Another week gone and another week closer to setting off on my little stroll.
I'm actually feeling pretty optimistic about the whole endeavour at the moment, which is something of a change from a couple of weeks ago where I couldn't see beyond the endless stream of jobs laid out before me. Now that I have for the most part sorted those little conundrums I'm feeling much more organised although from a purely physical standpoint I would still really like to get out and get some more practice miles under my belt. Alas it does as ever come down to the quantity of free time available to me and as I have yet to perfect a method of being in two places at once I've just got to accept a few compromises with my preparation I suppose. It's just occurred to me that you're probably not reading this in order to hear a grown man complain (though if you are, might I take a moment to point out what an odd taste in reading material you have) so I'll concentrate instead on what I have actually accomplished rather than what I haven’t.
As you well know by now, I'm doing this challenge in order to raise money for Katharine House Hospice (though I must confess that my own ambition to walk the weather map is also a factor) so to try to drum up some support from the fine people of Stafford I penned a letter to all the local papers with the hopes that they would stick a mug shot of yours truly and a few well chosen words in their next publication. At the time of writing only the Stafford Chronicle have had the excellent judgement to take me up on this tempting offer though I'm hoping to turn on the charm (if I can remember how that is) and talk my way into a few others before setting off. As far as I can remember Monday morning was the first press interview I've ever had and it was certainly my first photo shoot. I'm generally one of those people who is happier to be behind the camera rather than in front of it, so having to strike a variety of poses for the photographer whilst passing shoppers tried to figure out who I was supposed to be, was a slightly uncomfortable experience. I think it’s the smiling that I have a problem with. Look at a selection of pictures of my good self and on the vast majority I will be wearing the same sort of impassive expression. This has nothing to do with my mood at the time of the shot, but is more to do with the fact that any time I attempt to force a smile for the sake of photographic posterity I invariably come off looking either hopelessly vacant or worryingly sinister. It was with some trepidation then that I searched for my article in the latest issue of the paper wondering which side of the scale I was going to land on this time. It may sound a bit vain, but I was nonetheless pleasantly surprised then to find that the picture was actually not too bad (I suppose that’s the difference a professional photographer makes) however such relief was short-lived when I read the accompanying caption declaring the fund raising trek of a "Mr Chris Perry". Better luck next time I suppose.
It's official, I now have reached the point where I have more equipment than I can fit into the pack that I'm attempting to carry it in. Up until last weekend even fully packed my bag was worryingly empty considering the length of the journey I've got ahead of me. That is definitely not the case any longer and I've been forced to look at my assembled possessions with a "what do I need" rather than a "what do I want" perspective. To be fair to myself (and I'm writing this so why would I be anything else) pretty much everything I've bought is safely in the essential pile and it’s really only my clothes that have been trickier to categorize. The tricky part is trying to decide how many days I can cope with looking/smelling like Tarzan before I reach somewhere with laundry facilities and make myself presentable again. This isn't helped by the fact that I have always sweated like a beast during any form of exercise and when you add a weighty 70 litre rucksack into the mix my chances of being arrested for vagrancy on my travels are looking high.
Now that I've finally got all of my gear together, I thought it was well past time I throw it all into my bag and try carrying it across the countryside for a bit. I reckon the only way I'm going to be able to get an idea of how much weight I'm going to want strapped to my back for three months (if you're curious, none at all would be my ideal answer) is to go ahead and try it as many times as I can in advance. So with my folks in tow, we decided to spend Sunday walking another small section of my route for the summer, namely Shugborough to Penkridge. I've done this walk before and I can see myself doing it a few more times yet before the 21st. At a little over 10 miles it’s hardly a mammoth trek but it's long enough to get the blood pumping and strengthen up my legs a fraction more. As a training walk, probably the best selling point in my opinion is that it has a little bit of everything, woodland and hills on the chase, roads and fields around Bednall and canal towpaths into Penkridge. Given that this was the first walk with everything I intend to take with me on the LEJOG I wasn't really sure what to expect and more importantly whether my back and knees would protest about the extra strain. I was really pleased (and a little suprised) then when we reached Penkridge and I still felt pretty fresh. I know it was a short day in comparison to some of the 20-21 milers ahead but hopefully by the time I get to the longer days I will have had a chance to build up some strength on the trail. Besides I'm not attempting to break any records, and if I feel that I need an hour or two resting my legs in the pub half way through one of the longer stretches then I shan't hesitate to do so. After all, it would be rude not to sample the local beverages of the places I pass through now wouldn't it.