INSPIRATIONAL STORIES BY EVERYDAY PEOPLE
“STEPPING ONTO A BRAND NEW PATH” BY EVE
“Triumphantly standing at the top of Skiddaw, I’m not sure whether to feel exhausted or exhilarated. At 931m above sea level, I have just reached the peak of my first mountain.
Two years prior, I had signed up to take part in a step-count challenge at work. I didn’t know it then but this would change my life. The challenge was pretty straight forward: record your step-count for week one and then hit weekly step targets by increasing your activity. The aim was for walking to become part of your daily routine. A bit low in confidence, I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d meet the increasing targets. Armed with a non mod-con step counter attached to my waistband, off I went to find out.
In week one, I quickly realised how inactive I was. On a normal day I would leave the house, get straight in the car, go to my office and then drive home. Doing a desk job and not going out for lunch, I was lucky if I nudged 1000 steps per day (half a mile). As I noted down my steps, the realisation of how little exercise I did was there in black and white. I knew then that I had to complete this challenge or at least, give it a good go. I hoped that it would benefit my mental and physical health. I felt that it would give me something to focus on. I thought that it would give me an interest to share with my recently retired Mum and ultimately it would get me out of the house when the sun was shining.
Every story has a ‘game changing’ moment and this one is no different. A few weeks in, a dog walker, mistaking my Mum and I as seasoned walkers looking for the Ayrshire Coastal Path, shouted “hello” and pointed us in the right direction. This of course had never been our plan that day. We had planned to walk a few miles on the sands of Troon. On this beautiful blue sky day in spring, we got lost in our adventure and so continued on the coastal path as guided. TEN MILES later, sunburnt, with no notion (shockingly!) for either coffee or cake, we arrived at an Ayr cafe gasping for a pint of iced water. We laughed at our achievement, looked at our photos and planned our next walk. I admitted to myself that I had found a new hobby.
Fast forward to the end of that year – a friend sent a link with details of a walking challenge created by Country Walking Magazine. The challenge was to walk 1000 miles in one year. I signed up immediately. Following the step-count challenge, I had continued to walk at weekends and even attended CowalFest, my first walking festival, but #Walk1000Miles would push me to aim for an average of 2.7 miles each day.
#Walk1000miles encouraged me to walk on a daily basis. Sometimes I walked with company and often I ventured out on my own. I walked before and after work in rain, hail and sunshine. The latter being the most rewarding when working right beside the beach. I made new friends and joined walking groups. I felt the benefits that walking and being out in nature had on my mental health. It also brought back my love of nature and landscape photography. The challenge also took me to new places and heights. I walked 1,222 miles in total which included crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge; climbing West Lomond in Fife; finally making my way around the New Town Trail in Ayrshire without getting lost; tackling the scary route up Arthurs Seat; discovering the fantastic Smugglers Trail through Gillian’s Walks; walking the Fife Coastal Path from under the iconic Forth Rail Bridge to Kinghorn; lapping the picturesque Derwentwater in the Lake District and also trekking the Rob Roy Way from Aberfeldy to Pitlochry on the day I reached the 1000th mile mark. It was a year full of daytrips, weekends away, local walks and memories.
This year, as well as renewing my commitment to walk another 1000 miles, I’ve decided to take on a challenge that a year ago would have scared the life out of me: to climb the height of Everest over the course of the year. That’s walking uphill for an accumulated elevation of 8848 meters! The challenge is called #EverestAnywhere and run by Trail Magazine. The strange thing is that I know I can do it! Strange because I know I’m not the fittest, strange because I never thought it would be something I would even consider and strange because this new found hobby of mine is challenging me every day. I love it. I now have determination and confidence that I never had before I began walking. I know that completing challenges is achievable if I put my mind to it. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be a walk in the park (literally), I’m used to distance ‘flat’ walking and have only sampled up-hill trekking on a couple of occasions but there’s something about being up on that hill and realising how big the world is below you that puts life in perspective. It’s glorious, fascinating, peaceful and often very windy.
I’d encourage everyone to sign up for a walking challenge and venture down a path you’ve never explored before. Don’t feel alone as there are plenty of walkers and groups out there. You’ll become a fellow path sign spotter with stories and photos documenting your walking adventures, a diary full of plans, a list of ‘must walks’ and a yearning to discover more. Standing above the clouds, at the top of my first mountain, I’ve realised how beautiful our country is and the best way to truly see it, is on foot.”
Since writing this article for Gillian’s Walks a short couple of months ago, life has taken some very exciting leaps forward for Eve. She is training as a Walk Leader and will soon lead her own weekly health walk through the Active Travel Hub Kilmarnock. I love that having started walking via a step-count challenge, Eve is now paying it forward and actively encouraging others to experience the benefits of walking. If that weren’t enough, Eve jumped at the chance of becoming a Path Warden on the Ayrshire Coastal Path, and is now responsible for the signage between Ardrossan and Skelmorlie, the northernmost section of the trail. And I bet Eve never thought she would one day be involved in organising a walking festival, as we both are in Ayrshire this year. Eve’s enthusiasm is utterly contagious and I am so glad that we are sharing this passion in life. Roll on the adventures!