Are you looking for a challenge in 2017? Do you have an urge to just go and walk and walk —and keep walking? Or do you want to rekindle your love of walking again? Then join millions of others. Walking is a completely natural urge, it’s what we humans were made for. How else did early man get from Africa to the furthest reaches of the earth?
So how far are you thinking – minutes, hours, days or months; walking by yourself or with others; following a well-trodden path or finding your own route; walking as part of an event or fitting it in when you have the time and going for a cumulative total? Maybe walking to see something awesome or walking to keep a friend company?
Here are a few ideas that might help you plan your next steps – whatever your starting point.
Walking and Nordic walking organized 5km, 10km and half marathons and marathons
If you are new to walking then starting with a 5km event (or stepping out on your own route) is a great distance to aim for. Once you’ve cracked it, you can then walk the distance faster or include more hills if you want a workout or find increasingly longer and more challenging routes.
There are lots of apps out there to help you plan your own 5km route – make sure you include some of your favourite places and if you think motivation might be hard go with your best friend and have a good laugh.
If you are looking for an organized event the first step is to find a walker-friendly race. For 5km the parkrun https://www.parkrun.org.uk/ actively encourages walkers and there are plenty to choose from all over the UK. Always check for races that have a generous finish time cutoff and have other walkers and run-walkers participating. If you are Nordic walking you’ll usually be asked to start at the back so that other faster participants don’t trip on the poles – but tkey love you participating so don’t be put off.
For other 5km walks and distances a great resource to check is https://www.timeoutdoors.com/.
An ultramarathon is an event longer than a 42 kilometer (26 miles) marathon, and many are far longer, such as the 100-km. Now we are talking – there are some really great events on in the UK – again check out https://www.timeoutdoors.com/.
Multi-Day Walking Events
One long day not enough? Want to walk through the magic of the night or walk further on two or more days? Then walking long distance is the endurance event for you. The IML Walking Association http://www.imlwalking.org/#/iml/walking hold events involve walking 20K to 50K for at least two days. The Nijmegen Vierdaagse Four-Days Marche is one of its better known events although they hold a numerous events that are hugely popular around the world.
Walking a pilgrim route might be one way to reconnect with your spirituality or you might just need to escape the distractions modern life for a period of time. These take a bit more planning as you’ll need somewhere cosy to stay each night and transportation to and from the start and finish. Fr many much of the fun is also in the planning.
There are literally hundreds of routes to choose from in the UK alone - here are a few:
- St Cuthbert’s Way follows in the steps of the Anglo-Saxon saint, stretching 62 miles from Melrose Abbey in the Scottish borders to Lindisfarne in Northumberland.
- The Saints’ Way stretches 30 miles from Padstow (starting at St Petroc’s church) to Fowey.
- On the first Saturday in July around 1,500 pilgrims walk through the fields from Bradwell in Essex to the isolated Saxon chapel of St Peter’s.
- St Winefride’s Well in Flintshire in Wales - a shrine to St Winefride (whose head was chopped off by a would-be rapist but miraculously reattached itself through prayer). Pilgrims can bathe in the outdoor stone bath.
- The Pilgrims way stretching 120 miles from Canterbury to Winchester is a bit of a classic.
There are plenty of pilgrim routes overseas too. Many are rooted in some of the world’s major religions, while others are simply about taking on a challenge and enjoying an authentic cultural experience. Here are a few to whet your appetite:
- The Way of St James (or Camino de Santiago) is probably one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in Europe. Beginning in the southern French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port, pilgrims cross the Pyrenees and walk 450 miles through northern Spain to the cathedral at Santiago.
- Mecca (Hajj) – it is a religious duty for all able-bodied Muslims to attempt the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime. It is strictly prohibited for non-Muslims to enter the holy city of Mecca though.
- Kumano Kodo Ancient Trail, Japan - where Kyoto's ancient emperors once prayed to deities in the trees and rocks. This 190 mile mountainous route was used by the ancient pilgrims to purify themselves.
- Mount Kailash Pilgrimage, Tibet – this mountain is holy to one-fifth of humankind and believed to be the world’s most sacred mountain. The pilgrimage is a 32 mile circuit around its base.
- Inca Trail, Machu Pichu, Peru – no need to say too much about this awesome experience.
- Croagh Patrick, Ireland - is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland due to its association with St Patrick. The 8km pilgrimage route from Westport ends in a 2 hour climb to the summit.
Long Distance Paths
The UK is blessed with so many opportunities for walking long distance. Just have a google and see what you fancy https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/public/ldp_public_home.php and here are a few to start to think about:
- South Downs Way, 160 km (99 miles) from Winchester to Eastbourne, via the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head.
- The Ridgeway, 139 km (86 miles) from Overton Hill, Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon Buckinghamshire via Waylands Smithy and crossing the driveway at Chequers.
- Thames Path, 294 km (183 miles) from its source near Kemble to the Thames Flood Barrier
- Offas Dyke closely following the English-Welsh border for 177 miles.
- Wainright’s Coast to Coast the classic 192 mile route that passes through the lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
- South West Coast Path (South West Way), 1,014 km (630 miles) in England - the UK's longest around the coastline of Devon and Cornwall and some sections of Somerset and Dorset.
- Pennine Way, 429 km (267 miles) in England and Scotland and passes through some of the remotest upland areas in Britain.
- West Highland Way starting north of Glasgow the 96 mile route end in Fort William with an optional climb of Ben Nevis.
- Pembrokeshire Coast Path - these 185 miles cover some of the best beaches and cliff top walks there are
- South Downs Way – 100 miles through glorious countryside in the south of England.
- Southern Upland Way 212 miles Southern Scotland, coast-to-coast across high level and often remote terrain one of toughest walks
Walking around an island
With hundreds of accessible islands on our doorstep you’ve got to do at least a few of these in your life time. It’s our favourite thing and we’ve nearly completed our hundredth. Here’s some ideas we’ve recently tried out:
- Channel Islands – Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark and Herm all have glorious coastal paths each telling the story of the island’s incredible histories and wildlife.
- Isles of Scilly – why not island hop for a week from St Mary’s to Bryher, St Matins, St Agnes and Tresco. Their coastal paths are truly magnificent with wild seascape views and stunning flora.
- Ynys Llanddwyn – off one of the UK’s most stunning beaches with spectacular views of Snowdonia this small island near Newborough, Anglesey is a must.
Walking Across a Continent or two
This has to be the ultimate challenge. There are many stories of people take on amazing quests to walk across a continent. North America, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia, South America have all been walked and the globe has been circumnavigated by a few. If you want to be inspired Tom Turcich is doing it now.
Hope that inspires you a bit in 2017! Get those walking boots on and go for it.
Written by: Lisa Drewe on 8 Jan 2017, 13:43 PM