Well can you believe it? The last ever Long Straight Walk blog is here, the video blogs are all done, although I may have to put subtitles up on the last, wind swept, one from John o’Groats. No more ramblings both on feet and online for you to endure or enjoy. (you take your pick)
It’s all gone by in a flash. I suppose we have to be thankful for small mercies and much like ripping a sticking plaster off a hairy leg, the pain was transient. I do of course mean your pain, I had no such sticking plaster moments, well maybe one. When I say one I mean two.
Picture the scene, the intrepid explorer (that would be me, keep up!) has walked half the length of the country totally unscathed until I reach the main obstacle of the route, yes thats the one, the ornamental fountain near the Strathclyde Hilton, quite why I found myself compelled to cross such dangerous territory is beyond me but there I was tiptoeing around the edge of the water feature, saving myself a walk of at least 50 metres (laugh at that and I am going to come round and give you a chinese burn) then the pebbles around the edge suddenly turned into the slidiest things ever. Suddenly both my feet slid west as my upper half careered to the east and very swiftly down, luckily my wrist broke my fall. The pain was intense only my ego hurt more than my wrist. Feet wet from the damned fountain I hobbled onto the road with my walking poles legs and arms all tangled up. One thought ran through my mind ‘if it’s broken I am telling no-one!’ that was the moment I realised the walk had become an obsession. After a couple of gruelling, muttering and blaspheming miles I met up with Richard and the battle bus, refuge was at hand. As chance would have it we were joined that day by Ciara from Beats Medical who was a physio to trade before running off and inventing a great app for Parkinson’s. She pulled poked and prodded my very tender wrist and announced all was well, at least i think that was what she said, it was hard to make out, what with all my sobbing and incoherent wailing. No breaks – on with the walk – obsession overruled.
But you’re not here to read about my trips and fails, no you’re here to hear about the end and to make sure that it is all truly over. If that’s why you’re here then well done because this really is it for the Long Straight Walk (what’s that I hear you shout? The book? Well if you insist)
With 2 days to go I allowed myself the luxury of imagining the finish line, big mistake. Every step from that moment on was grudged to me by the great mileometer. Every metre was a mile and every mile was a day. Only the very fine hospitality of Neil and Ange kept me sane, although their own sanity may be in question as they walked the final 2 days with me, ignoring blisters and the chance of a Sunday lie in but more of that in the book (did i mention the book?). Filled with pride and a good swedge of Old Pultney malt the final day arrived and my anticipated 8 mile daunder turned into 11.7 miles of tramping along Caithness straight roads, a very apt final walk with one long stretch measuring in at an arrow straight 6 miles. A few surprises en route as friends old and new appeared, as if swept in on the wind, to walk the final steps to John O Groats.
The final step had arrived and after pictures at the Lands End sign post, I took the final steps down to the waters edge by myself, tears filled my eyes as I thought back to the hot days walking in Cornwall, the sea crossings in Wales, the fine people on the Isle of Man, meeting Gav McDonald in the Galloway forests, the bloody pond in Strathclyde, the 82 year old cyclist in the hills above Kilsyth, the sheer beauty of the Perthshire hills, the splendour of Glenfeshie, the peace of the Dava Way, the landing at Dornoch airstrip, the final step in the harbour at John O Groats, ah yes that final step. I stood and wept as my wife Yvonne held me tight, herself wiping away the tears of joy, tiredness and relief. That was it, that was the walk that was, my very own TW3.
One last thing before I sign off. The journey I undertook was not about south to north or Lands End to JoG. It was about people, the people who supported me, the amazing array of friends who all reached out to help make this happen, the people who donated time and resource not to mention cash, the people who became friends on the way, the people who played cameo roles in my great obsession but mostly the people who made me believe that this was not, as I selfishly suspected at the start ‘all about me’, but showed me it was all about us. My journey is not over but the walk surely is.
I raise a dram to each and every wonderful person it has been my privilege to bump into on the way, you have all played a huge part in making this walk ‘a trip of my lifetime’ and helping make me a better person.
So glasses charged for one last toast to the Long Straight Walk