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No Pain, No Gain!

#MarksGoingForAWalk - Update 29 July 2022

In a world of short attention spans and bite-sized information, taking an extended walk of hundreds of miles over a period of months, for many complex and interconnected reasons, was intended to be a deliberate break from instant gratification and a move into sustainable mental and physical health.

12 days and 145 miles in, visiting every step of coastline from Minehead in Somerset to Tintagel in Cornwall, I can now validate that assumption.

On 30 July I start section 3, which will take me, feet, weather and wildfires permitting, from Tintagel to St Ives, therefore almost completing all of the north-facing aspect of the Path.

So far, the journey has been about three simple things:

1. Self-care. I cannot walk if my feet are injured. I cannot climb hills if my lungs will not take in enough oxygen to allow me. I cannot carry weight or sustain distance if I am not fit enough. I have had to re-learn the lessons taken for granted in my youth: physical capability is predicated on constant self-care, and self-care on constant mindfulness. The physical body predicts mental capacity: as my physical health has improved, my mind has broadened and deepened to create the space for different modalities and dimensions of care. If we are not healthy, nothing works.

2. Journey. A mountaineer in my early life, outdoor experience has hitherto been about achievement. Peaks, height, conquering. The Path renders this thinking obsolete. The distances and achievements we humans impose on geography are arbitrary and practically meaningless. On the Path, height achieved is lost instantly, height lost must be regained in an endless undulation. The Path is not about distance or achievement, but how we travel. Nature just is. We just are. What is the nature of that relationship?

3. People. Splendid isolation was the aim – space to roam, think, romanticise, be. The great shock has been the constant interruption of others. “Hell is other people”, said Sartre - and initially at least, I was aligned to this thinking. But people help on The Path. The difficult recesses of wilderness are made easier by a fellow walker; the mind made healthier by shared hardship or a parched rest-stop in welcome shade. Intermittent meetings at different points along the Path become iterations of fellowship; fellowship into a richer experience in which all the light and shade of walking can be enjoyed, compared, unpicked. I think I might be a people convert.

The additional aim for this project is to raise money for something outside of myself. I am walking for a charity that delivers aid in some of the worst point-of-stress locations and conditions on the planet. They are currently doing a lot of work in Ukraine delivering medical aid and emergency relief in support of other Ukrainian organisations.

My target is to reach £100 for every mile walked, or £63,000 total. I have raised £3500 so far – and would greatly value some additional help if you are able!

You can read my story and all about RE:ACT Disaster Response, as well as donate, here:



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