How serious is a 40 mile walk?
April 18, 2006 2:06 PM   Subscribe

My friends and I are considering participating in the Keswick to Barrow 40 mile scenic walk (for charity). We are in varying states of fitness. Are we insane?

We are all around 19 years old. Some people smoke a lot and get no exercise, some (like me) are non-smokers and walk for 30 mins to an hour a day but otherwise are just as unfit, and some are in a fairly good level of fitness. On top of that, I have 4 exams in the two weeks following the walk, the first is 2 days after the event. The walk itself is detailed on the website: it is 40 miles in one day across some pretty hilly landscape.

I am of the opinion that there is no way this is going to work, and that the unfit friends of mine are naive to even think they can do it. They think that trying is better than not, I'm not so sure. I'm all for the charity, but this is madness!
posted by Acey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'm also a keen photographer, so I'd like to go anyway for that aspect, but I am worried about us clogging up the event by coming along with little intention of finishing.
posted by Acey at 2:09 PM on April 18, 2006

40 miles is a long walk. At 19, I'll bet you'll be able to complete it unless you are really out of shape for that age, but you'll be dog tired by the end. Hopefully the terrain is easy and flat; if not, you might not make it.

(I've never walked 40 miles in a day, but when I'm out on foot it's generally in the mountains with a pack, so the possible distance is greatly reduced. I've done 20 in those conditions, and it's pretty tiring).
posted by teece at 2:21 PM on April 18, 2006

Assuming you move at about 3 miles per hour, covering the flat ground would take a little over 13 hours. I have no idea what the terrain is like, but a rule of thumb I use in backpacking is add 1 hour for every 1000ft elevation climb.

So you're looking at at least 14 hours not counting photo/snack breaks. I'd say it's do-able if you are in decent physical shape but you'll probably be cursing having ever hatched this plot the last few hours.
posted by spatula at 2:32 PM on April 18, 2006

I've attempted the Bogle Stroll in/around Manchester without much training at the age of 19, and I managed (if I recall) 35 out of the 55(?) miles. I would recommend you choose comfortable - not new! - footwear (my mistake), and expect discomfort.

As for the exams, depending on how prepared you are before the walk, two days should be enough recovery time.

At 19, I think you should give it a go. Looks like a nice walk!
posted by ciaron at 2:39 PM on April 18, 2006

well, you aren't going to die or anything. i think you'll be fine if you can slog your way up the last hill. after 30 miles you'll (probably) be hating it and. luckily for you the end is mostly downhill, but that big climb will be tough. you should definitely get out before you go and spend some time walking up and down hills. walking to/from work and climbing 250m in a few miles work totally different muscles. 3 weeks is probably enough time to get kind of up-to-speed, but your out of shape friends might not make it. (or at least, gripe so much that they get everyone down.)

i haven't gone all the way to 40, but i've done 30 or so in a day. expect it to take upwards of 12 hours. bring along a few extra pairs of socks and change them along the way. stop and massage your feet every now and then. don't wear anything new or untried, especially footwear. take it easy for 2 days before and carb load the night before (lots of pasta). lots of water & food along the way etc etc.

if you're not sure, just get out there now and hike around for a few hours. see how tired you feel, and take your friends with you and see how they feel. it might change their minds, inform yours and at the very least be good for a day's exercise. that'll be your first training walk. i think you'll be surprised how quickly you can get up to speed in 18 days. i say go for it!
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:50 PM on April 18, 2006

40 miles is a heck of a walk. A friend and I did a marathon after training for one week*, and it took us 6 and a half hours -- that was *running* at least 50% of the way. Doing it in 14 hours would mean a consistent 20 minute mile for the entire day, which isn't going to be cake for folks not used to walking. You're probably gonna end up with some serious chafe and some kickass blisters.

that said, there's no reason NOT to do it**. By all rights, we should've been seriously injured by trying to run a marathon without any training whatsoever, but we came out of it fine, and now i can be all "I ran a marathon"*** and impress girls**** and shit. trying is better than not, and you'll probably make it through it, if you're at all competitive. If I started something like that, I wouldn't stop in the middle no matter what, unless one of my buddies gave me a good excuse (ie died on the spot).

* My training consisted of quitting smoking and running just enough to injure my tendon. Awesome!

** i did not run a marathon. I ran about six miles and then i stumbled like a drunken sailor for the next twenty. after we finished we walked like cowboys for a day or two

*** well, sure there is! you will probably get blisters real bad, and you might get some chafe going on. if you're real unlucky you might pull something. It's probably not going to kill you, so there's no reason not to try.

*** yeah right
posted by fishfucker at 3:54 PM on April 18, 2006

It'll be fine. It won't feel good, but 40 miles is really not that far to walk. You'll have sore feet, and probably chafed crotches (I would really recommend latex compression shorts), and sore legs by the end of it. Walking is really not that stressful on the body, I would be surprised if a 19 year old injured themselves doing something like this, but I suppose it's possible that someone will pull a muscle or something. More likely, someone will say they pulled a muscle so they don't have to go on. There won't be anything that will effect your exams.

I've done some runs significantly longer than 40 miles, so I'll give you this bit of advice. The distance isn't really the thing here, it's the time on your feet. You will be unencumbered and you're young, as an athletic feat this is not only doable but will be reasonably easy. I mean, just as a physical feat. But as the day goes on you're gonna get tired and cranky and have a bunch of little niggling hurts and sores (like the aforementioned chafing), there's going to be a great temptation to quit. If you want to do this I would suggest coming up with a reason for why you really want to finish. Maybe a bet with your friends, maybe just the desire to do it, but something to keep you from stopping at mile 30. In general people who do ultras (distances longer than 26 miles) try not to drop out of races for anything other than injury precisely because quitting seems like such an attractive option. But, you know, they say pain is temporary and quitting is forever.

You'll do great, though. It'll be a great day and a good story and you'll be glad you did it. Good luck.
posted by OmieWise at 6:35 PM on April 18, 2006

I did a 40 mile hike when I was 18 (so not long before A levels), over what I'd say was less difficult terrain. The first 20 miles or so were easy, after that it got progressively harder until the last couple of miles were just a case of putting one foot in front of the other until I could stop. I didn't do much exercise back then, but I wasn't overweight, and didn't smoke, fwiw.

The next day, my legs were quite sore, and even though I'd been wearing broken-in boots, I had blisters that covered the whole of my heels. When they went down I had incredibly tough skin there for a while.

That said, it was pretty good fun, and a challenge, and I'm glad I did it. I'd say go for it.
posted by crocomancer at 12:44 AM on April 19, 2006

marine corps conditioning marches are designed to cover 3 miles in an hour. you march a little faster because every 50 minutes you stop for 10 minutes. those are the 10 quickest minutes of your life. this pace is set so that the marines aren't dead tired at the end and can fight or run or whatever they need to do.

because at the end of a march you are crazy sore. not sore enough that you can't get up and run and fight, but sore enough that you sit down and go "wow. i'm pretty sore". this is after you march wearing boots and carrying 30-60 pounds on your back...and this isn't an in-step march...when you're hauling ass on a forced march you're in "route step" which is just huge loping strides.

so, if the marine corps would look at this march and go "ok, 13+ hours, plus two one hour breaks for chow" feel free to take longer than 15 hours. you will also be crazy sore...mostly in your back and calfs, i would expect.

but what fun! i wouldn't mind doing something like that.

now, as far as having an exam two days afterwards...if you're in any kind of shape whatsoever, and it sounds like you are, then you'll be okay if you don't mind not studying for a're gonna be dog tired and it's gonna be hard to concentrate. so study up before the walk, and you'll be fine. you'll get plenty of sleep and your body will be pretty energized on that second day!
posted by taumeson at 6:31 AM on April 19, 2006

oh yeah...i can't overemphasize the fact that you will chafe. just get used to the idea now and wear compression shorts. i suggest snug cotton socks as well, cause your ankles/calfs will swell with fluid.
posted by taumeson at 6:34 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the help. I did the walk on Saturday, and I managed to complete it successfully. Here's the story:

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine at Liverpool University mentioned to me and my friends that she was planning to do a charity walk in the Lake District. She asked us if we'd like to join in, and naturally we said "why not?".

A month before the walk, I started to realise that 40 miles was a long way. A long way. It was about then that I realised my first exam was going to be just 2 days after the walk. It seemed impossible. I came to the realisation that I couldn't do it.

Easter weekend, I spoke to my friend Dave about the walk. I explained that I wanted to do it, but that I just couldn't. Even in the event that I actually finished the walk, I would be risking my exam results. He disagreed: he was going to do it, and he had an exam only 2 days after as well. It was after this that I decided to let AskMefi settle the argument.

You can see the result above. It changed my mind, and I decided that if I was going to do this thing, I would need to practice. So after Easter, I did my best to walk the three or so miles to Uni instead of taking the bus as often as I could.

Then, on Friday, we took the train north to the beautiful Lake District. The lousy British transport system caused us to get there so late that we didn't get to sleep until about 11pm, to wake up for 3am the next morning. A bus took us to the start point and we began walking at 5.44am.

There were over 2000 people participating, some running. It didn't take long for us to drop behind the pack, but we kept a steady pace. We made it to halfway just in time for lunch at about 1pm. After that it there was a tough 6 mile stretch that seemed to last closer to 10 miles, but after that we made it to the end without serious trouble. Only 1 out of the 6 of us failed to make it to the end, and he did 36 of 40 before struggling. Overall the day was superb: the British weather took pity on us and held up all day, and no one got any injuries worse than blisters or aching muscles.

Two days later I did my exam with some pretty heavy legs, but it went fine. It was something I probably wouldn't have convinced myself to take part in if it wasn't for the advice of Mefites, so thanks everyone!

If you want to see more of the photos we took there, you can find mine here and Dave's here.
posted by Acey at 7:16 AM on May 9, 2006

posted by substrate at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2006

Wonderful photos, glad you did it!
posted by like_neon at 9:22 AM on May 9, 2006

Nice photos. Congratulations!
posted by cass at 11:02 AM on May 9, 2006

did somebody call me?
posted by keswick at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2006

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