In these next few pieces, I am reflecting on my preparation for LETJOG, in the hope that this might be of idle interest to those supporting me, and/or as a reference for anyone contemplating their own outdoor marathon.
I start from the standpoint of a recent 60-year old who stopped participating in regular competitive sport nearly three decades ago. Despite this seeming inactivity, I have always enjoyed the outdoors, and I have maintained some level of fitness through walking and hiking, and through skiing whenever the opportunity presents. Around 12 years ago I also took up nordic walking, with poles, a discipline then quite new to the UK. I liked the association with cross-country skiing, and I soon found that, correctly done, the technique provided me with an upper body work-out and good cardio-vascular exercise, as well as enabling me to go faster and further.
So, in place of the seeming monotony of gyms and, to me, their claustrophobic environment, here in nordic walking, I had suddenly found an activity with all the benefits of an outdoor cross-trainer that I could enjoy communally with friends and outside amongst nature! I don’t take poles on all my hikes – usually only when my companions are similarly ‘armed’ – but I now find myself using them increasingly, both for short social walks and for endurance and competitive events, such as half- and full marathons.
As the last winter progressed into spring I upped my walking and nordic walking mileages, participating most days and covering up to 70 miles per week. During the last month I have even taken to carrying 10-12 kg on my back to strengthen my upper body for LETJOG. This exercise has hopefully also served to prepare my back for the walk – I have suffered in the past from some fairly bad deterioration in the discs between a number of lower vertebrae, but I have managed, through physio and exercise, to avoid surgery. So fingers crossed!
Other than a gentle walk each morning, all that remains at this stage is to go out and do it! At least one of the books I have read claims that there is no complete training package for the End to End Trail (aka LETJOG), other than to just walk, and to hope that physical strength builds quicker than wear and fatigue depletes the body. And, of course to replace every precious calorie lost in the process of training!