and measuring the perimeter to calculate how many laps it would take ; roughly 110 if you are wondering. Doesn’t sound too difficult really, when you think about it.
Now, there’s another aspect that I had to factor in : the dogs. We have a 9 year old Springer Spaniel, Ruby, but have also been joined in the past few weeks by Wilf.
Wilf is our daughter Shona’s 8 month old Patterdale Terrier pup. Shona and Wilf are staying with us during lockdown and Wilf’s training and recall is still ‘work in progress’. Patterdale’s love to chase things – and my going round and round the garden past the window was going to test Wilf’s patience!
With all this in mind, I woke up Saturday morning saw the amazing blue sky and thought – why not? I pulled on my jacket and trainers and just got going.
It was a really bright day – and as someone with a Macular condition this causes a lot of discomfort as I have extreme light sensitivity. This means I was rocking my strongest light blocking glasses: full wrap around;red mirrored lenses to lessen glare; polarised and extra UV protection. They aren’t exactly subtle, but they really help.
By my rough calculations 5 laps should have been a mile (give or take) and a leisurely walk would usually see me complete a mile in around 20 minutes. When I’m distance walking , especially on my own, this pace increases and I can complete a mile in just over 15 minutes comfortably. I always err on the cautious side and had thought this walk would probably be 20 minute mile territory. Starting just before 10 am and planning a half hour stop for a snack and comfort break – I should be done and dusted around 5pm at the latest.
The thing about our garden is that its not manicured and we share it with a lot of wild rabbits. These wild rabbits are constantly digging and the garden can change suddenly overnight with new holes appearing. The ground is therefore rather uneven and my laps needed my full concentration to avoid falling down a rabbit hole. As predicted, the dogs were keen to join in and Ruby started following me quite early on.
Wilf was also undertaking recall training with Shona and my husband, Neil, in the garden so whenever I appeared around a corner, he came running at speed to greet me!
Despite my glasses, I started to get the early signs of an ocular migraine. The familiar flashing aura in my vision that is so disorientating. I was approaching the 5 mile mark and realised I would need to take a short break to let this pass before carrying on. I paused my App and was confused when I saw that I had been walking for over 2 and 1/4 hours, meaning I was averaging 28 minute miles. At this rate – with no stops I was going to be walking until 8pm and finishing in the dark.
The reality of walking round and round a short loop meant that my speed was compromised. Constantly turning and going round corners simply slowed me right down. I was feeling despondent – I had a bad head and this challenge now seemed unachievable. A 20 minute break cleared my ocular migraine and a cup of tea and slice of cake boosted my resilience and determination. I mean, I’d already been marching round the garden for hours so not to complete it meant I’d wasted all that effort. I set back off around the garden varying my route in different directions to ease the monotony and the dizziness that was starting to hover in the background.
To help mix things up we decided to head off on our daily dog walk. Breaking the circle seemed a sensible idea and would mean I could literally stretch my legs and increase the pace for a while . With Ruby and Wilf in tow we headed out on the quiet lanes.
We did pass a few people on our walk. It was a glorious day on Saturday and people were out to get their daily exercise. The majority were friendly saying hello and ensuring we all gave each other at least 2 metres to pass each other. There was a minority, however, that really seemed oblivious to social distancing; one couple walked directly ‘at us’ down the middle of a wide footpath forcing us into the hedgerow at the side to keep the safe distance. This was so out of kilter to everyone else we met, it seemed so strange.
Back home after the diversion , I headed through our gate and back to the loops. This time I tried to mix up the infinite circular lap by pretending to virtually mow the grass; going up and down creating imaginary stripes. The more I walked the more I spotted little tasks needing to be done in the garden – the start of a bramble or nettle peaking out. I suggested to Neil that he could follow me and I would show him where there were chores to be done – he didn’t seem keen.
So now it was 4pm and I had completed 12 miles. My neighbour, Lizzie, had noticed strange goings on in our garden and called out across the hedge to Neil to see what was happening. An hour later Lizzie appeared at the hedge again and offered the empty field at the back of their house as a longer circuit for me to finish my walk. Neil seemed really keen for me to take this up – obviously hoping I’d stop creating a long list of gardening chores for him!!
Lizzie opened the gate to the field and walked me round the lap, keeping the full 2 metres away. The route had been mowed into the long grass that afternoon by Lizzie’s husband so that she could use it for her daily exercise. Each lap was a wonderful full 1/2 mile in distance. Again the terrain was rough in places underfoot, and this time included a small hill, but it meant I could speed up slightly and had a chance to complete the task before dark.
The sun was starting to get low and there was a distinct chill in the air now so I headed back to our garden for the last 1/4 mile lap. The App clocked 20 miles at 7.22 in the evening. I had been walking for almost 8 hours and had taken over 50,000 steps. By contrast my last 3 walks had averaged 6.25 hours. This was definitely the toughest walk so far.
Below is the map image of my completed walk. The birds nest are my loops and loops around our garden and the spaghetti strips – Lizzie’s field. I am now back ‘on track’ to where I expected to be with 4 out of 20 walks completed before Easter. With restrictions on exercise in place this 20, 20 challenge has become a whole lot harder. I’m not sure I’d do an ‘at home’ walk again, but I am determined to keep my challenge going in some form during this difficult time and continue fundraising for the Macular Society.
If you have any wonderfully creative suggestions for tasks that can be completed at home around the 20,20 theme – please do send them to me. The more entertaining the better! I can then complete these until restrictions are lifted and I can resume walking.
If you need a reminder, here is the link to make a donation and help me support the Macular Society through this challenge. Click Here Thank you to all who have donated so far – its keeping me motivated!
Stay Home and Stay Safe everyone.